Feb. 23, 2022

Meet Whimstay, the Hotel Tonight of Vacation Rentals with CEO Ben Jamshahi

Meet Whimstay, the Hotel Tonight of Vacation Rentals with CEO Ben Jamshahi

As CEO Ben Jamshahi tells us, Whimstay is the Hotel Tonight of vacation rentals, on a mission to help professionally managed vacation rental companies fill last minute or unused inventory. Ben entered Stanford University at only 14 years old (YES, you read that right!) to begin his educational and business career which has spanned multiple industries over the years. His entrepreneurial brilliance shines through in this episode. An inspiring and thought provoking leader, Ben and Whimstay are poised to become the OTA professional managers truly enjoy doing business with.

Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/mjAylXbSjq4

CONTACT BEN JAMSHAHI

https://www.whimstay.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-jamshahi-506800172/

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

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Podcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel

Transcript
Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm Alex, Ally, Manny. And we are joined today by Benjamin Shai, who is CEO of Wednesday. Ben, welcome to the podcast.

Ben Jamshahi:

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Alex Husner:

We are super excited to hear about Wednesday. And I know I've heard a little bit about your path over the past couple of years. And Andy's caught me up to speed on some of the more recent things that have been going on. But a lot of great things with your company. So excited to dive into that. Can you give our listeners just a little bit of history of who you are, and what Wednesday is?

Ben Jamshahi:

Uh, you bet. So, you know, I am a coastal boy, who's traveled a lot. And early on, I was fortunate enough to be involved with a few really smart people. And I was in the right place at the right time. So I was able to put away a couple of bucks. And along the way, you know, buy a few at the time, were just properties for myself to vacation. And they turned out in the 90s and 2000, that there were great investments for what I'm doing now, which I didn't really know it was going to, it's going to lead me to here. But so what Wednesday does is what we do is essentially we're the hotel tonight of the vacation rental.

Alex Husner:

Okay.

Annie Holcombe:

So then you talked about I know when when you and I met earlier, we talked about kind of your, your journey. And one of the things that stood out to me was that you said it kind of aligned with how Alex and I have looked at our path is that there was just kind of a combination of events that led you into this into this business. And so you talked about, you know, where it how you grew up in California, and the differences between your parents and how you kind of learned to be disciplined, but you also learn to be a little bit of a free spirit. It's I wonder, did that upbringing kind of take you full circle and get you to Wednesday? Was it that need to explore and want to have others have the opportunity to explore again, through vacation rentals, you know, to have a vacation experience?

Ben Jamshahi:

Absolutely. You know, it's not just Wednesday, it's all the points of reference in my life, I look back and I see the correlation between who I am today in my upbringing, you know, I, as I told you, you know, I had a very disciplined father, he was in a military ID, my mother was, if you will, a granola girl. You know, she, I remember, as a young kid having, you know, I always had headaches, and she would dig into the ground in the backyard, or water, get it all muddy, and stick my feet in it. And that was the remedy, you know, and it worked. And I actually yet you know, what it works to this day.

Alex Husner:

Wow, might have a lot of holes in my yard.

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah, so, you know, and, and so along the way, and let me give you kind of paint a picture of what I mean that all the points of references are result of that, you know, I, I, I found that, you know, on, when I faced challenges along, you know, throughout my life, I always had this, this ability to look at it with a creative with creative point of view at with as well as having the discipline to follow through and solve that problem. So what it was, you know, it's really, it's hard kind of hard to articulate, but it was a combination of the, you know, the flexibility with the rigidity of this implant. Right. So, so along the way, it had a lot of lot of influence in in the ventures that I, that I started, and I was able to overcome certain obstacles and get get it to the finish line, you know, again, as a result of having that discipline and being able to be able to see what others really don't. Sometimes.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, interesting. So and your background. You went to Stanford very early, right. 16 years old, I believe.

Ben Jamshahi:

I was 1414. Oh, wrong.

Alex Husner:

I mean, is that a record? I've never heard anybody.

