June 15, 2022

Get the Full Story Behind Every Booking, with Leo Walton of Superhog


Today we’re diving into a topic that continues to grow in importance for vacation and short-term rental managers: guest screening and property protection. Leo Walton is co-founder of Superhog, a company that has streamlined the process for managers to easily confirm the identity of their guests and protect against fraud, damage and crime. 

The key to providing a good guest experience when it comes to processes like screening and other security measures is to set expectations early and bring them to the guest’s attention as soon as possible.

By clearly communicating your security measures, bad guests will be deterred and good guests won’t bat an eyelid when it comes to completing them if they have been made aware of how you operate and what you expect from them.  

Leo’s positive energy is infectious. Tune in for a lively discussion!

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VqQB4YYZVCI

CONTACT LEO WALTON
Superhog.com
LinkedIn | Facebook

CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Transcript

Alex Husner: 

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm Alex and I'm Annie. And we're joined today by Leo Walton who he has several titles here. But the main one that we have from the business side he is co founder of super hog and guard dog. He's also a new dad and a vacation rental short term rental Titans podcast host. So we Lea welcome to the podcast.

Leo Walton: 

Thank you so much, Alex. I mean, makes me sound greedy. I've got so many titles.

Alex Husner: 

You're a busy guy.

Leo Walton: 

Yeah. The one I'm most proud of as, as you and Annie both will know is new dad, recent new dad. And she's by far the most demanding boss I've ever had as well.

Alex Husner: 

I can only imagine she's beautiful from the pictures you've shown us.

Annie Holcombe: 

Well, thank you so much for taking the time out of your dad duties to join us today. We appreciate it.

Leo Walton: 

No, no, no, I'm honestly I really am. And I love the fact that I think I think let's see, I think I might be the only Brit you've had on so far. But maybe I was

Alex Husner: 

right. That's that's the other part. Yeah. You're the first British.

Annie Holcombe: 

It's the British invasion. Yeah,

Alex Husner: 

yeah. No,

Leo Walton: 

it'll be more peaceful.

Annie Holcombe: 

Well, I was thinking more along the lines of the Beatles invasions.

Leo Walton: 

Oh, right. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: 

Why don't you Why don't you give our listeners that don't know you since you are from Britain, a little bit of your background, kind of how you got into vacation rentals and a little bit about what you're doing now?

Leo Walton: 

Sure, sure. So my vacation rental story started in 2012. When I joined the team at One Fine Stay who you may have both heard, I'm sure you have. And at the time, they were prepping for the London 2012 Olympics. And they had a very small team and had received a good amount of funding. So I decided to suddenly build out and hire lots of people and get ready for this big, big event that was happening in London. So my job was employee number 40. And my first job was to kind of create and manage the checking process and checking team and do the remote check ins around London. And so started a complete love affair with this industry. And when I first started, I tell people what I did for a living. And it basically was oh, I go around to people's houses when they're not there and let other people in. Yeah. Yeah, it was easy enough. But I guess I guess you know, it was, and I thought it was completely new. Now I thought what we were doing is very naive. I won't reveal my age. Although I had a full head of hair at the time. The I thought what we're doing was completely unique. And then it only when I've been in the industry longer. I moved on to the commercial team. And I ended up running the supply function in Europe for one time stayed before before moving on. And did I realize that, you know, the vacation rental industry goes back years, you know, it goes back years and years it predates the internet, obviously, what we were doing was tech enabled home sharing in a city center, which I suppose was slightly newer. But this idea of villas and you know, vacation rental properties by the sea and in the countryside is is nothing new. And I absolutely loved it very quickly. And so moved on from the check in sort of job on to the commercial function and stayed with the business, even past the acquisition by Accor Hotel Group and spent a lot of time going back and forth to Paris trying to help consolidate a three way merger between a couple of other businesses and one point today.

Alex Husner: 

Wow. Wow. So what if I instead one tried today, they had up to what was it about 2600 units at the time that they sold to a core?

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, it was it was up at that level. And it was probably around them when I stepped away. It primarily the initial growth happened in urban areas. And again, it was part of this sort of it almost predates cities having regulation around what to do with vacation rentals. So you know, New York was a really important market and then obviously New York completely disappeared when the regulation when it went in the wrong direction. And yeah, fascinating thing to be involved in. And you know, I definitely got my kind of drive and my ambition from from being there because I could see that this was a relatively new space when it came when it comes to sort of using technology to find guests and manage guests. And, you know, I kind of cut my teeth and worked out what the shortcomings with the whole guest experience were and what the problem points worth one finds day and was able to take that on to super hard when I joined up again with Humphrey Bowles, one of the co founders who I'd worked with it at one point today. So that's kind of been our, you know, default from the start is how can we help solve problems for vacation rental operators, and individual hopes, because that was the seat we were sat in, you know, we were trying to grow this business. And we're trying to convince owners to hand over the keys to their very expensive London houses to us. Believe it or not, we managed to convince them to hand over the keys. Fair amount, and that, yeah, and then we teamed up with a guy called Andrew bolt or Humphrey and Andrew should I should I say, teamed up with one another, to first create guard hog, which is the insurance arm of what we do. And then that later became super Hawk, which I was involved in the founding of which ties in the guest screening, the ID verification, all the stuff that I'm sure we're going to talk about in a bit more detail with with with the insurance piece. So you had Humphrey and myself who had this vacation rental experience, and Andrew with all this insurance experience, and we came together to create the product as you see it today.

