Aug. 24, 2022

Creating Shoppable, Revenue Driving Experiences, with Minoan Founder Marc Hostovsky


Marc Hostovsky, CEO/Founder of Minoan Experience, joins us today for an enlightening look at e-commerce and how vacation rental companies and hosts now have the ability to make their properties a shoppable, revenue driving experience. Gone are the days of ordering furniture from multiple websites or companies and keeping track of work orders - Minoan Experience allows you to make all the furnishings and decor in your unit shoppable to your guests. Marc's previous experience at Jet.com and Wal-Mart have given him a unique perspective on a service that to this point has not been developed. This is a great listen for anyone interested in marketing & e-commerce!

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Transcript
Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm Alex. And I'm Annie. And we are joined today with Mark Hostovsky, who is the CEO and founder of Minoan. Welcome to the show, Mark.

Marc Hostovsky:

Thanks. Great to be here.

Alex Husner:

Awesome. We are so excited to hear more about everything that Minoan has going on. And really, I feel like your company has just kind of come from out of nowhere. And it's just making a massive impact. Just in the last I don't know, maybe a month that we've known about Minoan, but it's been really interesting to see and just read and talk to some of the other associates you have that that work with you. And of course, a few of us, we've done our pre calls. But before we get into the nuts and bolts, can you give our audience just a little bit of history about who you are and how you got to where you're at now?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, sure. So I started, well it all starts, I guess at a job, a retail job, I took at a company called jet.com. In 2015, which was an E commerce marketplace. And it spent a lot of time thinking about e commerce and retail and why we buy and what we buy. That company was a rocket ship. I mean, I joined, we officially launched six months after I joined and then 10 months after that, we were already doing $80 million a month. Revenue. So it was quite a it was a crazy experience. And then the founders sold that business to Walmart. And so then I went over to Walmart, I took over a portion of the sporting goods business for E commerce about a foreign million dollar business. Yeah, and really, in my time at Walmart, I started working a bit more on the store side. So spending time in Bentonville, figuring out how they set the modular how we think about guests, or serve consumers in stores. And just realized, you know, the best product experiences, they don't actually happen on screens and the way they do an E commerce, they don't happen on shelves in aisles, you know, the way they do it a Walmart or Target the best product experiences happen in the real world. And that's true of basically any product that exists in the real world that you could think of, you know, it's better to if you're buying coffee beans, it's much better to pour yourself a cup of coffee with those beans, see how you buy it. That's a lot better than scrolling through some some images online or even just looking at a bunch of bags in a grocery store. And you can give that same example with mattresses with linens, speaker systems, decor, soaps, shampoos, hair dryers like, yeah, you know, it's pretty tough. Hair dryers are designed to be used on wet hair. You know, trying to figure out how good it is doing that on a screen and stuff. And then even at a store, even if you have like a Dyson hairdryer that's out on display.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah, go ahead. Price does not always correlate. I'm fortunate learn that the hard way. Okay, it's this much money, it must be a really great hairdryer, but that it's not.

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, and there's a lot of I mean, we can get into this later. But a lot of retail in the world that I came from is really oriented around, optimizing around merchandising, which is making a product look like it's really good at something, or distribution, which is like getting in with Amazon getting in with Walmart getting in with target. And this idea of like product quality. It's still important, but I have started feeling I'm like, is this like not the most important thing anymore? Is it more important to like, have like a tactful marketing strategy and get on the shelves. And so I became really interested in this idea of native retail, which is all about putting products in environments where people can actually use them. Letting them sleep on a mattress over three or four days letting someone use a hairdryer when they're coming out of the shower. And their hair is wet, letting someone sit and relax on furniture, letting someone prepare a meal with a ceramic cook set and see what they think of it. And I didn't know exactly, you know how it would work. But I was like, I feel like there's something there's a better way to do this. And it wasn't until I stayed at a property in upstate New York with my fiance vacation rental and we just had an incredible experience. You know, we woke up. We're like, wow, we never sleep like what is what is this mattress like ripping the sheets off the mattress trying to figure out what it was checking the linens for tags like we're gonna

Annie Holcombe:

get these right

Marc Hostovsky:

in the kitchen, they had this really nice it was like this glamping sort of yurt setup and so they did a really good job of like, there wasn't a ton of space. And the kitchen wasn't that big but they did a really good job of like wall mounting like the knife set and some appliances and we were living in New York City at the time. And so we were like, well, we don't have a ton of counter space like, like, this is so good the way they did this, we should get this mount, we should get this set. And so I emailed the host was like, hey, where do you buy all this stuff, we want to buy it and I got back an email with a bunch of links. And just realized that's when sort of the two pieces sort of like married for me, I was like, This is so funny, like, in my world of retail, all these brands are spending so much money to try and create meaningful moments, you know, on Google on Facebook. And yet, here we are, like, I've just had an experience where I reached out to the host they didn't like, I'm trying to find them and say, Where did you get this? I want it. And yet the host isn't monetizing, that are getting credit for that in the same in the eyes of the suppliers, in the same way that a Google or Facebook would you know, they're handing us money to Google and Facebook and Google Facebook, get them and from can get you in front of a lot of people. But the quality of those interactions really Yeah,

Alex Husner:

conversion rate is it's a whole different way of looking at conversion.