Ben Jamshahi:

It's actually not a record, but no, it was a Yeah, it back then. So this was in the mid 80s. And they had an accelerated program and it was run through in itself, but I got in through association with Sri And so they allowed me to attend Stanford and and also be groomed to work at at the Research Institute. So it was, it was, you know what, I'd love to say that it was all fun and games, and it was exciting. But being being, you know, at that age I was, you know, when I was, you know, eight years old, they were driving me to a high school. Wow. So it wasn't it wasn't it wasn't the greatest of experiences not being with your own age group and not having those, you know, those childhood experiences,

Alex Husner:

right. Yeah. Wow. So you're, you're probably an old soul then. Right? You probably relate with older people your entire life. But

Ben Jamshahi:

that's exactly that's exactly right. That's exactly right. Wow, that's

Alex Husner:

incredible. So when you were at Stanford at that age, I mean, obviously, back in the mid 80s, I mean, technology, and the Internet wasn't anything like it is now. But what were you interested in at that point?

Ben Jamshahi:

You know, even even back then it was, you know, I, I was really interested in technology. Okay. It was, you know, we had you know, the COBOL language, if you will, yeah, yeah. Recall. Yeah. It was in its early days lease for, for college kids. And, you know, philosophy was also one of my, one of my closest to my heart, you know, I really enjoyed the, the thought process and discovering why, you know, why are you here? Why is this this way? Why is that? Yeah, now very inquisitive, inquisitive.

Annie Holcombe:

That's to me, got out of Stanford, with the technology side of things. So I know that you said that you actually didn't complete Stanford, and I can imagine there's a host of reasons at that age, why, you know, why that your path would change. But when you got I

Ben Jamshahi:

can quickly tell you, you know, again, it goes back to the combination of parents. And, you know, I got this from my mom. And anytime anyone tells me, You can't do this, I have to do it. So I got I got a bunch of trouble at Stanford. Yeah. Not only that, but it just wasn't the environment for me. And I, you know, I was too young. Yeah, yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

I can imagine. So you so you got out of Stanford, you kind of did some soul searching? I would imagine. I did. I did. Yeah. And so I think you mentioned that you and I guess that's the timing trying to figure out the timing, you had developed a software for an accounting software was it was some,

Ben Jamshahi:

it was back in accounting software, that was done back then if you call the merchant service services was all dial up, telephone or it was you know, it was just the, in the, in its infancy was starting, right. And so, two, two grads and I got together and we developed a software that got picked up by a large, firm, large bank. And so early on, I after, after getting out of that, I basically, literally hopped on a plane and went abroad, and spent a lot of time with you know, I spent a lot of time in Africa, I spent a lot of time in India and Tibet, it was a blast, you know, it was probably the best decision I have ever made. because it allowed me to understand a little more about the about, you know, my own humanity and, you know, and, and be okay, with what had happened. What I thought was a, you know, a bad hand dealt to me, you know, as a as a young kid. And so I had an appreciation for for people, I started loving people it was it was wonderful. It was a wonderful experience.

Annie Holcombe:

That's, that's amazing. I think everybody would want to have something like that in their life, to be able to go out and visit other cultures and kind of find yourself

Alex Husner:

along the way. What I can only imagine what perspective that gives you now as the CEO of your company, too. I mean, both from how you see things, but also how you're able to see your employees and your customers and your vendors. I mean, that's a very varied background to bring to the table.

Ben Jamshahi:

You know, Alex, I think, I think that perspective and I don't know, maybe most people especially CEOs aren't gonna agree with me, but that's okay. You know, I don't I don't think of myself in that. I don't even know what a CEO is. way we run our company is. I'm a worker amongst workers. Right. I've got a dynamite I'm part of a dynamite team that that affords me the ability to have the time to plan based on their performance. Yeah, right. That's a great place to be. Yeah. So as CEO, you know, if that if that means a worker amongst workers, and I show up to work, and I and I, and I'm amongst my peers, then yes, it's wonderful. So I think that's, you know, I think one of the biggest lessons of you know, my, my entire, you know, you're you're talking about journey, my entire journey from from inception of the moment that I started realizing that I can comprehend I am not just the center of the universe, but there's more than me, at this point, to this point of being involved in an amazing company that is innovative, that's, that is really involved in, in business, not for the sake of, okay, I'm gonna, you know, make legendary wealth for my grandchildren, but rather, hey, let's do something for for the industry, let's do something for the traveler, let's do something for the host, let me be part of that solution. And that's a wonderful thing to be a part of today. Yeah, you know, I love that. And it is it really is