Annie Holcombe: 

So this was born out of experience with the owners in terms of the the challenges you saw working with them and working with guests. That was kind of the jumping off point for SuperHog and GuardHog.

Leo Walton: 

Definitely. Yeah. And I think if you speak to I mean, you're too nervous, as well, as anyone, yes, you're so well connected industry, lots of the products and services out there were first created by property management people, and they found a need within what they were doing. And I think I would say, you know, an element of super hobbies is, is built out of that, that experience of doing me of doing property management, management, and obviously, seeing an industry explode. To the point where, you know, it was it was no longer that you put an article in a magazine about how good your vacation rental was in Spain and waiting for the phone to ring. It's like, you know, it's live on numerous channels all the time. So you know, you've got guests booking at scale all the time all the time. How do you deal with the challenges that that brings?

Alex Husner: 

Yeah, that's interesting. And it seems like most of the technology that's been built around security in exactly what you do has been built overseas. I mean, it's very much a European type of product. And I think it's used more or has been used more in the earlier years than it has been in our markets here in the States, at least. And I'm sure part of that comes from, you know, more of the urban portfolio that you had at onefinestay. And other companies that are still over there now. But did one fine stay have traditional tourist type vacation locations as well? Are they all urban? So

Leo Walton: 

onefinestay was built on its urban inventory. But what Accor did was they merged it with a villa company that was owned by a lovely chap called Bobby Gibson, you guys might know. They merged with his business. And that brought the villa inventory along with it. And again, then those challenges came in because you're trying to consolidate this urban concerned about the neighbor concerned about noise concerned about regulation to Villa which was just about take the booking, take the book. Yeah. Move on to the next one. So that's how one price they got its biller inventory, but it didn't go out and procure it in the traditional way.

Alex Husner: 

Yeah, gotcha. Yeah. I think obviously, Airbnb, the rise of that has made a massive difference on that business and continued what you guys do now, I mean, that the guests that are coming to us there, a lot of them are new to vacation rentals. And I think that's a lot of the big the trust issue that, you know, I mean, quite frankly, and for our business in North Myrtle Beach, we don't have as much of an issue or need for that. I just, we just don't run into those security type issues quite as much as it seems that, you know, other markets do that. Yeah.

Leo Walton: 

And I guess, is newer to me. I've not been working with American customers for me, for the last two years since COVID. But yeah, certainly I get that impression when I speak to vacation rental operators in say somewhere like Florida. Yeah, they have very different concerns to London vacation. Yeah,

Alex Husner: 

I mean, try chargebacks are definitely an issue for us. And it's mostly it's dependent on the channel, I mean, booking.com, we get a lot. Airbnb, we get some too, but it's, you know, it really, it's the guests that are coming from these newer channels that are newer into the product, that that's seems to be where there is more of an issue, but also based on where the company is and where the inventory is. It's, it's interesting, those dynamics, how much they come into play.

Leo Walton: 

100%, and I'd say we try and answer three questions simultaneously, which is, who is this guest? And what are they doing? What do they want to do at the property? And what happens if they do something wrong at the property? You know, and that could be okay, I'm gonna have a raging party in New York on on New Year's Eve, which is kind of what we'll think of is like, you know, the sort of the, you know, the kind of dictionary definition of what might happen in a property is a raging party with teenagers, and that's only part of it and if you product like ours, then That should actually virtually never happen. But we're also very much dealing with chargebacks, we provide a financial guarantee against chargebacks. Because, you know, that is something that has grown since COVID. So since the hotels have closed down, a lot of hotels closed down at that time, more people came into the industry, these things started to be attempted, because it's more well known. It's obviously what happens when products before become better known. And what we've noticed is that, generally speaking, not not exclusively, but generally speaking people will it kind of matches what you were saying, Alex, people will attempt to make a choice more frequently, more frequently on a bigger platform, a big deal. Like they've got deeper pockets. Right? Yeah, likely to get a favorable result from from a larger platform. But still, with our screening technology, the first thing we would do is we would take that to the credit card company, and and usually be able to sort it out there and then by you by showing the biometric facial recognition and the ID match that we've done. But if we can't, we will reimburse, we will reimburse the property manager for the for the booking value or any damage they've caused with a credit card that they then did a chargeback on. And again, obviously, we also provide a $5 million guarantee against wider guest attitude. So that's kind of, you know, and again, each market has its different quirks. But there's something in there probably for everybody, in terms of what you might be worried about. And I guess with urban guys, it's with our urban guys, it's often Hey, can you just stop these parties from happening? That's when we feel most happy about what we do is that we think the biggest thing that superhot does is it's a deterrent. Because protection, you know, sorry, prevention is better than cure, isn't it? Yeah, you have to have something in place in case in case the worst happens. And why

Alex Husner: 

is it our market here does for the most part is most companies they don't, we don't rent to locals at all. So if you try to put in a local zip code, the reservation won't go through, and the middle of night stay. So we use those two, to kind of leverage, make sure that we're getting the right people, but at the same time, you can have somebody that is from here that wants to come just for one night or two nights. And financially, it would make sense as a good booking for us, but they are precluded or stops, because if they try and do it online, it doesn't go through. And maybe if they call us we might, you know, we would allow it. But I think that's where there's a big opportunity for what for what your company has is that it's those bookings that, you know, we're having to make these kind of drastic measures to ensure that nothing happens. And I guess that's why we're, we do prevent a lot of it. But how much business are we missing? That would have been good business?

