LGBTQ+ travelers face the possibility of discrimination every time they take a trip, especially when going abroad. Even the well-known trip booking service, Airbnb, does not require that all hosts be LGBTQ+ friendly. There is also currently no “gay friendly” indicator available for Airbnb listings.
Matthieu Jost has experienced discrimination directly while traveling abroad. That experience inspired him to found misterb&b (a KingsCrowd Deal to Watch), which enables LGBTQ+ people to travel safely and securely. We sat down with Matthieu to talk about his vision for a global LGBTQ+ community of travelers and how misterb&b is making that vision a reality.
Note: This interview was conducted over email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
misterb&b empowers the LGBTQ community to travel more safely, feel welcome & get local insider tips wherever they go. We’re the largest online community of LGBTQ travelers, with 1 million accommodations providing a welcoming and safe environment in 200 countries (private rooms, appartements, LGBTQ friendly hotels).
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I experienced discrimination while booking a private room with my partner a few years ago. After that, I decided to create a marketplace where my community would be able to travel safely and with peace of mind around the world.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
I founded my first company, a content platform around TV shows, at 18. After I sold it, I focused on marketing in the media industry for many years. Then I co-founded a LGBTQ travel website and came up with the concept of misterb&b after a very bad experience in Barcelona.
Do you or your business have a driving mission or philosophy?
Since inception, misterb&b’s intent has been to give back to the community by helping [to] ensure a safe travel experience. We believe it’s also incumbent upon us give back directly to organizations making a difference in the lives of the global gay community. This is why we make annual donations to LGBTQ organizations through our Mister for Good program and invite our community to participate in misterb&b’s efforts to positively impact LGBTQ+ lives globally.
For instance during the Covid-19 crisis, we supported Le Refuge, a French non-profit helping find short term housing for LGBTQ young adults in urgent need. For some young members of the community, being forced to stay home 24/7 with their homophobic families turned out to be very toxic, sometimes violent, and finding a safe place for them was essential. After we reached out to our community, many misterb&b hosts offered their accommodations to LGBTQ teens in crisis for free. Thanks to their solidarity, we have been able to provide emergency housing for a dozen young people.
“Without this help, I don’t know where I would be today”, says Dimitri, 20 years old, grateful for this partnership with misterb&b.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
I built my previous company (a LGBTQ tripadvisor) which I exited from with Marc. Then we met with Francois who used to manage a short term rental platform for the French Market, Sejourning.com (an early local competitor to airbnb). We combined the Sejourning technology and our existing community to build misterb&b in just a few weeks. When Francois saw the traction on misterb&b, he decided to exit Sejourning to focus on misterb&b only.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Today, we don’t have direct competition. Our product is unique because:
- we manage the booking online and we secure payments for our hosts
- we provide exclusive content to our LGBTQ travelers (city guides, agenda of gay events)
- we are gay operated: by gays and for the gays
Our competitive advantage is our time to market, with now an established brand.
What does your business model look like?
While the sharing economy for short-term rentals has increased, it has been difficult for gay hosts and travelers to feel secure and welcomed as they traveled the world. misterb&b was a response to a strong demand for collaborative tourism in the booming niche of global gay tourism. The gay market is also a premium segment, traveling twice as much and twice as likely to hold a passport.
misterb&b’s primary revenue comes from service fees from bookings. Fees for travelers on each booking are between 10% and 12% of the total amount. misterb&b also charges the host between 6% and 12% of each booking.
We’ve seen a real increase of our bookings since mid-May. Our recent LGBTQ travel survey shows that 67% of our travelers are ready to travel again before the end of summer.
The desire to travel and connect is a basic need, exploring and discovering is part of who we are as humans. Traveling might be different after the coronavirus pandemic but our fundamentals put us in a very strong position to thrive once the world fully recovers.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
This is our second equity crowdfunding campaign on Wefunder, the largest funding portal by investment volume and investor returns. As a sharing economy company, we chose equity crowdfunding again as an opportunity to motivate active participation of our community. We wanted to extend this investment opportunity to the LGBTQ community and their allies who are not familiar with investments but may still be interested in the “triple bottom line” – people, purpose, profits.
We are reaching out to the most passionate people in the community: our hosts and our guests as well as LGBTQ allies. We want to give them this unique opportunity to own a piece of what we have built and to financially benefit – thus helping give back to our incredible community.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
In 2012, I was traveling with my partner to Barcelona, a gay-friendly destination. When our host realized a gay couple would sleep together in the same bed in the room next to hers, it became one of my most awkward travel experiences. I did not want anyone in my community to have to feel that discrimination. This story is key because it demonstrates that despite what straight allies might genuinely think, traveling as an LGBTQ solo or couple is still challenging, sometimes even life-threatening. So more than ever, the LGBTQ community needs to be able to travel safely and feel welcome wherever they go. misterb&b’s DNA is so much stronger than just an umpteenth booking website.
Also, misterb&b was the first gay app to be ever selected by Apple as App of the Day, in June 2018. They selected us again in June 2019.
Before Covid19, our hotel bookings were growing 20% month-over-month, and we delivered on our promise to our investors.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We have plenty of possible exits, from IPO to a M&A with a travel company willing to reach this premium market or with other LGBTQ brands (Grindr was just purchased for $600M).
The driving mission behind misterb&b is to ensure all LGBTQ travelers and hosts can connect in real life and feel welcome everywhere. We started with short-term rentals and added LGBTQ friendly hotels thanks to the super successful 2019 Wefunder round. We want to be the go-to travel company for the LGBTQ community, where you read a city guide by a gay local, book a place to stay, and book all your tourist experiences, knowing that you’re getting the safest travel experience out there.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Matthieu and his team take the company. misterb&b is currently raising on Wefunder.
About: Olivia Strobl
Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.