Annie Holcombe:

one of the things that's really exciting about the people that we get to interview, and you just, he just exemplified it is just the passion of the people that are in this industry. And I am curious to know, one of the things we like to dig up is that moment that aha moment, that lightbulb moment for you, when was it that you decided, like, I've got to do this, like Wednesday is the thing that I need to be diving into and put my heart and soul into? What was that? What was that pivotal moment for you?

Ben Jamshahi:

I'll tell you exactly where it was. And I'm going to divulge a little bit of IP here, but I'll go to the extent because we're in the process of the actual patent being being being approved. So I, my eldest daughter, Nadia, was this post actually getting into Wednesday and doing a little bit of research, or starting Wednesday, getting to doing a little bit of research and, and finding out that it's not just, it's not just a personal problem with my properties, but rather, it's an you know, it is it's an issue that just about anyone that I have had talked to, or any, you know, research that I had done, said that, okay, this is a problem that I don't have to shake, you say you got a problem, I got a solution by my solution, but rather, right, by rather, we all have this problem. And we've just given up because we don't Mattis all it? Yeah, right. Post that when I really decided that this is the moment that we're going to really alter and, and make the difference in an industry that needs a solution was when my daughter, Nadia came to me and said Daddy, Kim and I are talking anymore. And I said What happened, honey? She said, Well, and Kim mind you is a childhood friend of hers. So they've known each other for 20 years. And I said what happened? She said, Well, you know, I did one of those Airbnbs again, and she had after the vacation, the with the four of them. Oh, you know, three out of the four paid me back because I put her on my card. And Kim disappeared. Once again, we're no longer friends. And you know, it really broke my heart, I thought wow, this is this is a this is there's there's a way to fix this so that it doesn't happen again. Right. And so I went to work and I talked to a couple of my co founders, and we wrote this, wrote this code, and we're able to put it through a patent pending process where now you can split your, your fee, your you know, within, at checkout, we created this thing where you can actually split the payment between the travelers, right, nobody does that. No, you got to go outside of the platform to either Venmo or to you know, one of the splitting apps, you know, third party app to do that. And and so once once, once that came through, and we were we were able to solidify that, that process. I said, Okay, I'm in my hands or I'm in with both feet. No going back now.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, that's really interesting. And I think you're right. I don't recall any vacation specific sites or travel sites that you can split a payment on. I know for our golf package. We do allow you to do that at checkout. But it's a really good point. I'm not sure why we don't do it on the vacation side, because we've got the technology. But it definitely makes sense one so that you don't have to, I mean, people can book when they actually want to book because we get that a lot that well, okay, I've got to talk to this person, we've got to move money around, we've got to do this. So why not just make it easy for people? Right from the get go? So that's awesome. Yeah, it is. Yeah. And I think in terms of, you know, your point about bringing something to market that just it inherently makes sense that you're not having to go out there and sell sell people on an idea that you've got to convince them of the need. I mean, that's, that's awesome. That obviously makes it a lot more enjoyable. Because you're, you're solving a problem, but you're also you're connecting the dots. And that's what it's all about. I mean, then, you know, as a property manager, myself, I mean, it's what website does is needed. I mean, there, we get a lot of cancellations last minute, we hope that they purchased the travel insurance and the homeowner still does okay on it. But, you know, in a lot of cases, that unit goes empty, because if that's a three four bedroom condo to be able to rent that last minute, you know, in in COVID, we've been able to handle it a little bit better. But if it's an offseason booking to to rebook it last minute is very difficult.