Marc Hostovsky:

Oh, absolutely. And so became really passionate about, you know, this realization like, man, these these people in hospitality these hosts, like they have so much value, but they're not monetizing it, or really getting credit for it, you know, like, right now, brands view hosts as customers, for them to make money off of, or like, they should really view them as marketing partners, that is a totally different economic relation. And was thinking through this, I was like, Well, how would this have to work because well, what are the brands need, they need to see clicks conversion, customer pathing, you know, they're gonna want this information, they're gonna want the process to work like this, but what a hostname will host you're going to need, there's so many brands out there, they're going to need a a way to pick products and see everything in one place. See, when it would get delivered, they need to save money, they should not be paying for retail, they should be, they should be getting really good discounts on the stuff. And so that's what sort of inspired the founding of Minoa and is building this platform to really help hosts and hospitality professionals more strategically manage the relationship between them and their suppliers and anything that goes into their space. And then on the back end, we have the shoppable experience, which you know, we have a card here, but this would sit in the property and it says found something you like scan this code the shop. And you can sort of connect the products that you brought into your space and illuminate them so that when guests are going through, I really love this colander of this stool or the rug or pendant or the chandelier and just kind of connected full circle so that when those moments of inspiration happen host can make it really easy for the guests to bring these products into their own life and collect commission

Alex Husner:

especially as I feel like Airbnb has really checks given rise to hosts putting a lot of effort into the space right and making it really a unique accommodations. And that's that's different than things used to be I mean, the cookie cutter, set for a living room bedroom, three bedroom condo, you know those still exists. But Airbnb has really just emphasize how you can make something into a really unique experience that sets you apart from the competition. So I'm sure when people stay in these places. This has got to be something that's been going through guests minds for a long time. So it's going to be a welcome addition to, to our

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, whenever we talk, there's lots of scene. different approaches to hosting. Just like there are lots of different approaches to hospitality, just like there are lots of different approaches to real estate, you know, there's different segments you can go after. And I think we really focus on hosts who do spend time and effort designing these spaces. I mean, they almost see them as a form of self expression. They really love the idea of being, you know, hospitable like having people come into space they've designed having a great experience. And I think that those hosts are getting rewarded in a few ways one by Airbnb directly because Airbnb is sort of rewarding these like really unique experiences, but to you, you know, you're you can pull yourself out of competing on price a little bit, you know, pull yourself out of just competing on okay, what's the, what's the cheapest thing I can find in Atlanta. If you create the sort of distinct experience, you compete on experience, and there's a positive impact on ADR and for us that creates a whole flywheel because then you're attracting people who have more disposable income who are more likely to buy stuff that when they see it in your property, which means more commission's going back to the host, and so it creates this nice little flywheel. Really if you do this well, because you save money up front and then you earn commissions on the purchase. So if you buy a mattress at let's say, we can get you To 60% off on a mattress, so you're paying 40% of retail. And then in your property, you're selling the mattress at full retail, because they're the guests are consumers. So it's full retail. If you get a 10%, commission 10% of retail, if you sell 4 mattresses, the Commission's cover the cost of putting them. That's incredible. Yeah. And so like, Okay, well, how long is this mattress gonna last? For and like, think about that for every single amenity, right. Yeah. Like, our goal is to really make it so that hosts in hospitality. I mean, we work with boutique hotels as well, but that these groups, the investment in products in their spaces, it's no longer just a cost center. You know, it's it's like, each one of those things is actually a revenue generating asset. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

But it becomes a marketing part of your marketing tool as well. So I want to, I want to like kind of go back. So you had what Alex and I define is that aha moment that was your stay within this, you know, this vacation rental? And so how did you go from that aha moment to I'm going to call a Pottery Barn and ask them to do this with me. Yeah, that's a very, that's a very bold call to make. But then, you know, you went after some really strong brands, and they're amazing. And as a shopper, I you know, I applaud you, and I love it. So we finally

Alex Husner:

met a man who loves shopping.

Annie Holcombe:

Tell us about how all that kind of came into play. And you know, what got you from that moment to connecting with these companies?

Marc Hostovsky:

That's a good question. Like, I feel like go back down. It wasn't so funny. I think sometimes when you're in the moment, you're really passionate about something you've you've focused so much on the way you think it should be that you sort of maybe blissfully ignore all the reasons that like, it wouldn't like I wasn't even thinking that these brands would be like, No, we won't. We're so passionate about, you know, going to him and being like, look, look at your marketing department. How much? What's your marketing budget? Where's all that money going? Yeah, okay, great. You know, and going to brands like, a Westown, or a Crate and Barrel or sort of Simmons, are these brands, like sort of Simmons, for example, we were like, think of how many people are already sleeping on your mattress? Right? Yeah, yeah, I have no idea. Like, what if we just illuminated it? And just let them know, by the way, this is a beauty rest. It's this type of mattress to try

Alex Husner:

before you buy? I mean, you're eliminating the return amount? Yeah, I mean, like, I'm sure our returns are significantly less, or somebody buys something in from a no one that's already experienced it.

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, our return rate is less than, I think, point 2% Because people have already used these products. And

Alex Husner:

out of all, the only return what is the general return?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah. I mean, it's, it kind of depends by category. So in clothing, it's like actually much, you know, it's like 30%, because three of something tend to back, but generally, it's 20% and ecommerce. And yeah, I think I just, I was so passionate, that these were really valuable moments that I sort of just like, you know, went to these brands, before we even had a business or anything. And I was like, you guys should do this, you know, you need to figure it out. And, and, and it kind of reconfirmed, they're like, well, we would love to work with the host community, but it's really fragmented. And yeah, there's lots of groups that had done. I think Sonos, for example, had done a program for hosts where they could save money on it. And then they just, they next it because they're like, We have no way of validating like, I don't know, this person actually has a rental. And I don't know how it's being set up. And so yeah, yeah, we were able to solve for some of that on the brand side, we like, well, we have a platform we already they apply, we audit it, we approve them if they're a good fit, you know, we're working with them and in different ways. But I think it's just because I know from my experience with jet and Walmart, because I was I just was intimately familiar with the challenges that brands are having, which right now, brands are having a really tough time getting in front of people. I mean, there's been so much change in the last decade in retailing, you have Shopify, which means like Wow, it's really easy to build a website now. Yeah, you have all these websites that make it really easy to source manufacturers. It's like really easy like let me find a mattress manufacturer Oh, cool. Let me call them up. Oh, do you want to do to like that was much harder. Back then. It's really easy to integrate fulfillment and payment processing with companies like stripe on the payment processing side or Shippo or ship Bob who will take care of all the inventory stuff for you, and it's really easy to target customers by just putting money at Facebook and Google and saying I want to get my product in front of these. So, yeah. Oh, sorry. Oh, no, no, go ahead. Good. It's so it's gotten so much easier. So when things get easier, you sort of lower the barriers to entry. So markets get flooded. So what happens? Now? You know, before there were like, 10, mattress in a box brands now there were 100. Like, yeah, five main cookware brands. Now there are 100. And so every category has gotten more and more brands. And so brands are like, Well, how do I make them? How do I make sure that people know that my things different? And it's unique? It's like, well, let people use it, see how it holds up? In the real world. That's the best way. And so this is kind of a long winded answer.

