San Francisco-based hospitality company Sonder (formerly Flatbook) today announced that it closed a mammoth $210 million series D funding round, bringing its total raised to over $400 million and its valuation to over $1 billion. Investors Fidelity, Valor Equity Partners, Gavin Baker’s Atreides Capital, ARod Corp, and Tao Capital Partners participated, as did existing backers including Spark Capital and Greenoaks Capital.
Sonder CEO Francis Davidson says that the fresh funds, which come as the company’s total number of owned and operated spaces tops 8,500 spaces in more than 20 cities (up from 2,200 units in 12 cities as of August 2018), will be joined in the coming weeks by a $15 million investment from “select developers” partnering with Sonder on new deals in undisclosed cities. The combined $225 million capital will fuel growth well into the future, according to Davidson, who added that Sonder is projecting a $400 million revenue run rate by 2020 (four times that of last year) and that it’s cut the cost of onboarding in half.
“At Sonder, we’ve been working towards a distinct vision of the future of hospitality — one that provides a unique jaw-dropping experience, accessible to everyone, and doesn’t sacrifice quality for character,” wrote Davidson in a blog post.
Sonder, which Davidson cofounded as a freshman at McGill University with Lucas Pellan and former Oatbox digital marketing director Olivier Gareau in 2012, leases and owns properties and offers round-the-clock concierge service reachable via phone or text. Every rental offers hotel-style accommodations including beds, linens, towels, and toiletries, and they feature artwork and furniture curated to reflect the “cultural vibe” of cities like Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, London, Miami, Minneapolis, Montreal, Nashville, New Orleans, and New York.
Sonder says that units — which are typically purchased with developers who sign leases directly with the company, and which range from studios to six-bedroom suites — must meet over 200 quality standards and undergo a “thorough” checklist by staff. Perhaps more importantly, they comply with local laws and regulations regarding rentals. In Chicago, Sonder operates licensed vacation rental units, but in Vancouver, the company’s properties are licensed as hotels. And in San Francisco and New York, Sonder requires guests stay a minimum of 30 days.
When furniture from spaces isn’t in use, it’s stored in Sonder’s rented warehouses and assigned to apartments as they become available. Davidson says it only takes a few days to decorate a unit fully.
“The future of hospitality will be dynamic. It will demand flexibility. And that’s what our diverse, unique, and adventure-seeking world is like too,” said Davidson, adding that Sonder counts more than 900 people in its workforce. “That’s why, while our spaces will continue to take on new forms and expand to exciting neighborhoods around the world, a Sonder will always be unforgettable.”
Sonder is far from the only startup in the soft brand rental business, it’s worth noting. Competitors include WhyHotel and YouRent.com, as well as real estate and hospitality startup Lyric, which raised $160 million in April to fuel its leasing and refurbishment of apartment units and floors for business travelers. Others include Stay Alfred, OneFineStay, RedAwning, and Oasis Collection, the last of which has raised over $35 million and runs about 2,500 units.
Even big-name brands like Marriott are experimenting with home sharing. The Bethesda, Maryland company’s rental management subbrand Hostmaker offers international travelers access to more than 200 homes in London, all of which it says were selected for their “consistency” and “quality.”
For its part, Airbnb in 2016 launched Friendly Buildings Program, a program under which landlords put rental units on its platform. As of last August, there were 13,000 listings.