Annie Holcombe:

Yet, I think that that's where this does this split pay comes in also to help alleviate some of the stress because again, these larger rentals, it's, it's hard to think like, okay, within 21 days, you're going to be able to put together $10,000, you're usually going to or somebody's going to put it on their own their own credit card or their own bank statement. So you definitely have kind of solved two problems. And kind of with one company, you know, you've created created a solution. So you you let the cat out of the bag, you said that you guys are in a patent process. So when do you think that that will actually come to fruition?

Ben Jamshahi:

Well, you know, we we actually received our patent pending, so it's on a, you know, it's on the right track, we're not worried about having infringers, since we we are in that process. The patent should you know, I can't give you a timeline, but it's in the next 24 months. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, let's just take a while.

Annie Holcombe:

I've never been through that process before. I guess I need to think of something that's worth worthy.

Ben Jamshahi:

No, I've got I've got to mention this. So I you know, here's it's really funny what, what you were mentioning, hits home because I have yet to you know, I've been in business all my life. You know, I've, if it's not one thing, it's another thing, if it's not an external making money for for profit, it's something on that's not for profit, but it's always revolves around some sort of a, you know, a transaction if you will, level. And, and I have never woken up thinking, Okay, I'm gonna invent this thing, or I'm going to start this business. Because XYZ it's always, always without a doubt has been a series of events. Yeah. Me. Exactly. It's a personal it's always been a personal problem. Yeah, no, I had good. Oh, no, go ahead. No, I was gonna say I had this. So I, my, my middle daughter, Lucy, when she was younger, we used to she had a lot of playdates. And after the playdates, there was a, you know, the parents would take the kids all to, you know, an eating place. And sometimes it was McDonald's, I have no problem with like, McDonald's. I love McDonald's. In fact, however, I would like my kid to have options, right. And, and they were, most of the McDonald's were isolated in either an A on an island, sort of, within within a shopping center, where was difficult to get to get to, you know, have choices and, and there weren't. So, you know, that led me to start a company A, you know, a healthy, fast food business, so that I can have my daughter have more choices than just McDonald's. So no, so it was, you know, it's always been a personal problem that in a span of time has led to an opportunity. That translated into me getting involved that went back to solving that initial problem that started this journey.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, well, you solved a lot of problems. The fast food business or that company, when did you when did you sell that?

Ben Jamshahi:

2011 it was it was bought by a large restaurant chain.

Alex Husner:

Okay. Yeah. Wow. So from from that journey, at that point, lead us up to how Wednesday actually got started.

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah, you bet. So, yeah, so I told you about my living on Maui. I don't know if this is post recording or pre recording, I'll tell you again. So I was I was living on Maui for I moved there to that late 2012. And up until 2007, teen, early 2017. And I decided to come back to the, to the Bay Area. And when I got back, I was looking over my taxes. And I and I noticed that my vacation rentals were, you know, at best at 50% occupancy and went to the gal who managed my properties. And I said, Why? Why is this? Can you explain it to me? Because I mean, I've got places in Hawaii, I got places in Tahoe, the there, you know, there, there's no shoulder season. Why why is there such a low occupancy rate? And the answer she gave me wasn't good enough. So, so I, so I decided that I'm going to find a platform that's an overstock model and have my product, have her list my properties on on that on that platform? Lo and behold, there wasn't anything. You know, I did. I researched for six months asking people Yeah, and I couldn't find one. And so one day, I got together with Alex Alioto, Jim Rossiter, and a couple other friends of mine, and I said, Hey, this is my problem. What do you guys think you want to? You want to help me build a platform and and maybe we can help people that have the same problems mean, and they were all in? You know, timing was perfect. Yeah. I mean, couldn't have been better. And, and so in 2018, mid 2018, or late I'm sorry, late 2018. We incorporated we bootstrapped and, and dabbled with different models for about six months tonight, six to nine months. And, and then we were all we jumped in all of us with both feet and and and created a POC platform that went live right before COVID. Wow. Yeah. So

Alex Husner:

you're, you're still very new onto the scene to that's incredible. very new.