Alex Husner:

Your understanding of E commerce, I mean, very thorough understanding brings a lot to this discussion, and obviously to the value of what you've built with Minoan. But I was just thinking, as you're talking about Google, I mean, I know when I first started at condo world in 2009, they had not really done any pay per click advertising at that point. And so when we introduced that we did a little bit here and there, but we were the first in our market and on the other vacation while companies were doing it. And now, I mean, everybody does, but we still do it to a very, very strong extent. And we've been able to win, we've seen incredible performance from it. But at the same time, the cost to be able to continue to do that continues to go higher and higher and higher, because now you do have the Airbnb and VRBO is of the world that are in trenching on that limited amount of digital landscape. And it's amazing for us to see, we were just looking at our analytics that our even though our organic placement is higher than we were this time last year, it's our traffic is lower, because of all the different things Google's putting into the products. They're between what more things that they're trying to sell, because really, it's their it is their their home, right. It's their land, it's their land, their house on their land. And that's the scary part of it. But I think what you've done is just genius, because it really it's actually it's allowing hosts or property managers are able to build a marketing source literally on their own land, you know, and it's really just to avoid having to go to the extent of, you know, going the whole ecommerce route, I think this just makes a lot of sense.

Marc Hostovsky:

You and I think that hosts are very, we're all very familiar with the experience economy. I mean, that's like the economy and the spend that really pays the bills. And but I think that hosts, it's beneficial for hosts to to get a little bit more acquainted with the attention economy, as well. Because that's in an even bigger. I mean, look at these companies, Facebook and Google, they're printing 10s of billions of dollars in profit, a quarter profit, you know, hosting anyone who owns a real estate business that's like that's after they pay everything. Yeah. And there's sort of a subprime attention crisis in as consumers like, what is that attention worth? Like? What is a two second ad on Instagram really worth? We're so overwhelmed with stimulus and advertising, that attention is just really important and like real, real attention, meaningful attention, not attention, where, before I watch a video, you know, I'm clicking skip ad, I'm like, alright, alright. Alright. Like, what is that attention worth, versus having someone in your space who's, who genuinely needs to use these things, and on their own time, in their own space, there's no big brother like watching, it's sort of like, a, if you want to cook something, we got a ton of stuff here some great product, if you don't totally ignore it, you can focus elsewhere. I just, I think that attention is so valuable. And then hosts need to realize what that's worth and get credit for it. I think the reason why we built in the know and is because as we were peeling back the layers of that onion, like Well, well, how should we approach this? What should they do? We're like, man, actually there, to really get the most value out of this host really need to have good technology behind it. Because the reality is, you know, like, marketing has totally changed, like a lot of marketing departments, you know, just in the example you're giving, it's like marketing departments have like, sometimes data scientists and analysts. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It wasn't always like that. Yeah, it will do this billboard. And so well, then that means that for a host to really succeed in this attention economy, in today's age, there needs to be data that can be piped back, right? To the brands. Well, how do you do that? Well, then you need to build this shoppable experience that ties it all together. Okay, well, what should that feel like? Well, to be really elegant, it shouldn't just be like blue peers 16 products on the page. It should be by room by brand, it should be sort of a tour of the space, it should use words that aren't directly focused on retail didn't say buy, it shouldn't say Add to Cart, it should say things like explore, discover the following word, explore shopping. And and, and we just have such a strong point of view on like how this needs to be done to really unlock the value that we were like, we just need to build it because the thought the hosts, and anyone in hospitality, like there's enough on your plate, there is enough to keep you busy without having to figure out all this other stuff. And so if we can invest the time, the technology to build this other stuff, and allow hosts to just kind of plug in and, and unlock that value. That's what we're really focused on doing. And we get so much good feedback from hosts around like little things that we should add on or do and we're like, oh, that's a really interesting idea. We didn't think about that, like, but we could absolutely do that. So it's a fun, fun journey.

Alex Husner:

Talk us through the process of what how a host or even a manager uses this platform.

Marc Hostovsky:

Yes, so I'm gonna share my screen. But I feel like that won't be easy for the for the so the first step is there's an application plus if you got them unknown experienced.com There's a Join Us button. And we just ask a little bit information like how many properties? What's your goal, you know, you like tote furnishing from scratch you trying to do a little refresh, you just want to make it shoppable? Let us know. And when we're looking at these, we're basically trying to identify, you know, one is this a real hospitality professional, which could mean I mean, someone who has one short term rental is a hospitality professional, we just want to make sure that they have some, you know, some, some property they're renting out and that they really care about it, you know that they want to make it feel unique that they want to really make it unique experience. So then we'll approve them. They can log into MMA now, and they'll see a page with 200 brands, and then each brand has the discount. So it'd be like this brand, this discount this brand, this discount this brand this discount. They can filter by categories. So if they're looking for art, they're looking for lighting, they're looking for appliances, it'll narrow down list of brands. And we basically have a way where they can click on the link, go to that brand's website. So go to crate and barrel.com. And we have a Chrome extension where as they're browsing on Crate and Barrel, they can click a button, and the Chrome extension will grab the URL, and it will grab other product information like color or style variant price title, and then it brings it back to the Minoan cart. So then when you log back, when you go back to a Nolan in your cart, you'll see this item from Crate and Barrel with the actual link to the item. Okay, you just repeat that process for stuff from public goods or blue land, or you're

Alex Husner:

just you're buying from one place, though, right? I think that's one of the main benefits.

Marc Hostovsky:

Exactly. It's you, you search and grab products from all these different websites, but you buy on Minoan in one place, so you can get a better sense of how does this stack up with my budget? That's sometimes hard to do when you're tracking orders across. Right and right. Yeah, and the other one is, when is this stuff gonna be

Alex Husner:

here? Yeah, especially with shipping delays.