Leo Walton: 

It's very interesting, isn't it? Sorry? The, because you're doing the right thing, you know, you're trying to sort of set parameters, but then you've said it yourself that it's like, what if those parameters actually preclude someone who's in my house? My house is being painted? Hey, wouldn't it be fun? If we went to a vacation rental for the weekend? That'd be really cool. Actually, no computer says no. So I think it's really important to try and build up more clues about who that person is. And that's obviously what our system does. One thing that we focus on is burner phones. So if a mobile phone is unregistered to somebody, or an email is unregistered, that will fly to our system. And I think that's a greater indication of someone's intention. But yeah, definitely, a lot of Yeah, you can't predict everything. So I think doing something is good. But you know, that that's hopefully where we're moving the industry is that there's tools out there to make sure that you can automate this process and essentially save you money because you know, then you don't have to worry about sending someone to the property just to double check that you know, that you haven't ended up booking, right, which it blows all your revenue anyway, on one booking if you have to do one call out for no reason.

Annie Holcombe: 

So out of curiosity, we've talked to a couple of different I think people that are in your competitive set, Ela from AutoHost, we talked to her and kind of talked about it. And I saw this from the channel management side that, to your point, so many new guests coming in that had never used vacation rentals, and they had been used to going to city center hotel, being able to throw a bachelor party or bachelorette party or whatever, throw a party, and they could do it in a vacation rental and they could bring twice as many people and all of a sudden it became, you know, the thing to do and then the house party on Airbnb became the big, you know, noisemaker and one of the things that Ela mentioned was that, you know, partners would just say well just turn the channel off. But you know, do you want to turn off a channel that's bringing you a lot of business? No, you want to try to find out how to work with it and make sure that you're mitigating any any concerns of problems down the road. So can you walk us through so like Alex as a property manager, she signs up with super hog. How does that process work for you to go in and start helping her through the guest issues?

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, happy to have you to walk through it and I think you're completely right Annie or Ela Autohost was was completely right to say you know, the, you know, why turn off whole channel when 99.9% of your guests are not coming with that intention and the ones that are I will, in the most part be put off by the fact that you're using a screening provider in the first place. Right? So I'm sure that, you know, basically, the problem rolls down the hill, right? So if you if you can make note of the fact that you're working with screening provider, that's half the battle, because then they'll go and book somewhere else that looks really easy to book and it always the criminal, the premeditated damage, the really severe damage, not the not the chargebacks. And I got a bit drunk, and I spilled red wine. But the people who are deliberately coming to have organised party, they will, they will look for the easiest route to book, which is why often it ends up being on a big platform where there's no deposit, ask, and there's no there's very little information and it feels very anonymous to them. They're definitely getting that behind that big booking channel is Annie and Alex Leo's farm sounds pretty surprised. Yeah, and they forget that it was real operators and real, you know, small businesses powering this, because that's what most of our industry is. So it feels really anonymous, and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, if we all need to clean up the the image of the industry and stop it being seen as this free for all miss easy route to going to do that. So the more people that work with us, and people like us, you know, the better. If you're a property manager, what we do is, we find out sort of the best way to connect our product to you. So we have a few ways of doing that you can either directly integrate with us, if you have a tech stack and you want to go that far, we can also connect to your property management software, or you can embed a link within your email flow, that link will then take them to the superhot landing page where your guest completes their verification. So there is a integration free way of doing it, which just involves embedding, you know, the same template link into all of your guests emails, right up to having a direct integration powered by an API, or somewhere, something in the middle, and then you you We will work with you to put all the relevant information on your listings on your emails about superhawk. So the guest is aware, they're going to go through this process. And then we'll provide the information you need to sell this product, I suppose to your owners, so that they understand why you've chosen to bargain what benefits that are in it for them. Namely, the fact that you've got $5 million of damage protection if something does go wrong first and a chargeback guarantee and a virtual deposit, which again, we think is really cool. The fact that you don't have to take a security deposit anymore, that will increase your conversion without increasing your risk. And we think that's really powerful. So yeah, so you make people aware of what those key points are. So that their owners are all on board and up for it. And then you know, it runs itself from there. If the worst happens, it goes to our global resolutions team. And we will liaise with the guests to either get them to pay, or we use the super guarantee to pay for for the damages. But what I hear time and time again, is the fact that we've even reduced by a factor of you know, tenfold, we've reduced the incidence of damage from even from even occurring in the first place. And that is what makes me feel happiest about our product is that we are actually changing people's behavior. And then when it does come to problems, leave your guests to us, you know, we'll even make way to make sure they pay you or we will pay you if they don't or they can't afford to reimburse you for the for the damage they've done.

