Seattle startup entrepreneurs Adam Doppelt (Urbanspoon) and Rob Currie just launched Dwellable, an online service that helps people find vacation-rental houses in several select markets. It's a good idea but not a new one, and the field is already crowded with other sites doing similar things.
It never hurts, however, to have your grand roll-out happen just as one of the biggest names in the field suddenly finds itself fending off accusations that it scammed its way to the top.
As GeekWire reports:
The idea for the startup actually started when Doppelt, along with Urbanspoon co-founder Ethan Lowry, traveled to Hawaii with their families for a much-needed vacation. The two geeks spent hours researching properties online, finally picking a house on Oahu.
Unfortunately, when they arrived, the house was less than advertised.
The story continues with a horrid recount of Doppelt and friends walking into a run-down, rat-infested hellhole that nearly made them hate Hawaii. So they started Dwellable, a service that aims to take the guesswork out of renting a vacation home, with photos, reviews, maps, and insider knowledge that's supposed to let people know what kind of place they're getting before they put down a deposit.
This service is similar to the one Airbnb offers. And on Monday this week TechCrunch reported that Airbnb (the partners of which include not-gay actor Ashton Kutcher) was about to close a deal worth more than $1 billion in funding. By all accounts, the site seems to be an unstoppable juggernaut of success.
The service has exploded, growing more than 800% last year and booking 1.6 million night stays in other people's homes to date. On any given night in New York there are more people staying in homes via Airbnb than there are rooms in the biggest hotel in Manhattan.
But then yesterday, this. Gizmodo:
Airbnb went from monstrously valued startup to accused unethical spammer in one day. The vacation rental website is taking its investors for a wild ride to the borderline of infamy, just like Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and so many other startups.
Apparently (and this information is coming from a competitor, although it's echoed by others), Airbnb has been spamming the hell out of people on Craigslist, even those who change their settings to specifically block spammers. The company is apparently even using a Gmail address to send the spam and make it harder to track.
The shameless spamming has earned the company the ire of every other business in the field, and of plenty of other techies who gripe about such things. It also may just be sleazy, or, as some are accusing, the spamming may violate federal trade and fraud laws.
Of course, all this doesn't change the fact that Airbnb will still get a massive funding check that will allow it to expand beyond its founders' wildest dreams. But in the process, it may leave room for a new site--like, say, Dwellable--to come in and be the unshady, non-spamming answer to Airbnb.