Marc Hostovsky:

And that's where we do a lot of work on a when's your install date? Okay, let's see, okay, here's the stuff, here's how much it cost, here's where to get delivered, here's how much we can save you, you know. And then we're also helping you all the way through tracking. And so we're, we have technology will will tell you the status of each, you know, this is either on route or at the facility or being built. This is when it's expected to be delivered as their issues. We're very actively involved in customer service. So if there's a shipping delay, you know, and it's like, oh, this couch is now going to get here and two weeks later, hosts can contact us and be like a, that's going to be a problem now. Yeah. Yeah, we'll figure it out. Exactly. And we also have really interesting data around, we have a unique vantage point where like, I can see how often these brands ship on time or late and so if someone because we do so many orders, so if someone's got an install date of like, let's say August 10, and they're ordering something from a supplier where we check the data, and we're like, oh, this supplier is like only on time 40% of orders, we might like Nudge, nudge host Hey, this is a great couch, but it's at risk. You might not get there in time. And so if this is a hard install date, you have renters, we would recommend going with this brand or this couch because they're on time 95% of the time and their estimated delivery date is August 4, so it gives you plenty of time so we get really actively involved there because there's nothing worse. There's nothing worse than that sort of fire drill where you have rent Is there something? Oh, yeah, don't have you're like, What am I going to do drive for, like, Big Lots and just

Annie Holcombe:

a futon in there? Yeah. So, um, you have so I'm a host I furnished my unit. Do you have like a I mean, I know we talked about you have a program where they can be, you know, show the guests that they can buy this these goods? Do you do any sort of training with the host to be able to help them message like either through the unit through their website through their marketing materials to, again, talk about that experience that the guest is gonna have?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, it's a good question. Not yet, as much as I would like to think, you know, we spent a lot of time like designing these custom, like, this is a custom designed holder. And so we spend a lot of time on stuff that like makes it as easy as possible. We're like, hey, you know, set this up in the entryway or somewhere else. But I want us to get better at like the coaching on integrating the retail experience, because we're learning, you know, we'll see, like, we have some properties that they have a texting system with guests. And so they'll actually text a link to the shoppable experience midday and we're like, Wow, that really works. Like they're after someone's already been there for like 36 hours. And they're like, oh, yeah, I was wondering what that is okay, you know, eco be okay. Or I was wondering what you know, like, it's a really nice way to do it. But we haven't yet sort of internalized those and just systemized them for our hosts in an educational way. It's sort of like, hopefully next year, we'll do a better job formalizing that.

Alex Husner:

What about from a design standpoint? I mean, that's, that's got to be complicated for people who don't live where the unit is. And that's a lot, a lot of cases these days, do you have design services to help them pick things out? Or like, what does that what does that look like?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, so we have designer on staff? She's totally overwhelmed. She does a lot of recommending, yeah, so one thing that she's working on is a designer directory, because we have lots of designers that have worked with hosts of ours, you know, in the past, and yeah, like, wow, that people really like working with this designer, like, every time there's, she gets rave reviews. And then it's like she already understands Minoa. And she's really good at working within the system. Like why don't we just connect the dots? Why don't we just make it easy for hosts to work with these designers that have already been vetted? And and we don't get involved? Like, you know, it's like, well let the designer set their rate and stuff. But we are working on a way to connect hosts to reputable designers, so they can get more tailored help if they want it. Okay, yeah. Well, I guess they're designers and say, Yeah, I know. And we're like, Yeah, sure. And we set them up with a designer account. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

No, no, no, Annie and I are both in markets that are primarily condo based. And when a lot of these properties were sold back in the day, they were sold with packages. And then, you know, over the years, there's not really the packages anymore. I think people have kind of redone them on their own. But it seems like there's an opportunity to bring something like that back in a way. But it's got to be in a way that makes it easy for homeowners and property managers to sell coordinate that and I think Minoan could can play a big role there. Have you had any success with with larger managers utilizing the service? Yeah, I know, you guys are still fairly young. So

Marc Hostovsky:

yeah, we've had so our first focus was to help the independent. Yeah, host and then we wanted to work out. But we got a lot of property manager groups that reached out and it said it's usually either that they're doing procurement services for hosts, but it's so much work and overwhelming that they're like, I would much rather outsource this and have Yeah. Or they're not doing any program. You know, they're they're just doing sort of like OTA management, guest management, but they're not getting involved with procurement, but they see properties where they're going in and doing audits where it's like, hey, you need to replace this so far. This thing's busted. Or, you know, we have two glasses that broke and, hey, you need to buy this stuff as the host. And I was like, yeah, and they don't or so it's kind of on on both sides. But yeah, we were seeing a lot of success of property managers, and we're building some tooling, specifically around lists that property managers are really excited about where it's like, hey, I can just build a list of like, listen when you have a kitchen you need

Alex Husner:

Yeah, oh, I love that. That's a good scalable college years.

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, spatulas all there's so much stuff you know, and so property managers can say okay, we like this Oxo product, you know, this set of knives this thing this thing and then

Alex Husner:

I really liked that. I really liked that from a standardization as a as a brand. I think that makes a lot of sense because you know, you've got these companies like, Higate and you know, the ones that they're actually buying The units and they're you know, they're they're doing at a larger scale and more of a hotel type scale, but they're buying them and completely outfitting them with their high end brands, William Sonoma, they're all gonna have the same that for us. We can't, we can't do that with 500 individual homeowners. But I do think it makes sense to have something that this is our recommended, you know, list of products and we do them, we get a new owner that we give what is recommended to have just as what the item is, but we don't have those recommendations based on how they actually procure it. So and to be able to have a little bit of an idea, a better idea of the quality of what they're actually gonna get. That's very beneficial to

Marc Hostovsky:

us, especially in condos, or at least, there's all sorts of types of condos, but the ones where it's like, every, you know,