Alex Husner: 

A couple of questions you said about the deposit that you don't have to charge that anymore security deposit or deposit on the whole booking

Leo Walton: 

damage deposit. Yeah, security deposit. Okay. Okay. Now, I know that in some markets, it's unheard of to charge a damage deposit. But you know, in many it's not. Or if you're dealing with high end properties, and high touch owners, having a security deposit is a must. Therefore, this product has to hold product offering that is just one of its features, right? Yeah, just give us a really good hurdle to people booking because they might not want to put down $2,000 on a credit card, but it might get to all your other screening technology to ascertain whether they're good or bad guests or not protect you, you know, we'll protect you in case the worst happens

Alex Husner: 

now how do you go? Or how does the resolutions team? How do they recoup that money? If somebody comes in, they do end up causing severe damage to the unit? How are they trying to get it from them? Besides, and I'm sure there's a credit card on file. That's what we do. But I mean, if it's bad, how are they getting that money from them?

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, so actually, we probably simply won't have a credit card on file. I know the I know, the property manager will but but we rarely have access to that there is an option of doing your own security deposit in superhot but you know, like I say we normally just sell the fact that we've got a virtual deposit attached. So you don't need to take a security deposit. So they'll know they've gone through our verification and part of that process is ticking our terms and conditions to say that they will be responsible for any damage they caused, you know, and Beth where in the world they're coming to just have a nice holiday, not trash property, right? They've gone through that process that's kind of already distilled in them the importance of looking after the property. So if then there is a raging party and we have to contact them, they know who we are. And at that point, depending on what the action is will depend on how we are with them. So if it's just a little bit of accidental damage, it's all quite friendly and nice. So we can see if they can afford to contribute in if they can't, we would use our financial insurance back guarantees to pay for it. And we talk to the property manager and get the evidence they needed. So a photograph. And then we put that together with the emails we've sent to the the guest, and that's enough to pay out. But if it's a big raging party, obviously will send a much more kind of formal direct email to say, look, you know, you are liable for this damage, you're liable for this party. And you know, we will work hard to try and get the money back. First of all, because that is the best way to end that situation is to get the guest to pay for it. And then if failing that, again, we'll use our superhero guarantees to make sure that the guest the host story is never is never out of pocket. But when we're much more direct, and thankfully, we don't, we don't experience that bigger end of the damage spectrum, because our technology is so good that it stops it from happening. But you know, that that is that is the hypothetical, you know, if you will, is that what would we do? We would just get more and more serious to that person feels more obligated. But the truth of the matter is, if somebody's coming to trash your property, and you don't properly check who they are beforehand, you won't get the money from them that have disappeared. Yeah,

Alex Husner: 

exactly. Right. Yeah. Yeah,

Leo Walton: 

they'll just disappear into the ether. And, you know, it's a and but those sort of guests will run a mile when they see a system like ours in place. Yeah.

Alex Husner: 

Yeah. How do you how do probably mentors keep up with how many reservations that have gone in and actually filled out the information? Because it takes place after they book? Correct? Correct? Yeah,

Leo Walton: 

correct. And again, it's a very, very slick system. So we get like 99.5% of people through it really, really is slick. But they have their own dashboard, which will send them alerts based on if somebody still needs to verify or complete the action. We send follow ups on email, because most people will book and I'm exactly the same when I book my vacation rental, I then put it down. And I don't think about it again until the week before I arrive. Right? Yeah, yeah. So then they find the emails where we've tried to get them to complete the process. And that's when a lot of people so a lot of a lot of verifications are completed within two weeks of the arrival time.

Alex Husner: 

Okay, gotcha. How

Annie Holcombe: 

many? I guess today, would you say how many claims? Is it called a claim at this point that you've had to pay?

Leo Walton: 

It wouldn't we wouldn't call it a claim. It's it goes to our resolution center. And in the most part, they're able to get that back from the, from the guest. I couldn't I don't have the fingers on me. But it's it's obviously, yeah, it's busy. Being we take care of a lot of transactions on a daily basis a lot. So. But yeah, it's called the resolution team, because then the most part, that's the first thing we look to do. And then if we need to lean on our fat financial guarantees, we absolutely can we will or, or we pay out, we will pay using that financial guarantee first, while we're while the guest is maybe on a repayment plan of you know, X amount of dollars per month to you make sure that the host is paid out there. And then but yeah, it's definitely busy. Definitely one of the busier ends of our business,

Alex Husner: 

where do you see the future of this going? When do you see it that it's going to be super hog and companies like yours that are gonna continue to make these direct relationships with property managers? Or are the OTA is going to take that responsibility and offer it for all the bookings as part of the services that they have?