Ben Jamshahi:

We're very good. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

So what has been your biggest eye opener biggest challenge that you've faced building an OTA? You know, I know there's a lot because we have our side of the business. That's an OTA. So that's a tough question. Because there's a lot.

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah, so let me let me answer it, but from a different perspective. Sure. You don't mind? So it is, you know, my exposure to the vacation rental industry has been I've been fortunate enough that it's been through the backdoor, if you will, dealing with and having relationships with a property management companies and the people, right. And I, and I feel really comfortable in that setting. And I'll tell you why. Because of, you know, my background of always starting small businesses, and it's always had that small business mentality is I going to this place I was, I traveled extensively, in my younger days, also across the US. And I know of little tiny towns in Texas, one of them being you Valley, where you walk into we you know, we walk into a grocery store, you walk into their bank, and it's almost like you're, you've, you're on a different planet, right. So amazing, you know, the mentality and that, and the sense, you know, and their temperament and the way, you know, the warmth of the relationship and the effort they put into it. Is, is amazing. So, I don't know if challenges if that's a challenge, because in itself, I mean, you've got it, I've got to be able to look at it, you know, a perfectly having a relationship like that is really difficult to convey. Okay, you're going to be better off with with efficiency, don't that. You know, part of the charm is the non efficiency of the idea.

Alex Husner:

That's very well, right. Yeah,

Ben Jamshahi:

that's right. So it's almost, you know, I'm torn between wanting to you know, so it so that I guess that's one of the challenges.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, now, are you Have you accepted public funding?

Ben Jamshahi:

So we've we thus far we've raised private funding We've got we've got some really one very famous person, in fact, that's, that's, that loves what we're doing and has put, has put a considerable amount of money into our company. And I, that was a turn. Sorry. Okay. Yeah. And, and but you know, I myself have put considerable amount of money and we decided that we're not going to raise series a funding until we get to a certain certain number of properties on the you know on the acquisition property acquisition side. And we've reached that. So we're we're contemplating courting series A sometime between April and June of 2022.

Alex Husner:

Okay. Yeah, I think there's something to be said for the charm and the inefficiency, I really like that that's a good way to say it. Because I think with that white glove services, you're building something that really does make a difference in the relationships that you're able to build. And, you know, those first customers that you get, they become, if done, right, they become your evangelists for the company. And that's so important to have those because they're always going to be that, you know, sounding board from when you try different things, and it's just great to have that to get started. So and I know, Andy, with your company, you You've definitely been that same way to that, you know, you guys, you provide that true white glove service and you know, really just make the relationships with your customers too.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, and I think you run the risk of, you know, getting too big too quickly, and you lose sight of that. So I think I know for myself, just the the interactions that I've had with the Wednesday team and having worked for an OTA a very large one, it's it's so refreshing to have people that are passionate about it, the CEO is passionate about it, you're you know, VP of Sales your it your you know, your tech team, everybody is so passionate about what they're doing. And I think that that just speaks to Ben just talking with you just speaks to the way you've set everything up and kind of like, again, going back to like there's like the inefficiencies being charming. It's okay to be methodical and go slow and not take the funding until you're absolutely sure that it's the you know, the right thing thing to do. So, I look at your what you're doing is again, you you found a need, you're filling the the the solution for that needed to solve it. Where do you think you see yourself as far as Wednesday goes, say in 2436 months? With a patent? Well, yes.

Ben Jamshahi:

Exactly. Right. You know, now I don't have the crystal ball for our industry, nor would I want to because it would take away the excitement of wow, what's next or what's next for this for this industry. But my ability to deduce based on what's happened thus far in the past, maybe you know, four years tells me that it's, it's going to be a very well oiled machine, if you will. And when you when you grow that fast the you've got you've got to you've got to create a business model in within the industry that is taking advantage of every opportunity to grow. And I truly believe with what we have created thus far, we will be able to facilitate the the ability for the property management companies and the individual property owners to to keep up with the that, you know, that that need to pad the bottom line. Yeah, if you will, you know, that that that five days that's that are going vacant right now. We won't have the luxury in in 24 months to say that that's okay. You know, that's okay. Let those you know, we'll we don't have to sell those five days, just just as just as just as a result of, you know, the market forces there. There. There a lot of money being poured into the industry, a lot of MBAs are looking at our our business model the whole vacation rental industry, if you will. Yeah. And so they're gonna have an effect. And we've got, we've got to grow with it, you know, like it or not?