Alex Husner:

everything is the same. Yeah,

Marc Hostovsky:

every it's the same. It's like, hey, this like weird wall that's like, kind of, you know, it's like this, as well. It's perfectly Yeah. You can sort of, you know, work within the space really well designed to the uniqueness of the space and that sort of that that's what we want to do. But we haven't started working with. We're so young, like, as you mentioned, we're just getting out there. But I think that there's benefits, certainly to these sorts of, if every unit is very similar. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Standardization, it just makes it unlocks the ability to scale also, because it's like, okay, we know, this is the coffee pot, we buy

Alex Husner:

we yeah, all of our units are gonna have Yeah, I mean, it allows us who are not the high gates and merits of the world to still be able to offer that standardization to a certain extent. So I think you'll have good success there, I think,

Annie Holcombe:

yeah, I think it as long as you have it, where it doesn't, you know, get into your earlier point, their day is full. And if you can make it something where it's simplistic and they can print out a list or again, send it to a website, that's that that cuts half the battle, because I remember when I was in management, and we had spreadsheets for days, and every building had, you know, one bedroom had this, this is the number of plates, they needed a number of, you know, knives and forks, and it just got down to this, like, trying to keep up with that on a spreadsheet was just, it was a nightmare. You had one person in the housekeeping department that that's all they did was just take care of those sheets.

Marc Hostovsky:

Those people are heroes. Yeah, we come. And technology exists where that can be Yeah, absolutely built into a system. One thing that's been interesting for me just observing, you know, we work with individual hosts all the way up to these big, institutionally backed, you know, investments in the short term rental spaces. The ability to have a system around furnishing and thinking about the stuff in your space, is typically the biggest gap like scaling in this industry is about having a system a system for working with the OTAs system pricing a system for managing cleanings, a system for customer service, and support and messaging. And what we've seen is the things that really slow down when these companies like we need to buy 50 100 homes every quarter, it's like, just getting the right products in these homes and installed is where they really start to stumble to the point where they're like, shoot, we need just two full time people, we're just adding stuff to a cart and checking out and updating the Google Sheet. And it's like, well, why I mean, like, it's the technology can exist, that shouldn't be what slows you down, you know, take those two people and put them on, you know, put them on projects that technology cannot, cannot solve, like, absolutely,

Alex Husner:

yeah, I know, in our business, it is definitely a manual type thing. And that's handled by the property management department. But I know they do spend a lot of time keeping up with orders. And like I said, the owners don't live here. So I mean, we're still scheduling for our maintenance to go in and do the install. And it's definitely a time consuming part of the property management side. And it's nice to see the potential for this to really become something that solves, you know, a great time waster. And like you said, I mean, we we shouldn't be working on being able to provide better experience. We provide great experience for our guests for the homeowners, but not to the extent that we're all having to do these manual processes that maybe this could be the thing that takes over for it. I hope so. Yeah.

Marc Hostovsky:

And allowing I think these groups to do cool brand partnerships. Yeah. Joshua tree that was like, We love Joshua Tree coffee. It's a local brand. We love it, you want to support them, and it's like, great, we can just just throw them in the window and experience you know, ordering in the shop ability. And so, you know, if you own units and you're like, Man, I love this. This actually also just happened we work with a company called our place so they make these thoughts. It's like the always pan. And basically, it's like, it's everything. It's like a pot. It's a pan. Yeah, everything you can steam in it. And it's one thing. And we had hosts that really, really loved it at home and wanted it for their unit. And then we got in touch with the brand, they loved the idea, we get a great discount with them. I mean, great. And, and it's just a unique product where a host was like, I think this is really cool. I want it to be part of my guest experience helped me figure that out. And so it's, it's kind of on two sides, standardizing a process and making it easier, but to also allowing yourself to do cool brand collaborations in your spaces with brands that you really like that you feel like are a good fit. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

Well, I think that, you know, the to that point, there are people that are just passionate about brands that they use, and they want to put them in their rentals, they may have them in their own home. And the cost of the barrier has always just been the cost. Because again, let's face it, you're going to spend more money on your first home than you're probably going to spend on a vacation, especially if you don't own the rental, you know, the odds are, you're not going to be recommending crazy things. But I would imagine, again, it allows them to get all that stuff that they're passionate about, and then become an advocate for that brand. And the fact that you've layered in this ability for them to get a commission and reward that. I think that that is something that I don't know, within vacation rentals that you see a lot of, you know, thinking thinking on saving the the manager money on the front end, but then also giving them a reward on the back end if they continue to use these products. And so there's Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, you you obviously you got people that are using the products and ordering from you. And you know, are you seeing good return on that side? And in terms of getting, you know, paying out to different owners?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, we're seeing some hosts who are adding on I mean, it's not it's nothing compared to what you make in bookings.

Alex Husner:

Right. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. Yeah. But we'll have people

Marc Hostovsky:

who add on like, an extra week of the year. Basically, the Commission's add up to an extra week of bookings. And, and we have some hosts where we're not really selling much, maybe it's like a day or two days, but we're, we're going in and trying to figure out, okay, and that's the nice thing about doing this across, you know, eventually 10s of 1000s of properties is we can say, Oh, wow, when the soap and shampoo is in that number one slot? Like it doesn't really well. Okay, we'll roll that out to everyone. Okay, it seems like we really need to focus on the mattress or Oh, wow, when we add a instructional video about this product, like it does way better. Okay. Can we move that? And so it's like, sort of the scaled learnings. But we've said We've certainly seen success, enough success that we're continuing to double down on it and yeah, hire and expand. Yeah. But the goal would be that, again, the goal would be that these things don't even because they are investments that pay for themselves, like the mattresses, the beds, the linens in the same way that the actual physical property, you know, yeah, investment that well, it allows,

Alex Husner:

it allows you to continuously upgrade, right, if you're able to make some money off of it. And of course, you're gonna see, you should see more money in your bookings if you're updating your unit anyways. And really, over the last year, we've seen more homeowner revisions coming off of 2021 than we ever had, which is so exciting to see, you know, for a long time, it's like it's just like pulling teeth trying to get owners to add new furniture and redo their units. But they made so much money in the last couple of years that they've been able to which is, which is exciting, for sure. But I think one thing that's really cool to, to really make it an experience for a guest is a lot of the guests that we have and a lot of guests and beach homes and that you know, vacation destinations that these families come back year after year, if you did something every year on that rental that was like it's something that they could bring home right so maybe it's every year it's a different kind of coaster and it becomes almost something that it's it's like more of a collectible from every year that they stay in that property. I think that could be really cool.