Leo Walton: 

I think it depends on the OTA. So I think I think we already have things lined up with, with, with OTA partners. So we see the product as being applicable to both gays and mpmc. And we have some existing OTA clients as well. So we're not, we're not in any stretch of imagination, just just catering for the property management market. But, you know, lots of OTAs are born out of just wanting to make their their 10%. About scale, right, and I don't think they'll ever be able to get their head around the idea of slowing the slowing down to look and write and do that analysis, it doesn't matter how easy you want to tell them it is. So it's the person who's primarily concerned with the risk, and that that's the Property Manager. Manager knows how hard it is to acquire property. So they'd rather like a party never happened in the first place. If even if insurance pays for it, it gets sorted out. If people use its financial guarantees, if you're using superb for example, even in even in that world, it's still a failure. Because Because and most likely that the client, the host will take their property off line because they're scarred by the experience OTAs a lot of some of them and the ones we deal with see that and they see how important that is, but you know, some of the ones really doing it at scale. I think it's just it's not their risk and therefore they're not chiefly concerned with it. And the property manager is the one that the one that is

Alex Husner: 

I think that the main manager that thing that just has to be done, and you obviously have figured it out. But it's really the cadence of how the whole process works. That leads to it being effective that, you know, we've always gone back and forth on if we wanted to actually send like a DocuSign type contract after a booking is done. And we don't do that. And for that same reason that you just talked about that it's like, well, is that going to end up precluding people from not actually calling to make their final payments? Or is it going to push them away, and we just haven't move forward with it. And we get them to agree upfront to our terms and conditions when they book but it does open you up to more issues when you actually have to prove the chargeback cases or damage or anything like that. So but really the worry that we've always had here, and I've heard from other companies is that you don't want to scare guests away. But it sounds like the way that you're doing it is very, it's just it flows into the process. Well, it's not.

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, totally the most important thing is guest experience, because 99% of guests are good guests. So you cannot be set out in a way that makes people feel like they've done something wrong. But luckily, people are getting more comfortable with having to process and provide their ID when they purchase something online. You know, I rented a car the other day, and I will have walking over to unlock it. And I realized that adequately go and do my facial recognition thing. And, you know, I did it and 90 seconds later I was in the car. And I didn't mean that I was just like, oh, I need to do this. And you know, and I did it. So that the world is moving the world is moving in that direction to the point where I think that, you know, it's important that it's seen as a positive thing. And so guest experience is like it we think is front and center to what we do. Because it also shows how professional the property management management company is and how the OTA is because they can then look at who's super humble, and they got their trust and safety, business, brilliant, they're protecting the space, okay, they're fine independently, they're, you know, verifying this business as well as this business is independently verifying me. So it definitely works both ways in that respect. And I think once people try it and see how get how receptive guests are to it, then that kind of those objections kind of kind of blow away. And that's the other important part of it as well is that, you know, we said this about the terms and conditions that, that they're just a very quick tick box within the system. But within that you're getting them to agree and stand up to the fact that they're good guests, and they're not here to property. Let's talk about that. Look at me trying to take over Hold on, why don't we please? I think the idea, that's the idea, you can be a very good guest when you go away with your partner, and your your newborn baby. And you can be a very naughty guest when you go away with your friends understand, right? Right. So like, you know, nobody, nobody is the same person on every single holiday, you know, and you might be going with the sole intention of just having fun. And then you know, a few, a few alcoholic beverages later, you might be dancing on the table singing to Madonna.

Annie Holcombe: 

This is this from experience.

Leo Walton: 

To have my 'stagdo' that, so everybody can be different. With us. If you've booked with us, when you went away with your partner and your your child, you'll then shoot through that verification process again, without needing to give your identity again, when you're on the stag do. But hopefully then you realize, well, you know, they've got my identity here, and I'm getting passing through the system, because then they know I'm a good guest. So if I, if I invalidate that by acting in an appropriate way, then then that's not going to be good the next time I want to try and book with my family. And so that and what I think it proves is that that will bring a different that will bring a behavior change where you'll say, oh my god, I'm so sorry, I broke it off the table leg, can I can I pay for it? You know, by the way, the stereo is great. We love listening to Madonna, you know, like, it's changes, it changes that changes the comps, you know, around it. And that's what clients say to me, which I which I love is that they say, you know, people will fess up to for for damages that of course in ways that they didn't used to Yeah, and I think it's because you know, you've got that digital footprint online and you know, you say I want to had to go through super organized to get my identity the second time I just went through because he obviously knew who I was. Why would I want to break that that you know that? That that record that I have and you know, and it's not about it's not about putting people off booking It's just about making sure that good people have an incentive to do the right thing. Dag do. Okay, can I say this? Oh, yeah, I'm gonna say it anyway. And I didn't go on it because my daughter was sort of very close to being born. And, and my friends want it and they they went to I went to where they went. Friends, some of them I didn't know and and two of the two of them were very good friends and I said, Oh, how was it and they said I was a bit. We got a bit freaked out because we didn't have enough keys to the apartment. So pizza worked out, you could just, you could just kick the door in a certain position and it would let you in to the, to the, to the property and I was like,

Alex Husner: 

Oh my gosh.

