When Walter Wang Yue was an Airbnb host in Singapore, there were two types of feedback from guests that stuck in his memory.
The first is: “I think your review is good, can I book directly with you?”
The second is: “I stayed at your place half a year ago and I want to book your listing again, can I book with you directly?”
Apparently, once guests have seen good reviews or had a good experience with a host, they would want to cut out the middleman. Wang Yue’s idea: What if we were able to build a platform that removes the middlemen so the costs for both, host and guest, can be reduced?
Hence, the birth of PopulStay, a decentralized home sharing community without middlemen.
Direct, key-less, and powered by blockchain
Wang Yue has many friends that have ventured into the blockchain space, including Zilliqa co-founder and CEO Xinshu Dong who was his classmate at the National University of Singapore. This inspired Wang Yue to build a new startup to disrupt existing businesses.
Airbnb and other existing vacation rental and home-sharing platforms operate the same way: take necessary measures to prevent bypassing the orders and exchange contacts before the guest confirm the booking in order to maintain their core profit model (up to 20 per cent commission). For example, they never allow direct communication between guest and the host, and this leads to high costs and extremely low efficiency of communication.
PopulStay, however, enables and encourages the host and guest to voice or video talk to each other within the booking system for any clarification or questions, while all transactions related to booking and payment are done and managed via smart contracts.
Here’s how it works: PopulStay will release the smart door lock built on top of blockchain to a property owner. A smart door lock is equivalent to a node in the blockchain network. The property information of the host is tied with the blockchain-based smart door lock and is connected with the main network.
After the guest books a stay, he/she will receive the unlock code after the verification process, sent by the system to authorise automatic check-in. In addition to that, blockchain-based smart door locks are more secure and reliable while they maintain the same convenient user experience.
Last month, PopulStay obtained an investment of US$2.25 million from Bitmain, Handsome Capital, Jove Capital, and Insight Capital, among others. Wang Yue stated that this round of financing will mainly be used for team expansion, business operation, and product development.
Wang Yue believes that the team’s years of experience in hardware research and development results in the investment from big names.
The technology development team is led by the former Tokyo Ericsson Chief Architect Eric, who continues to iterate products in the past 6 months. At present, the team has 15 team members of Singapore, China, Japan, India, Germany, and Korea nationalities. PopulStay has signed 2,000 properties in Japan and cooperated with many travel agencies such as OStay, Febow, Tourcandy and Easygo, accumulating to 40,000 users in the community.
The time of decentralised applications development (DApp)
In the past year, many investors and token funds were keen to invest in public chain. Wang Yue agrees that the public chain has bigger room for investment imagination. However, he thinks that from this year onwards, it is time for the dApp product, which really makes blockchain tangible to users by improving the user experience and reducing costs.
At the beginning, the plan was to develop the PopulStay dApp based on Ethereum. The reason why Ethereum was chosen was that Ethereum has a higher degree of decentralisation and security level, and they are also working intensively with the quantum and Zilliqa chain.
To create a blockchain world of “Airbnb”, the first pilot market of the project is Japan. Wang Yue believes that there are two reasons for choosing this place: First, Japan is one of the first friendly countries to embrace blockchain technology; and secondly, Japan has rich tourism resources, and the development of the home sharing market is relatively mature. It is also a ASEAN tourist’s frequent visited destination.
On January 15th this year, PopulStay was accepted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Accelerator and became one of the only eight projects in the world accepted by the institution. It was incubated with IOTA, Factom, and Lykke in Tokyo from January to March of 2018.
In the future, Wang Yue plans to complete the rollout in six super-tourism cities of Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, London, New York and Paris. Each city will have a selected one thousand boutique listings, covering over 10 million potential tourists community. The team is currently seeking US$10 million Series A round of financing, and the extra capital to build the “Airbnb” of the blockchain world.
Disclosure: This article is sponsored by PopulStay
Featured image credit: epifantsev / 123RF Stock Photo