Marc Hostovsky:

We're really interested in helping hosts potentially create their own, like swag like Yeah, yeah, stuff. We're that's another thing that has come up with us over and over again, where it's like, Hey, I would love to do this, but like, I don't want to I don't want to go and order the inventory and figure it out and ship it and so it's like okay, well yeah, are there partners who how would we figure this out? But that idea of this souvenir like a branded souvenir that they can take back to be part of the memories is Yeah, yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

That's so you've got a lot going on. Guys are still relatively new. Where do you see yourself going at You know, by the end of this year, and then, you know, what's the future? What? I know that I think you guys are rebuilding your website. So there's some new iterations of that coming. But what are the next big things for Minoan?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, the big, the big things for this year are really product improvements in the platform. And so one is improving. Some of these are like maybe less fun, but important, but improving the permissioning and admin tools. So we get a lot of hosts who want to add in their designer, they want to add in a property manager, and it's like, I want my property manager to be able to put stuff in my cart, but I don't want them to be able to check out with my credit card. Right? Right, right. Well, my designer to be able to recommend products, and then I can pick some out of those. And so there's a lot of we're like, wow, this is more complicated than we thought, you know, there's lots of stakeholders, lots of people that wonder my decision to buy. So how do we make our sort of admin tools in a way where it can be really flexible, where you could add in a designer to prove things you could add in a property manager and give them permissioning. And a lot of improvements around core like, the Browse and navigation experience. So getting even more specific around, like, I want to look at side tables, or I want to look at these types of rugs or this and so better data integrity and making that in terms of the site making it easier to really narrow the range on products, you'd want more brand information. You know, right now, we give a high level overview of brands, but there's lots of information that like what do other hosts think, like, Yeah, I'd love to see host reviews, like, yeah, the shipping information I explained, you know, are these guys, how good are they at shipping on time? Do they have like commercial fabrics? You know, do they have things that are particularly good for short term rentals? Like, washable pillowcases? Do they? Is it eco friendly? I mean, there's there's a big movement towards this stuff. So getting more data about the brands? Yeah, and the last one would be this list. You know, we're really interested in nailing this list functionality. And I think that that could be a really interesting project to expand on. And 2023

Alex Husner:

I love that. I love that I'm having that standardized, so that that's like, Okay, we just got a one bedroom at this right? Here it goes.

Annie Holcombe:

To do a Pinterest board for people to be Yeah. Yeah, especially when you when you're taught like I would that Pompton originally, you were saying, you've got other stakeholders that are involved in it. And it's like, you know, the property manager probably knows more about what would work than the manager themselves. And the Pinterest board just came to mind that that would be kind of

Marc Hostovsky:

cool. Yeah, that's what we're going for, and then letting anybody create and share lists. So any, if you were like, hey, this was like the bathroom, you know, here's the bathroom I put together and this stuff looks really good and succulent. And he's like, here's a bathroom more. You know, like anything else. If you had a backyard set up, you're like this patio is right, right? Like, we did it really well, here are the 15 items that I put in this patio. It's just kind of you can use these lists. To do two things, one, create a better level of curation at the item level. So you can like really go through different looks, and make it really easy to just drag and drop. And instead of being like, I want this from here, or this from here, this from here, it's like no, I just want this look, and maybe you change out certain things. I want this look, but I don't like this rug on a new rug. And the lists are definitely a big one. And for us, it's about, we still feel like very few people know about us. We're meeting new hosts. I mean, we're getting a lot of applications every single week, and we are going through and approving people and getting them set up. And so I think this year, it's about really improving the platform to be easy to use, and incorporate this stuff. And just getting this getting the word out just letting people know that we're here so that if they're in, if they're in a bind and trying to furnish places and strapped for cash, because they just put down a big downpayment, you know that we can help them sort of save money, make that process easier for them. And then next year is when I would like to start focusing again, back on the shoppable side and getting really smart there around. Okay, well, how do we incorporate reviews on the guest side? How do we give some control over merchandising to hosts so they can sort of like control what they feature what they don't. And

Alex Husner:

I like that one of the things I liked the most about this is this is a very low, low cost of entry, low barrier to use type of service. And I feel like there's a lot of different things that are out there. And as a property manager, there's a lot there's you always have FOMO, especially when you go to these conferences because you see all the amazing things that we can do. And we can't afford to do all of them don't have the bandwidth to do all of them. But this is a fairly easy one to implement. And it just it makes our lives easier and the homeowners lives easier and it's solicit is getting better furnishings within a unit? So I think there's, there's a lot of benefit to that. But I have kind of an off topic question that I've been wanting to ask you about since we had our pre call with you. And your your experience with Walmart and with Jet like ad E-commerce, what do you what do you what are you thinking when you look at him in the digital landscape of vacation rentals and how properties are being booked now? Like, where do you see? What are we missing? What are we doing wrong? What are we doing? Right? Like, not just Airbnb? VRBO. But like for traditional vacation rental managers, you know, in these destinations? Like, what what are your the conversion master? So, from outside of you? What do you see interesting

Marc Hostovsky:

parallels, like in E commerce, you know, it's like, you live and die by your images and your reviews. Yeah, so yeah. So, you know, in this industry, it's the same thing. And it just, I think that there's a lot of parallels. You know, I mentioned this on another podcast, but like, the world is just becoming more digital. And so it just means that we use, like, the only way to get information digitally right now is through images, video and copy. And so that's what's true in E commerce. That's also true in this industry, and the reviews, which are sort of like a trust score, you know, I would be interested, you know, I have my own aspirations. We're currently saving up. I told you, I'm getting married after the after, after we get the wedding. Yeah, we're saving up for a short term rental and congratulations. I have some really interesting things I want to do with video. Like, where we would walk someone through the house with a video call attention to potentially some of the brands? Yeah, okay. Yeah. Oh, and because that's something video has done really well in E commerce. And there's all this data, there's lots of data around video impact on conversion in E commerce and other sort of like, tool tips, and stuff like that. And even like user generated videos, like on Amazon, you know, if you're looking at buying a Tea Kettle, if you scroll all the way down, it's pictures uploaded, of customers who got the T cattle and sometimes videos, and yeah, so there's lots of things that e Commerce has done that have impacted conversion that I haven't quite seen in the vacation rental or, or real estate side as much. And I think video is a big part of that. And then user generated content outside of just the reviews huge. Yeah, it's another one that I'd be interested, I'd be interested to see how it how it would impact bookings. And

Alex Husner:

yeah, that's, that's been a huge part of our secret to our success, but not really secret. It's all over our site. But user generated content is huge. I mean, just seeing people actually enjoying the space and the destination and everything else is is big. And it's the same thing for the interiors and the products to really cool.

