BROOKLYN, N.Y., Aug. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Announcing the launch of KOALA, an innovative vacation rental marketplace positioned to revitalize the $30 billion timeshare industry. Cofounded by CEO Mike Kennedy and COO James Burbridge, KOALA has raised $3.4 million in Series A capital led by investment specialists Ira Lubert and Dean Adler. The platform enables timeshare owners to easily rent their properties to anyone in the world, while offering vacationers the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a timeshare without actually purchasing one.
"KOALA satisfies a previously unfulfilled need in the travel space," said Kennedy. "Travelers are often asked to choose between multiple hotel rooms and unverified home rentals whose glossy photos, to put it mildly, don't reflect reality. KOALA connects travelers to verified listings with the space of a home rental and the amenities of their favorite hotel. Moreover, KOALA's direct-from-owner listings offer travelers significant savings relative to what they'd pay for similar accommodations on the large travel sites."
Kennedy acknowledges that now might not seem an opportune time to wade into the travel sector. However, he explains that the accommodations on KOALA are different from both apartment rentals and the typical hotel: "Travelers on KOALA get instant access to major brands like Wyndham, Marriott, and Hilton—all of which have implemented detailed cleaning and operational procedures to keep guests safe. Additionally, the condo-style spaces available on KOALA take much of the hassle out of social distancing."
A Travel Segment Ripe for Innovation
Working as a Senior Sales Executive for the Hilton Club, Kennedy recognized that both owners and renters had to navigate a complex and outdated marketplace that in some cases forced renters to pay by physical check. Kennedy was inspired to "change the conversation" by creating a technology-based platform that enabled owners and renters to easily and securely connect.
Key to the conversation was input from Burbridge, who brought two decades of entrepreneurial experience in technology to his role designing the KOALA platform. "Our goal was to create a platform that would empower timeshare owners, draw a new generation of guests, and bring certainty to timeshare travel while giving everyone a voice," Burbridge recalls. "KOALA's innovations are game-changing – and long overdue."
A New World of Accommodations for a New Generation
KOALA's streamlined search function makes it easy for renters to browse timeshare accommodations. Each listing offers details on the resort's location and onsite amenities, as well as images. KOALA's listings include a wealth of highly-rated resorts in key destinations, such as the Sheraton Broadway Plantation in Myrtle Beach, Wyndham Park City, and Marriott's Canyon Villas in Phoenix. Most are set in resorts with prime features such as beachfront access, infinity pools, and full-service concierges. Available suites range from studios to four-bedroom penthouses. As an example of the savings available to travelers on KOALA, Kennedy points to the site's Park City listings, where 2-bedroom units that sleep eight go for up to 40% off the same accommodations available on major booking platforms.
Market Access for Owners for Less
KOALA simplifies what has historically been a complex rental process. Listing on the platform is easy, requiring a simple creation of a free account. Owners select their resort location, available dates for rental, and set their own price. KOALA provides professional-quality resort images and a dedicated support team to help owners make their listings as appealing as possible.
Unlike its competitors, KOALA charges no fees for annual memberships (or to browse listings). Owners receive $1 million in host insurance to protect their properties from damage, and can rely on secured online payments from renters. With no upfront fees charged to owners, KOALA's cut is just 8% commission per successful booking. The access to a new generation of timeshare travelers is complimentary.
"We named KOALA to bring a fuzzy presence to the notoriously hard-edged world of timeshares," concludes Kennedy, "but more than that, KOALA brings a new way to transact, travel, and enjoy stunning resorts without the hassle. As travel picks up again, we're positioned to benefit every player in timeshares."