Prior to the launch of KeyNest in June 2016, co-founders Marc Figueras and Florian Hoven were colleagues at one of London’s top strategy consultants, working mainly with private equity clients.
As an Airbnb host, Marc became frustrated whenever guests arrived at inconvenient times, because he didn’t have any other way of handing over keys.
The pair discovered that in fact, check-ins were a major Airbnb friction point – not just for hosts, but also for guests. KeyNest was created with an understanding that guests would prefer to pick up the keys at a flexible time, instead of coordinating an in-person key handover.
Launched less than a year ago, the platform is proving a huge success. It now has a network of around 50 partner stores across seven UK cities, serving Airbnb hosts, serviced accommodation providers, and property managers.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
We are Florian and Marc, the founders of Keynest, the smart key exchange service that allows serviced accommodation operators and Airbnb hosts to securely store keys in their nearest local store.
Our customers no longer need to be there to let in guests, cleaners or contractors. Instead, customers can simply send the person collecting the keys a single-use collection code. Our smart RFID fobs enable our customers to track all keys online, while keeping them anonymous at all times.
(2) How long have you been around for?
We started KeyNest in late 2015. After six months developing our smart RFID fobs, we launched our service in June 2016, with five stores in London.
We now have over 50 stores across seven cities. This year we will be welcoming more tourists than any short-term rental operators in the UK.
(3) How do you make money?
We built the technology to enable our customers to track their keys online and generate collection codes for their guests and staff. Customers pay £14.95 per month for the ability to have their keys collected as often as they like. Or, if they only need the service once (for example, when they go on holiday), they can pay a one-off fee of £5.95.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
We’re different because we work with your existing access solution, whether it’s a key-fob, a normal key, or a key-card. No need to compromise your security or to change your front door. Simply drop your keys at the nearest KeyNest and share access online.
KeyNest puts local businesses back at the centre of their communities, making them the first point of contact tourists have with a new neighbourhood, and allowing them to profit from each tourist that stays in the area.
The scope for KeyNest is huge. Our core market is the UK sharing economy, which PwC has estimated will grow from £7.4bn in 2015, to £140bn by 2025.
London’s sharing economy is growing at an astonishing rate, with the number of Airbnb listings doubling every year. We’re gradually establishing ourselves as one of the building blocks of London’s sharing economy.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
When Marc started hosting on Airbnb, he welcomed every guest in person. He had to plan his life around each guests’ arrival, and got very frustrated when guests arrived late.
The majority of guests would prefer to check-in at their convenience instead of coordinating an in-person key handover. It allows them to discover the city on their way from the airport, without the stress of being late to meet their host. Existing solutions to this problem typically require permission from other dwellers of the building because it affects the level of security and the insurance.
So we made security our number one priority. The ability to track keys online at any time gives our customers total peace of mind. Focusing on security paid off – we recently gained recognition as the only insurance-approved key exchange solution in our sector.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
What makes us proudest is that once a host starts using KeyNest, his reviews improve. Reviews directly affect our clients’ ability to increase prices, which means our service doesn’t only make life easier for the customers, it also makes them more money.
We’re also extremely proud of the feedback from our 50 partner stores, where sales have gone up for all sorts of products & services that tourists and cleaners are likely to purchase, from coffee to souvenirs.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
Designing a technology product with security as your top priority is extremely challenging. Every bit needs to be tested for vulnerabilities that could compromise security. This meant our launch was significantly delayed, and we missed out on the peak summer period. Looking back, however, we’re glad we didn’t compromise on security, as we are in the stronger position now.
(8) How can the government do more to help people make some extra cash through sharing economy platforms like Airbnb?
Hosts can already earn up to £7,500 tax free under the rent-a-room scheme. This tax break should be protected to ensure the number of empty properties continues to decrease.
In London there is a limit of 90 days per year per property, designed to prevent landlords from renting out their properties to tourists all year round. Airbnb recently decided to enforce this regulation, which was widely welcomed by home sharers.
(9) In five years’ time, I will be…
Our goal is to lay the infrastructure that digital property companies need in order to manage access to properties in a secure and simple way. We’ve started with the London short-term rentals industry, and we’re very excited about the benefits that we can bring to the wider property market.
We want to be the trusted solution for every UK household that may have the need to share the keys with someone at any point or to have a convenient and secure solution for the occasional lock-out or emergency repair.
(10) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
We’d encourage others to gather as much information as they can about their users, and to make use of it to continually improve and refine their value proposition to customers.
(11) Who are your business heroes and why?
One of my favourite entrepreneurs is Julia Kurnia, who founded the world’s first peer-to-peer micro-lending platform, Zidisha. The idea was brave, but the execution was brilliant, collecting feedback every day and constantly improving the experience on both sides of the marketplace.
Her platform reduces interest rates on microloans from 35 per cent to less than 10 per cent. In a just few years Zidisha has launched across three continents, supporting tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and inspiring many others along the way.
Bought By Many: Tipping the balance of insurance back in favour of customers
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.