Annie Holcombe:

So I have a really off the wall question. Yeah. And it goes back to a was one I wanted to add, even

Alex Husner:

though he's signing up for it asked me

Annie Holcombe:

knowing

Alex Husner:

Yeah, that's a great question. Yeah.

Marc Hostovsky:

And it's a good question. It um, so the Minoans there were a civilization that lived on Crete, which was in Greece, an island off of Greece 5000 years ago, and they have an exhibit, I lived in New York for a while, and I liked going to museums and stuff. And they had an exhibit there. That was really interesting. And so I just became interested in their culture. And it's really fascinating, like, they were very advanced for their time. Like there are lots of historians who talk about how the clothes that the Minoans wore are much more similar to clothes we wear today than what other countries they were very technologically advanced. They were one of the first societies to build multi storey buildings to build plumbing water filtration systems, they were the one of the first societies to figure out the exact properties of gold. So like, the weight, or sorry, the heat at which you can mold it without burning it because gold if it's too hot, you can burn it and so, so they create a beautiful art and even socially. They're like just as many depictions of like women with spears and women in thrones as men in their, like drawings and art, which is like this was 5000 years ago, and then think about like,

Alex Husner:

just crazy ahead of their time. And I think you're ahead of your time, you're

Annie Holcombe:

ahead of your time away. Okay, that's

Alex Husner:

very timely.

Marc Hostovsky:

And so it felt like like, well, they were mercantile society. So they made all their money through trade, right. And so, yeah, it was just sort of inspired by their culture and their namesake and was like, you know, we're creating a new type of commerce and we feel like we're ahead of our time and so

Alex Husner:

revolutionary, very,

Annie Holcombe:

very well thought out name. Even though I mean, when you come There's historical meaning behind. I mean, that's just that's cool that you had that.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, no, I love that. And I do remember learning about the Minoans in high school, I think Oh, wow. So yeah, but I didn't even connect the dots until you gave that explanation a long time ago. But really cool. But we've got two more questions for you. Have a minute, so Annie why dont you go first should go first? Yeah. So

Annie Holcombe:

from your perspective, so you have a different perspective in vacation rentals, and most of the people that we interview, what do you think is, is a big issue or opportunity? Maybe that's not being addressed or discussed currently, besides furniture? Yeah. It's stumped him?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, I think Well, I think it goes back to this. I think if hosts would follow the attention economy a little bit more and understand what's going on in that space. And like, even these updates with I think, iOS 13, or 14, where Apple's changing some of the cooking, there's some like big, big changes happening on the marketing side, that are making attention more valuable, which is why the prices of ads are going up, because attention is becoming more valuable. And, and we're talking about again, comparing, like, attention, like when you're just like trying to X out of an ad and you're like, whatever, let me move on to it versus attention, which is contextually relevant. You're going to use things. I think it would I would go back to like, think about the value of those moments that you're creating

Alex Husner:

and native advertising. Right. You said that in the early part. I think that's that's huge. Yeah, what you're speaking exactly

Marc Hostovsky:

a native, you know, the movement towards Native and advertising is like, instead of it being, you know, on an article page, or sorry, on a news article, instead of it being like, you know, Heinz ketchup, or hertz, like rentacar, like, yeah, natives all about integrating the ad in the copy. Yeah, exactly. You're writing an article about why hertz has this special program that's perfect for travelers? And then you don't realize, but it's an ad. Yeah, that's, that's native. And I think native retail, weaving the shop ability and the product experiences into this very natural experience as a salesperson over your shoulder. There's no right. Like, screen, it's like, it's just you in the product, that that's something that's really, really, really valuable. And they just don't think hosts think about that enough, and then enter intentional about it. So it's, it's kind of a repeat, answer. But I think the thing, the biggest opportunity that's not being discussed is the role and the value of the attention in these spaces in these moments that people aren't thinking about. That's

Annie Holcombe:

huge. That's huge. Excellent point. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

I mean, that that relates to podcasting, too, you know, when I think what a lot of what we do just talking to guests, like yourself and others on on the show, it's not an ad, but it is a way for them to talk about what their company does. And when you wrap it into something that's realistic, it's so different than just seeing an ad for now. And you know, it's, and it just makes sense, but

Marc Hostovsky:

it's genuine. And we even take that approach and our own, you know, like we're starting to spend on advertising now. And like, we when we evaluate opportunities for Minoan in the world we're much more interested in real native integrations that are actually helpful. Well, that's much more interesting to us than like, you know, you guys starting a podcast with like, and this week's episode brought to you by man. Right, right. Like, because it's all about authenticity at the at the end of the day, and yeah, storytelling. You are, yeah, because we are totally overwhelmed with ads all the time. stimulus, billboards, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so leading with a genuine way that you can help people I think is good and that's what ultimately we're also doing in these properties. It's like, your products are all there for you to use. You know, the man is there. Yeah. Yeah. Should All Be helpful.

Alex Husner:

Love it. So one more question. What does the work that you do say about your life and your journey?