Leo Walton: 

Right. And then and then four days in so someone did it and they completely bust the door. Oh my gosh. Wow. You know, and then all these all these guys suddenly put their hands in their pockets and paid for it paid for a new dog, you know, but it was that panicky moment they thought they were gonna kick to get kicked out. And can I just say my friends were that were the good guys going on. Right?

Alex Husner: 

Of course. And surely you would have been like,

Leo Walton: 

I genuinely want it I would have been Yeah. You know how puny I am. I couldn't

Annie Holcombe: 

be would have been on the cover the Daily Mail super hogs. Actually, that led me I was like, that was gonna lead me to a question I was gonna ask at the end. But since we're on this topic, so people dancing on tables, singing to Madonna, what is the craziest like issue that you have encountered? Since you've been doing this?

Leo Walton: 

It's a great it's, it's very hard because we we never The annoying thing is we never get to hear the story. We do have great relationships with our property managers, but they don't give us the full on Goss. Right? Yeah, exactly what's gone down, you know, in terms of like, you know, this guest we said she did this or he said, whatever. But you know, we've found things like stilettos in oven doors in a stilettos that have pierced the the door of the oven and just been left there. Don't know who I don't know who sort of hopped home from a party with. And yeah, obviously countless, countless times people find find vomit and wide stains in areas. Obviously people have forgotten about right, right. Yeah, in different areas. But yeah, thankfully, we haven't had anything major, major major, because again, I think it's the biometrics to put the

Annie Holcombe: 

doing that tweeted it out.

Alex Husner: 

I hadn't really thought of it from a profile standpoint. But that's really interesting that people understand that what they do in one place could affect them down the line renting somewhere else, I think that really kind of takes it to that next level of it's like more of a, it's a community based thing that they understand this is bigger than just one time that you need to be well behaved. But I know one of the issues that we have that you know, we're a primarily a Saturday to Saturday market in North Myrtle Beach. And that means we've got, you know, 500 turns on Saturdays. So it's, you know, from a maid service perspective, they've got to be working really, really fast. And you know, sometimes with damages, they miss things, but they don't see that something was damaged, or somebody hides the lamp that was damaged in the closet, and they don't see that. But I feel like what you're describing somebody would be more apt to say, Listen, I broke this lamp, you know, because they don't want to be damned later on down the line. So I think having that accountability for it makes a lot of sense.

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, totally. You're just giving good people. And let's remember, the vast majority of people are are good people, good. Madonna fans, you're giving them to do the right thing. And also what the really exciting thing is that we're connecting what's already a really interconnected industry, by the way, and I love the fact that you're here I sit in London, and here you guys sit in the US and we're able to do this, but and, and do all the video. But we're connecting property managers in Brazil, with property managers in London with property managers in New York City, and Sydney. Because they're all going all the guests are going through that same screening technology. So you're getting the benefit of everybody's everybody else's learning, you know, around the piano really compliant, GDPR compliant, safe way of just knowing that, hey, if people have told me not to take this booking, there's a bloody good reason for it. Yeah, yeah. And actually, like, we will make sure bookings can happen if it's at all possible, and will only tell someone to cancel the booking if we really don't think that the guest is safe.

Annie Holcombe: 

I feel like you guys are kind of like the Interpol and vacation rentals.

Leo Walton: 

Hey, I like that. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe: 

Are you seeing a difference in the way the regulations are here versus in the UK or again, you're you're dealing with EU regulations and things with the GDPR and all that, that we maybe don't have as stringent here in the US. But then again, we have different ones from state to state. How do you navigate that? Because it seems like that's just a moving target.

Leo Walton: 

It very much isn't I suppose there's two parts to regulation isn't the one is the local authorities in banning short Letson vacation rentals from happening? The other the other one is use of data. So obviously everything that we do is is very private, so that we never reveal anything about an individual we just say you should not accept this booking or you should accept this booking. So in terms of navigating that it's it is really straightforward for For us, and actually, the UK has some really strict laws. So the fact that we're born in the UK kind of helps, because that's where we've that that's where we've grown our initial client bases and started out. So yeah, it's about the fact that we, and no one would feel comfortable, right? No one wants to share that information with editors. So it's just a case of you say, No, we've raised the flag and we only raise a flag if you shouldn't take a booking therefore do not do. So you're not actually sharing any information about it. About that. The other side of that, then obviously, is the Navigating the regulation around short term rental in general, it's in Europe is is tough parts of the UK are even tougher. It's such a political football in the UK, I'm sure it's the same in America are becoming the same in America in certain areas. But yeah, we think that our tools really help in the fight against overzealous regulation. Because you can say, Look, this is not an unknown market where anybody it's not the Wild West, actually look, great tools you can use. And when we're talking about great tools, let's also include noiseaware, in the mix somebody like that, right. And there's, I know, there's, there's, there's the organizations in the states, like Astro and rent responsibly, and all those sorts of things that are trying to do that collective action, you know, the, these kinds of tools make your and there are others that I'm not thinking of, but there are plenty more that make your vacation rental experience safer. That's a really good tool to use against overzealous regulation. Yeah,

Alex Husner: 

yeah. Interesting.

