KeyNest is providing secure key collection and drop-off for Airbnb hosts and their guests. Co-Founder, Marc Figueras is becoming a key player in the industry, so I got in touch with him to learn all I could about his thriving business.
KeyNest: The Team
Marc Figueras – Co-Founder
Florian Hoven – Co-Founder
From Customer to Disrupter; it’s the 21st Century Way
It’s quite bizarre when you take a step back and look at it, the way in which industry-defining business are born in the 21st Century. We live in a time where a person can start their journey as a customer to one of the world’s most successful companies, only to see flaws in the business model which they then go on to solve with a new business of their own.
KeyNest fits perfectly into this origins template, as I learnt when I sat down for a chat with Co-Founder, Marc Figueras.
‘Before starting KeyNest, I was an Airbnb host,’ says Marc. ‘At the same time, I was working as a management consultant in the City. I found it almost impossible to juggle my job with having to meet guests and provide all of the services and perks that Airbnb guests have come to expect. The biggest issue? Finding a non-disruptive way, in terms of everyday commitments, to safely hand over the keys.’’
The Key Industry
Marc will go on to look high and low for a solution to his problem but finds nothing secure enough. He will speak to his colleague, Florian Hoven, who will tell him about the bad experiences he’s had as a regular Airbnb guest. At that point, the two of them will conclude that the biggest Airbnb friction point is indeed finding somewhere secure and convenient to leave the keys for the guests to pick up on arrival.
And so an idea was born. The solution was simple; enlist the help of local cafes and convenience stores. To make the key exchange reliable, the pair made security the number one priority. The ability to track keys online at any time gives customers total peace of mind. Focusing on security pays off – KeyNest recently gained recognition as the only insurance-approved key exchange solution in the Airbnb industry.
A unique code – which can only be used once – is sent to the guest along with the address of a previously agreed pickup point, close to the property they are renting. They arrive at the cafe, provide the secret code and retrieve the key.
‘Partnering with cafes was a great move for us because Airbnb clients are ideal cafe customers.’ says Marc. ’They’re from out of town, just had a long journey and are likely to grab some food; a coffee at least.‘
But then KeyNest hit a problem: cafes tend to close around 5pm and a lot of Airbnb guests arrive much later than that. Their solution was off-licenses; they’re open late into the evening and often privately run, meaningless red-tape and bureaucracy to overcome before installing a Nest.
The ability of nimble and proactive expansion is integral to KeyNest’s success.
Security is Everything
‘Our system guarantees key anonymity,’ says Marc, telling me how the only people who know what door a key is for are the guests picking it up. ‘Each key is also fitted with an encrypted tracking fob so that the hosts can see whether their guests have picked it up yet.’
Before the guest is given the key, KeyNest double verify each code to ensure the correct key is going to the correct person, and because guests are very often arriving later than they predict, KeyNest keeps the host updated by sending them an automatic message when the key has been picked up.
KeyNest is opening new locations at a rate of 3 per week. They currently have over 50 pick up points in London alone.
How do you choose where to install new Nests? I ask Marc.
‘We listen to the customers. People contact us to request a Nest be installed near to them. We then check the viability of installing a Nest in that location.
‘Once we have identified various pickup options, we get back to the person who has requested a local Nest and ask which location they would prefer. We then approach that shop, or café and schedule a suitable time for fitting a Nest.’
The main benefit for the pick-up points is the increased footfall into their establishment.
The demand for KeyNest is very healthy indeed: ‘we receive more requests than we can possibly handle’ says Marc.
Their team of 10, working out of Central London, have already opened Nests in London, Brighton, Reading and Portsmouth; they will soon be popping up in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester. As is the KeyNest way, they choose new cities by listening faithfully to the demand; if enough people request it, they’ll do it.
So how has such a simple and seemingly single pronged business idea proven to be such a runaway success? I think a large part of it is the fact that key security is essentially home security, and there are very few things people are more concerned about than that.
KeyNest has ensured that their service is both secure and convenient. It may be a simple premise, but the work that goes into ensuring both logistic efficiency and unbreakable security is what keeps customers coming back. In the sharing economy, trust is a must. Marc and his Co-Founder have proven that they can be trusted and relied upon to provide an inch-perfect service.
The focus on security was key, but there is also something else that KeyNest has done which I feel is equally important; something that many industries should look at when thinking about the future…
Let’s get to know each other
There is a lot to be said for the way that KeyNest is creating, or at the very least galvanising, a strong sense of local community.
By putting Airbnb hosts in contact with the local shop and cafe proprietors, a certain symbiosis has been created between the two.
It’s like when you travel to a small French town and stop in for a coffee at a small cafe. You’re looking for somewhere to stay for the night because your car has broken down and the cafe owner puts you in touch with their friends who run an Airbnb across the road. You instantly feel like you’re in a close-knit and friendly community where business owners work together to provide mutual success for themselves and the best possible experience for their customers.
This new sense of community not only helps to serve the guests picking up keys, making them feel instantly comfortable in their new surroundings, but it also boosts the independent local economy; what’s good for me is equally good for you.
KeyNest has already teamed up with most of the largest Serviced Accommodation providers to handle their key collections and drop-offs for their guests. A key focus, as it were, for the future of KeyNest is to extend their network in order to be able to take on more hosts and, eventually, expand beyond the short-term rental market.
Part of this plan is to introduce an annual key holding solution. This will be useful for families whose kids are often locking themselves out of their home, or even a way of letting the neighbours in to feed the cat while you’re on holiday. In truth, the potential case studies of an annual contract are infinite.
The future looks very bright indeed for KeyNest. They have already proven that there is strong demand for their service and that they can execute it with aplomb. And now that London has introduced some real laws and legislations around part-time rentals (the 90-day rule), the industry has finally been fully legalised. As a result, the businesses that operate within it can now do so legitimately. These new regulations, rather than acting as a barrier, are going to help the industry grow with confidence.
KeyNest has taken a simple idea and executed it beautifully. Even in a fledgeling industry with little regulation, they have proven their ability to expand and succeed. Looking to the future, KeyNest is set to become a household name.
I, personally, look forward to not having to call the locksmith next time I get locked out. Instead, I’ll just collect my spare set from the convenience store next door.
KeyNest ooze confidence. In a sector where the majority of short-term rental agencies are still just starting out, they are a company who know exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Because of their unique approach, KeyNest is one of those rare outfits that can enjoy great success today whilst looking forward to even greater successes tomorrow.