A new startup based here in Philly is on a mission to take the awkwardness out of asking friends to let their mom and pops crash at their place for a night.
It’s called Guest-Rm (pronounced “Guest Room”), and it’s the brainchild of Josh Angotti, who came up with the idea after realizing that his and his wife’s 450-square-foot studio would in no way be able to accommodate his cousins for their annual reunion.
“I just don’t have the space for it. And if I wanted to get hotel rooms, it’d be cost prohibitive,” recalls Angotti.
That’s when Angotti turned to his friends for help. “I thought that nobody’s in Philadelphia over Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend. Most of my friends would be more than willing to have my cousins stay in their place, but there’s no real precedent for making a request like that in our culture.”
Guest-Rm was born out of Josh’s willingness to break what could be an awkward conversation. He, his wife, and partner Laura Barron have spent the past few months working out all of the ins and outs of the startup (in Angotti’s case, obsessively checking to make sure that a service of this kind doesn’t already exist. It doesn’t.).
Here’s how it works, in Angotti’s words: “It’s a home-sharing network for friends and friends and friends—with no nightly fees.”
Users can sign up to Guest-Rm via their Facebook account and see which of their friends or friends of friends have their homes available. After that, it’s just a flat $20 reservation fee, no matter how many nights you’re staying in the home.
Guest-Rm also recommends that guests purchase a thank you gift in the in the form of a $25 gift card for the host.
The low-cost model of the service is what separates it from other similar services out there like AirBnB or VRBO. “There’s a different value proposition from a supply side,” Angotti says. “I don’t see it as a replacement—it’s not going to offer a revenue stream. Sure, it’s nice to get a gift card, but it’s not going to pay your bills.”
Angotti says while some folks may always prefer staying in a hotel or a rental, he suspects that Guest-Rm will attract people who may feel uncomfortable staying in a stranger’s home, but may be priced out of hotel options. “It makes it less of a stretch to ask to use somebody’s home or apartment while they’re gone—especially when they’ve already volunteered it.”
The Guest-Rm online service launched today in a beta version. Angotti says that the plan is to stick around Philly for awhile; if it catches on, they’ll consider expanding the service to more cities and places around the country.