Annie Holcombe: 

I'm curious to see where it goes. Because again, that is something that obviously it's hot topic in every state municipality, just in Florida alone, there's so many different regulations that are trying to be put into place, and they're all different from one county to the next. And some of them are trying to ban things and some of them aren't. So I think it's speaks to a really big opportunity for you guys, a super hog to come in there and say, like, wait a minute, let's just step back. And here's how we can work with the municipalities and the managers to get these overzealous regulations in place.

Alex Husner: 

Yeah. And that that is the better way to approach it. I think I know, in North Myrtle Beach, we had a fight against city council about a year ago that to prevent these parties and parking issues and stuff like that. And noise, they wanted to make a law that you had to be able to respond to a problem at your vacation rental unit within like 30 minutes, in order to be able to rent that as a short term rental, which we'd be probably fine with that, because as a large property management company, we can certainly handle that. And that makes it harder for individual owners to do that. But ultimately, that's it's not, that's not something that can be enforced, right. But the premise of why they were doing that is also to solve the same thing that you guys are doing, but from a more logical point of view. So it's, Andy and I have talked about this on a few other episodes, and with some other guests about the destination marketing side, which not on marketing, necessarily, but, you know, the efforts that these DMOS are putting in to work with, you know, the local city councils and legislators, you know, it's it goes across the aisle. And I think it's important to have these discussions and for them to know, there are options like a super hog, that mean, you should be included in those types of events and conferences and discussions that that's this is a way to help your city council and your town to be able to regulate short term rentals, but also make it so that it is still a fair business climate.

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, I completely agree. I completely agree. It seems like because there is no joined up thinking between local organizations, how they approach it, but a lot of the same mistakes at the council level are just being repeated in different areas.

Alex Husner: 

Yeah, it's there's no problem solving there. So I and I think that's we should continue, you know, going down that path as a discussion, because I think that's where, you know, reaching across the aisle here really does make sense. And if we can, you know, connect the dots there. I think that's there's a lot of benefit for everybody.

Annie Holcombe: 

Yeah, it's very relevant and timely, and I think it's not going to go anywhere, anytime soon. Definitely a hot topic. But we are, we're kind of getting towards the end here. And so we'd like to wrap it up and have a little.

Alex Husner: 

So we'll have you back again,

Annie Holcombe: 

this year. We're gonna do, we're gonna do an episode called the dish. You're gonna come with all of the really cool stories, you're just going to collect them all.

Alex Husner: 

And we're going to talk to them go back to the research,

Annie Holcombe: 

bring them back, find out who the people are, that are dancing on the table to Madonna. We really appreciate you coming in. And I actually wanted to ask you because the way I met you was you asked me to be on your podcast, the Titans. And I wanted to know how that came to be because again, had it not been for you. I wouldn't have been comfortable doing what Alex and I are doing right now. Oh, that's great. I really appreciate

Leo Walton: 

Thank you. Wow, that's That's great. What you mean in respect of because you've been on it gave you the confidence. Is that what you mean,

Annie Holcombe: 

sir? It just never it just never occurred to me. I can have a conversation like a just a casual conversation with somebody that you would record to listen to later and not overthink it. And again, I think you just you you completely disarmed me and made me feel very comfortable that thought I could do this. It's not it's it's okay. So when Alex and I started entertaining it, I guess, I would think back to our conversation, how comfortable it was. And I think maybe that's just speaks to your personality. It is very disarming and casual, and I loved it. But I do I do put you in that category of someone that made me personally excited about what Alex and I decided to do. So I'm just curious again, like, how did superhot Titans come to be? Because it is it is your company's podcast, so to speak. But how did you come to do this?

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, so it's a really good question. First of all, I love I love the fact that I've in some way inspired somebody who has such a deep understanding of the vacation rental industry. And that's because I really enjoyed that episode, because you know, your board, we call it origin story, I spent vacation rental is the nominal, you know, going back to the days of brochures, and you know, and looking at it and people people not really understanding what it was. And you know, you're a true Trailblazer. I guess I guess it the origins of the title were Titans was that the world stopped doing face to face conversations in in february, march 2020s, as we all know, and so we're all we're all sat in our bedroom slash offices feeling a little bit, I suppose. Lost, I guess, at a loss to how to how to approach it as entrepreneurs. And yeah, we've always been really focused on. Okay, so it is two things to me hard work, nothing, nothing replicates hard work. And we've talked about this before. And I know you're also a true believer in that. It's like, you know, walk the walk, you know, go out there and work, work, work, the tough job, go and go and do those things, achieve those things. And then you'll then you'll understand how to talk about, right, you know, the second part of it is also iterating. Your approach if something, if something is good, and you strictly strike gold, as we do from time to time as superhawk founders, then iterate it, improve it and keep going, right. And that's what got us to where we are now. And the growth that we've had is because we're always improving upon where we are improving upon our offering tweaking things moving forward. So I guess it was 2020. March was just such a shock to the system that it also gave us the headspace to try and do something different. And I realized that I was having incredibly interesting conversations with people across the world on Zoom. Every day, we weren't directly trying to sell to each other because the world had stopped. But people were just checking in talking about their products. And I kind of made it my mission, that by the time the world got back to normal, everyone in the vacation industry was going to know who's involved, we're just do us all talking to as many different people as possible as we could. And the conversations were so good, that I think it was natural that the next step was to film some of them, put them out there as content because, you know, the beautiful thing about our industry, as you will know, and I know that you know, this, because you've had such a variety of guests on is just that we do work in a variety of settings, you know, and they all come together every three months and have great conferences with each other and learn more. But you know, there's all this amazing stuff going on around the globe. And if you get into a conversation with someone, and there's too many people to name too many people to name, but you know, people like Wednesday, Alex is a great example. You know, we live we live miles from one another, but we're kind of dealing with some of the same growth, growth challenges and, you know, industry challenges. So we get on the, we get on a call and we talk and you can learn a lot from that person and vice versa, hopefully. So yeah, it was just it wouldn't happen if it wasn't for COVID. And now I can't imagine not doing it.

