5 Reasons I went from Uber Eats to Creating an Entirely New Market in Alternative Accommodations at Domio
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Since joining Domio, I’ve had many people ask me, why? On the surface, I get the question. Previously, I was working at Uber within the Uber Eats division. There, I was one of the first engineers on one of the company’s fastest growing and most profitable businesses.
I could tell each day that I was directly involved on one of highest priority projects for the company. It was growing insanely fast! It now has annual sales projections in the billions, and I was also well positioned within a company, which now has more than 16,000 employees.
However, it was only a short time after helping Uber Eats launch its first cities that I discovered Domio and its mission to become the #1 lodging brand in the world.
When I think back on why I joined Domio, the company really had five things that sold me…
Nostalgic, But Forward-looking
My dad was a real estate agent when I was young. He had just moved our family to the U.S. and his English wasn’t very good at the time. Whenever he was close to finalizing a deal he would put me on the phone and I would try to muddle through being a translator. Although painful at the time, I’ve since been captivated by real estate space.
Coming back to the real estate industry at this point in my career feels both nostalgic and forward-looking. It was an exciting opportunity to be thrown into the alternative accommodations space that Domio has created at the intersection of real estate and hospitality.
However, at the same time, there are aspects of real estate that remain resistant to any change. Using what I learned at Uber I believe there is a lot of low hanging fruit in this market that automation and software can ‘chew off’ in making improvements.
At Uber, we disrupted how the world got from point A to point B. At Domio we will play a role in disrupting when, where, and how the world spends time at points A and B.
Building A Scalable Inventory Management System from Scratch
Our tech stack lets us iterate quickly and stay flexible. At Domio we’re a Python and Node shop while our front end is in React. Interestingly our infrastructure is hosted on Google Cloud Platform, an early decision we made which has allowed us to move swiftly and has greatly simplified integrations into Google’s ecosystem. This includes our pipelines for BigQuery which our data science team uses to analyze the real estate and short term rental markets.
But the most exciting thing for me is not the tools we’re using day to day, it’s the actual system that we’re creating from scratch.
On the Uber Eats team, I built a large chunk of the inventory management system, which controlled the food options and availability for each restaurant.
Domio provides a new opportunity to look at inventory all over again through a property-focused lens. Our inventory is unique and has the capacity to delight customers in a brand new way. There isn’t anything quite as rewarding as building a system like this from scratch and then helping it scale.
The systems which have been used to date in the real estate market, and in some respects the hospitality market as well, are largely outdated. We’re building scalable systems backed by thousands of researched user interactions and market models. Our ability to move quickly and stay flexible to market needs will be key to the future of Domio and the nascent alternative accommodations market as a whole.
This was huge at Uber, and it will be huge here as well to ensure our technology moves hand in hand with business and operational needs.
Cutting Edge Data Science
Domio is very much a data science-driven company. While you can’t compare it with a company the size of Uber, the team here at Domio is already processing hundreds of gigabytes of data a day. That’s a lot for an early stage startup just ramping up its data department.
We’re collecting a lot of information on the real estate and short term rental markets as well as how we interact with our users. We analyze our data to understand how to provide the best guest experience in the industry.
As we ramp up our efforts to provide the best possible experience to our guests we’ve begun running experiments based on common guest requests and patterns. We’re experimenting with property greeters, luggage storage, and providing rides from the airport to the property. These types of experiments let us gather data on what makes our guests happiest over time, which let us provide the best service in the future.
In addition, optimizing our property pricing on the data analysis side is a much more complex problem than it lets on. It’s challenging to say from day-to-day why a property is priced a certain way.
A few things that go into the equation are comparables such as the proximity to other properties that are similar to it. On top of that, we also have to know that a property may be special because it’s larger, designed better, has a hot tub, more living space, etc.
At the same time, we have to look at seasonality and how that affects the market. We also need to know what events are going on nearby at any given time, as that can very easily shift the supply and demand curve. For example, if March Madness is happening in your city, the price of a nightly stay will shift to meet the new demand.
This is something that traditionally analysts will do by hand. They’ll try to absorb all of this information and output a price for a property every single day.
Our goal is to automate the collection and processing of thousands of data points per market to find the optimal price for a given property months ahead of time. That goal’s complexity is compounded as the software we’re building needs to stay flexible enough to introduce new data sources as we scale.
There are also really interesting data patterns helping us discover things you may not even think to ask questions about. For example, we’ve discovered that properties with even-numbered occupancy rates make more money than odd occupancy rates. If you have eleven person capacity, you’ll make less money than ten person capacity. Almost as a rule throughout each city that we’re in.
Disrupting the Way You Explore the World
Unlike a platform such as Airbnb, we offer a vertically integrated approach. By operating our accommodations, we are able to guide the entire experience from when a guest books with us to when they check out.
Once a guest has checked into one of our properties, we can also facilitate ways to maintain an open line of communication through technology built directly into the units. Building simple support applications on tablets within the units greatly enhances a guest’s experience and gives us an opportunity to increase their satisfaction during their stay.
However, we are also being careful in ensuring that while we present one unified brand we’re not presenting a cookie cutter traveling experience. Although each Domio accommodation has a unified brand and design, accommodations also spotlight subtle nuances in each city to spotlight the local flavor.
Recently, our Product Manager brought up the idea to showcase the uniqueness of each city through music within each property. Now, our guests will discover record players in each Domio property with vinyl records from local artists, bringing a unique feel to each property they stay in.
We want to make the travel experience feel authentic and local without giving up the trust and standards you typically have with a hotel. We’re working on this at Domio in cities like New Orleans and Austin where we recently launched at SXSW.
With a Well-rounded Team of All-Stars
In creating an essentially new market from scratch, Domio has also offered a rare opportunity to work with a team of really all-star talent with very diverse backgrounds.
Right off the bat, I knew Jay (Roberts) our CEO and the leadership team had a lot of fire in their hearts to build a long-term company.
His background is on the real estate side of investment banking so he brings real financial acumen to the table. Meanwhile, we have folks with varied backgrounds and domain expertise in product, design, hotel operations, residential interior design, hospitality amenities, and many more fields.
The team has held previous roles at companies such as Hilton, The Ritz-Carlton, the Waldorf Astoria, Walt-Disney World Resort, Morgan Stanley, IBM, VTS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
It’s exciting to work on a team like this, which has experiences across engineering, hospitality, finance, real estate and many other markets. Everyone has views that have been shaped by these different backgrounds and we can collaboratively take what has worked the best in their respective fields and iterate on it together.
It is very much a startup in that respect, which makes collaboration easy. The engineering and product teams all sit in the same office space and we’re not far away from our friends from other departments that we interact with regularly.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to the team you’re working with day in and day out to meet your goals. So if I had to choose any of the ‘why’s’ — this is probably the most important.
I feel like I’m a part of a team at Domio that has the players to fundamentally create a new market. It’s not often in your career that you get to say something like this about multiple companies you have worked for. I certainly recognize that and I’m excited to be a part of what could be another rocketship, and would love to chat with anyone who feels the same way.
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