Alex Husner:

Well, and I think your perspective as a homeowner that you have this issue, and you understand what things, you know, there's so much knowledge coming into the industry right now. But I think one of the problems is it's just, they're lacking the true understanding of vacation rentals and the low margins that we have, and the different ways that we have to operate to stay profitable. And we get this all the time that if we have an opening, or even if we don't have an opening that just happened, but if we have a week open, and it's within seven days, we'll get requests on Airbnb or VRBO. For, you know, will you take $1,500 for a rental that was normally 3000? No, we can't do that. I mean, like, there's, there's certain tipping points that we're not going to go below. But, you know, even beyond that, you know, it's also got to make sense that, in some cases, the offers that we're getting, it's it won't even play pay for us to clean the condo, you know, so this isn't a hotel. I mean, this is a different business model. But how does that work? How did the logistics actually work? I know, it's within 21 days that the properties would come up on your site if they're available.

Ben Jamshahi:

Right. So if they're available, they show up on our site, as you said, within the next three weeks, okay, what we do is we work with a property management company to negotiate a price that we pass on to the traveler. And, you know, we encourage all of our, all of our customers on the property manager side, you know, on the on the b2b side, too, you know, if you can sell it at full price on on Airbnb and VRBO, we encourage you, that's what that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make you more money. Right. But if it doesn't sell, you've got to pick what what can you live with? Yeah. And if and you're willing to, to, you know, listed for, and and we'll, we'll, we'll advertise it and get someone to get some get some bodies in there.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah, I think that's a big opportunity for you guys to come out on Wednesday and say this, this is what the manager is willing to sell it for. That's discounted beyond what it was originally listed for. Because I tell you what, we get so many calls from guests, not just Airbnb VRBO in Greece, but people calling and asking, Can you do it for this? Can you do it for that? And it's like, sometimes it just It baffles me that people try and haggle as much as they do with vacation rentals, I don't you people don't do that with you don't call a hotel and ask what will you do it for this price, they just assume the price is the price. And, you know, that goes back to people knowing that, you know, these these properties are not owned by condo world, they're, you know, they're owned by somebody. And so can you call the owner and ask them? No, I mean, they've hired us to make that decision for him. But I think, you know, your platform has that opportunity to say this, this is the lowest negotiated rate, right? Like we don't You don't need to call and ask like, this is what it's gonna be.

Ben Jamshahi:

Alex, I think that's the direction we're gonna be moving to back to you know, where are you going to see yourself in 24 months? Yeah, I think the, our, our industry is growing. And, and these are part of the growing pains of, of, okay, we used to be able to just have our own customers come directly to our own site, even before the site, maybe you advertised in the New York Times, or maybe it was, it was word of mouth. Right. But as we grow, we have opportunities to consolidate inefficiencies, for example, you know, once people get into that they can understanding what the entire business model is and the opportunities that that they have. Well right now it's only Airbnb VRBO and maybe a handful of other big sites though at least to the people who have just understood what vacation rentals are right it's not my grandpa's place that I my mom used to go right but rather it's mainstream today yeah. Yes professional from it is Yeah, exactly. So So I think in time you know, people like you know, companies like ourselves ourselves are going to be able to fill in those gaps where where the where the travelers are conditioned. Okay, well, if I want to go last minute and I you know, I'm not going to pick up the phone and call Alice to see if she can call the owners to get me a discount. Well, right there I can go go to go to Wednesday and and they're already there.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. I love that. I love the whole concept makes a lot of sense.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. So Ben, I have a question. So one of the things that alex and I've been talking with different guests about is sort of the landscape. In the OTC space, there's so many people that are kind of entering and trying to carve themselves out a little niche in the market, or, you know, they just want to be like everybody else, but they're gonna do it cheaper, you know, that type of thing. And there's a lot of discussion, from my perspective, looking at yield management and yielding channels. And I think you guys allow yourself to be yielded, which is perfect, because they can turn it on and off based on again, the availability within a certain window. But in all that, you know, people look at the OTAs is this, you know, big, big bad wolf coming to, you know, you tear their henhouse down. And so how do you guys position yourself as a for the business model for a property manager, so that you are selling yourself as a as a help? Not somebody who's just trying to take another piece of their of their pie?