Annie Holcombe: 

Yeah, we talked about that. I think that COVID was the was the catalyst for so many really wonderful things, relationships, tweaking how you were handling those relationships, and it made us all get outside our comfort zones, so much more probably rapidly than we ever would have. Or if we or if we ever would have, I probably never would have probably made it very content.

Alex Husner: 

force us to have to do that. I think after COVID I mean, when we went to VRMA this past fall was like, you know, we were so excited to continue these conversations. That's great when the podcast was getting started. Because, you know, just going and seeing everybody once or twice a year. That's not enough. And you know, we all really thrive from this open conversation and discussion. And I really think that's part of why our industry has continued to evolve so much more than some of our other counterparts in tourism is because we have a very, very collaborative nature and how information is shared and still, you know, even outside of just going to events. It's it's an ongoing conversation that moves everybody forward.

Leo Walton: 

Yeah, I think that's right. And I think it's not a soundbite it's so genuine, ruin our industry. Yeah, collaborate and I remember reading about I can't quite remember I want to say it was in a Malcolm Gladwell book, but don't quote me on that, please but about the whole Silicon Valley factor in the 90s, that people would be developers would be drinking the same coffee shops and getting their heads together and sort of cross pollinating, moving between different companies and learning from each other. And that just helped this whole boom happen in general. And I kind of feel like, this is our time where we, where we can connect with everyone around the world in a much more efficient way than just running into someone in a coffee shop in, in Silicon Valley. And it's happening on video call by putting yourself out there and connecting your business and being outward facing on things like LinkedIn, and other such platforms and just networking, and you learn so much, because, you know, yes, I can learn a lot from people within my own country that I might be someone I sit on the on the same board as because as you guys know, I sit on the board of the FCA in the UK, but actually, I'm going to earn I'm going to learn a lot more when I talk to Annie because I'm going to suddenly learn about what she's doing in America. Yeah, it's gonna pick up and give us more and give us more traction and more growth. And so, you know, we are in such a such, okay, here's interesting thing, we I think we've turbocharged our growth, because of COVID. And we pushed it in a way that we wouldn't have pushed it forward at quite the same speed. So I'm saying it and I'm saying this very carefully, because I don't think COVID is at all a good thing. It's a it's a terrible tragedy. And the loss of life has been horrible. And it's been an awful blockers and lots of things. But it certainly it certainly has probably not been a bad thing for our business, and it's helped definitely help us propel certain ways of certain ways of working.

Annie Holcombe: 

There's always a rainbow after the rain. So yeah.

Alex Husner: 

Well, thank you so much, Leo, for joining us today. This was great to learn more about Super hog and about you and just excited to see where you continue to go on your journey both professionally and as a dad. We'll have to be checking in on that to see this beautiful baby of yours as she gets older.

Leo Walton: 

What was your baby set? Sadie. Sadie. Yeah. And so my my grandma sister, my grandma was Irish, emigrated to your to your shores, and never came back obviously, as no one ever did. She became a police woman in New York and then lived her whole life in the US. And when we were taught talking to my mom about this jasmine, my partner thought it just sounded like a lovely name. So hence, Sadie so it is kind of a family name, although beautiful name came out of nowhere, really. So yeah, but it's great. It's the best. It's the best job in the world. She's a very demanding boss and she. Yeah, it's great. Hopefully you can

Alex Husner: 

only getting started

Annie Holcombe: 

getting started.

Alex Husner: 

Thank you again, Leah, and we will talk to you soon. Thank you everybody for tuning in. And we appreciate you listening. We'll talk to you next time.

Leo Walton Profile Photo

Leo Walton

Cofounder- SuperHog

SUPERHOG cofounder, proud new dad and Man United fan.

I got my introduction to Vacation Rentals in 2012 when i joined the team of onefinestay, and I loved being part of the journey from Start-up to established brand, so much so that when Humphrey asked me to join him in setting up SUPERHOG I jumped at the chance!

So now my SUPERHOG mission is to help Property Managers globally create a risk management strategy that protects their owners, guests and business. Which we do by providing guest verification software with imbedded insurance.

I love our industry, and the characters, in truth it doesn't feel like work!