The concept of taking existing properties and repurposing them is not a new one. After all, Airbnb is a high-profile example of people turning vacation homes, for example, into revenue generators when they’re not using them. The end result is that travelers have far more options today than they used to when choosing where to stay.

One San Francisco-based startup has emerged that wants to not only give travelers more options, but make traveling more affordable, and it’s just raised $15 million toward that goal. Opendoor alums Justine Palefsky and Tasneem Amina teamed up in 2021 to start a company, Kindred, with the goal of giving people the choice of booking lodging through a unique home-swapping model. 

Kindred is building a members-only network to allow people to essentially exchange homes. The idea is that the network is a “trusted” one so that members can feel comfortable in swapping homes. Interestingly, no money is exchanged between members, who pay Kindred a fee to have the ability to allow someone to stay in their home and vice versa. 

If a member lets someone stay at their home for a certain number of nights, they can then bank those nights to stay at someone else’s place while they’re gone. It’s a give and get policy. For every stay, a guest pays Kindred a service fee ((which is variable per trip but a max of $30 per night) to coordinate the stay and for home protection. That service fee covers company costs and provides its margin, its founders say. Guests also pay for the cost of cleaning the home they are staying at, but the company says it does not profit from that.

Members can use Kindred to organize direct 1-for-1 swaps, or host other members to earn nights, and use those nights to stay at a different member’s home. The company recently introduced a pay-as-you-go model with no annual commitment required. Once accepted, those members only cover the cost of cleaning and the service fee per trip. Those who use Kindred frequently have the option to purchase a Kindred Passport for $600, which allows them to book unlimited trips with $0 service fees for a one-year period.

“We designed Kindred for real people sharing their real homes with each other, not property managers or vacation rentals. There are already plenty of ‘pay to get’ options for travel,” said Palefsky, who serves as the company’s CEO. “Every guest is also a host, so everyone has skin in the game. This creates an environment of mutual trust and accountability.”

Since launching its private beta last spring, Kindred says it has experienced a tenfold increase in monthly trip bookings and has received 20,000 membership applications, largely from primary residences instead of investment homes. So far, Kindred members have spent over 5,000 nights at one another’s homes.

Kindred co-founders Justine Palefsky and Tas Amina/Image credit: Kindred

One example of a use case involves a member who is a female founder in her early 30s living in Mexico City with her dog. She needed to travel to San Francisco frequently for work, but found it to be expensive and difficult to find places that would take her dog. She booked over 80 nights in her first 8 months on Kindred staying in San Francisco, New York, and a few other destinations, according to Palefsky. In return, she hosted over 80 nights in her Mexico City home while she was out. 

“Stories like this really showed us that the potential for Kindred is actually far bigger than what we had initially realized,” Palefsky told TechCrunch. “We have the opportunity to not only capture a share of the existing travel market, but can grow the travel market altogether.”

New Enterprise Associates (NEA) led the Series A, which included participation from existing backers Andreessen Horowitz, Caffeinated Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Outset Capital. New individual investors also put money in the round including, former Khosla investor Evan Moore and Figma CEO Dylan Field. To date, the startup has raised a total of $26.75 million. It has 20 employees, up from 10 a year ago.

Kindred plans to use the new capital in part  to expand geographically – in North America as well as in several European cities this year such as London, Berlin and Amsterdam. Today, it’s active in over 20 markets in North America, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, Denver, Austin, Vancouver, and Mexico City. The company also plans to invest in its product and technology, including Matchmaker, an algorithm it’s developed that will make AI-powered recommendations to members.

“Our goal is to eventually be everywhere, but we’re initially focusing on major cities where there’s high overlap in supply and demand, and where we can benefit from density with our local photography and cleaning operations,” Palefsky said.

NEA Partner Vanessa Larco, who has joined Kindred’s board, believes that as short-term rental platforms have “increasingly professionalized, they have left open a massive untapped opportunity for a true sharing economy that uniquely enables peer-to-peer sharing of primary residences, instead of renting investment properties.”

She added: “The market size of primary residences is massive compared to investment homes and Kindred has demonstrated that by delivering trust and convenience to unlock more primary residences, they can bring net new home inventory to the vacation rental market.”

Opendoor alums raise $15M for Kindred, a home-swapping network by Mary Ann Azevedo originally published on TechCrunch