Marc Hostovsky:

Yeah, another good Hi, um, I'm really passionate about learning and learning more about a lot of different things. And I think that one thing one thing that I've learned about myself and I think generally is that like, you can change a lot. You can change perceptions of things and you When you kind of like, you know, I think Steve Jobs has this quote, he's like when you realize that life works in a way where like, if you poke one end, something comes out the other end, like you actually influenced the world. It totally changes like your approach and what you want to do. And I think, with what we've been doing from now, and where it's like, I think this should exist, it has to exist. Yeah. And just going out and being like, well, we're gonna make it exist, we're gonna see. Yeah, oh, passionate about it. I think that. And I'm really passionate about this with my team, where I'm, like, just go out and just go after it and like, believe don't work, who cares? If it's a low probability of success, just because the cost of regret right, higher? Absolutely, yeah, really go for it. And I think as someone who, you know, without this getting becoming a therapy session, like I've worked, I was younger in my life, I would let fear stop me from doing a lot of things like fear of failure, or looking stupid and. And I've sort of, I think, luckily coached that out of myself, where now I'll like, I'll go and do things, even if they could fail if the reward is worth it, you know, if you can really make a change. And so I guess what I would say is, the work we do is like, it's a big swing. I mean, what we're trying to do is like, totally change. Yeah, how brands think about marketing or distribution, how hosts think about curating their spaces and the power of the moments that happen between people, products and spaces, how guests think about shopping, there's a little bit of a behavior change, where it's like, we want you to pay attention a little bit more, you know, when you walk into this property, you subconsciously register, you're like, Wow, this place is like, really nice. I really like it. But like, pay attention, you know, look at Andele, look at the furniture, look at the art on the wall, pay attention. And if you like it, by there's so much that makes this like a really big swing for us, we have to do a lot of things well. And I think the what the work that we do would say is like, we like to take big swings, and we like to make big impact, especially when it's something that just should exist, I just like I've not met, there's no reason why it shouldn't be this way, it's just that no one's built the infrastructure to do it. Because

Alex Husner:

I almost feel like in a way, I mean, where this is gonna go. Nobody knows at this point. But I feel like there's a way that this could revolutionize things in a different realm that if you were, people might choose to stay at places now if they know that this exists based on the furniture that something has, which is kind of a bizarre concept. But if you're going to Asheville, for example, and you know that you are redesigning your house back home, and you are looking at different sectionals or something and as you're looking at Airbnb is you find ones that has something that you think might look good in your house that's going to make you choose that rental knowing that you can try it out. Oh, that's like a complete rework of the customer journey. If that happens,

Marc Hostovsky:

imagine if you could we're picking, you know, staying in a property and then we gave you options where we said, hey, you could have one of these three coffeemakers you could have these three mattresses, you know, you could try? You know, are you in the market for bicycles? Okay, we're gonna have three bicycles in the garage like Yeah, yeah. That's sort of, I mean, if we're taking like, my, our, like vision of the world to an extreme. Yeah, I do see a world in which brands like a Dyson don't just think about physical distribution of products through that Best Buy and target. Yeah, they can actually think about distribution of products in a way where they work through companies like Minoan to just get their hair dryers out into all these places. And, yeah, and that, like, I mean, if you, if you think about, it's like, okay, that just changes everything. Because then for Dyson, it's like, okay, Manhattan is 8 million people. Yeah, if we can get 200 dice and hairdryers across Manhattan, theoretically, we could have it so that all 8 million people are within a five minute walk with Dyson hairdryer, right? Yeah. Right and using so there are like, it's funny that you, you kind of went there on your own, but there are like levels and levels. It's like, well, wait a minute, this that if you could do it that way then Right. And so, and it's scary, definitely. Because it's like, wow, that's like, well, if

Alex Husner:

brand and I think that's the opportunity where if if brands were to partner with larger managers, they could do that at scale. I mean, if you partner with a larger manager that is in multiple markets, I mean, say it's not necessarily a Dyson, but it is a bigger piece of furniture like a sectional and on their website, it shows you can actually demo the section or this mattress in any of these participating vacation rentals. All these places. It's like okay, well, when I go to Nashville, I'm gonna book That means I can also get to try out this product that I'm looking at that otherwise I don't have a way of seeing it. Because I mean, the brick and mortar furniture stores are becoming a thing of the past. So it's shipping costs and everything. That's a huge risk when you buy furniture sight unseen. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

Well, Mark, I would say, you know, one of the things you said a couple of times you, you'd like to swing big. So I would say keep swinging. Swinging, what you guys are doing is very innovative. And I think it's got a lot of a lot of room to grow and the passion that you have for it, and what we've seen from your team, it runs from top down, bottom up, I mean, there's just, there's no, there's no lack of it. And it's really exciting to see. So hopefully, we'll have you back next year and can kind of recap on all the great things that you've accomplished and your wedding and, and everything going on in your life. But in the meantime, if people want to get in touch with you, how do they how do they reach out to you?

Marc Hostovsky:

They can email me directly at a Marc M-A-R-C at Minoanexperience.com. And then if you want to join us for free, it's it's a free platform. There is an application, as I mentioned earlier, but you can just go to unknown experience.com and click join us. Yeah, and I'd love to but we'd love to hear from people who are really interested in this topic. I love talking to the hosts who are

Alex Husner:

Yeah, we could, as Annie always says we could talk for hours we certainly could with you. We love sharing ideas. You know what if this what if that it's been such a pleasure mark and also shout out to Sage and Ally on your team. We've had the pleasure of getting to know them over the last month or so. It's just been wonderful. Seeing what you guys have and where you're gonna go. Very exciting. But thank you for joining us today. If anybody wants to contact Annie and I can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com And until the next time Take care everybody. Bye. Bye

Marc Hostovsky Profile Photo

Marc Hostovsky

CEO/Founder Minoan

Marc is a self-proclaimed boutique geek and is passionate about the future of retail. After spending nearly 6 years working at Jet.com and then Walmart (acquired Jet.com), he quickly realized that the best product experiences don't happen on screens or shelves, they happen in real moments of use "in the wild". Marc founded Minoan to help hosts create, and capitalize on, rich moments in their homes, save money on everything they need to buy and spend a fraction of the time on the unsexy things that come along with ordering (tracking, routing, logistics, etc.)