Ben Jamshahi:

You know? Okay. That's a, that's a, you know, no matter how I answer that, that that's gonna put me in a pickle, but I'm gonna, I'm going to do it. So we're the nature of, of any business is you've got to have a transaction. That makes sense in order to have to see tomorrow. Right? So we've got to pay our bills. Now, there there is the wonderful thing called a free market. And why I say it's wonderful. It has, it's almost like, how, and I'm gonna get this wrong, but I'll attempt it, how water ultimately finds that, that the the level, you know, where? Is that the same

Alex Husner:

as the creeks? Maybe? I think I follow you.

Ben Jamshahi:

Something like that, where, you know, a free market allows people to come in. And if they have the right business model, with the right formula, as far as given take on the price. And the ones that do it right, and are fair will stay? Yeah, the ones that don't will eventually fade away, and I don't care if they're as large as large as Airbnb or as small as Wednesday.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah. And I think that's your gonna be your challenge going forward, if you are to, except that investment funding, you know, how you are still able to stay true to that philosophy. And I've no doubt that you won't be able to do that. But that is that is where we see the rubber meet the road with a lot of companies that they say upfront that they're going to continue to be this one way, but then, you know, they can't I mean, they're their investors just don't allow them to do that. And I'm excited to see where you go with it, because I think you will, that I think that is the whole basis of what your business is. I mean, as far as how you sell the property managers, Annie I think what he's told us that sells it to me just in what he said, You know, I mean it's you're you're filling a need to alleviate or eliminate the phone calls that we get bankers we get of you know, can you do it for this can do for that and fill units that are not booked yet. So as long as it's a fair commission, and it's an integration that works, I don't see how it would be a hard thing to sell.

Annie Holcombe:

I agree I just playing devil's advocate with you know, how Yeah, oh, it's another OTA they're trying to take. Right. Right.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I agree. I agree with you. I think that I do think

Annie Holcombe:

I do think that their value proposition is is is strong, you know, their Commission's are lower than than everybody else's. I think one of the nice things been if I'm not mistaken, you guys are going to be merchant of record? Correct. So you'll handle the taking the funds from the guest and alleviate the issue because I think that's where a lot of property managers worry inside that small booking window is like how am I going to make sure I get all my funds you know, so I think you guys have solved that need as well correct.

Ben Jamshahi:

We have in fact, not only have we done that we've gone a step further and one of our mutual friends at Super hog they're called Super OG Am I right? Yeah, yeah. Okay, super hog. So we we have a relationship with super hog and we're, you know, we verify our travelers and and double check their, their lives, you know, to make sure that they are the right guests for our property managers. And, and so not only being a merchant of record and guaranteeing your funds, but we all we also go that extra mile to make sure that we bring you quality travelers that are really going to have appreciate and use the vacation rentals as designed.

Alex Husner:

Are there any other OTAs out there that, that use super hog or other screening software like that? I don't know that I've heard of any.

Ben Jamshahi:

I don't know. I don't know. But they're dynamite. Super hog. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah, no, they're, they're, they're great. And we've talked to a few of the companies that are we talked to them and some others that are similar within the industry. But I haven't heard of them actually working directly with an OTA. I've heard of them more working with the property manager. But that's, if you're taking that on a front. You know, that's just another benefit to the property manager, because now you don't have to worry about that. That.

Ben Jamshahi:

Alex, it is, and this is what we you know what we were talking about, we're not Robin Hood, and we're not the knight in shining armor. We're a bunch of people with a passion for this for what we're doing. And we're, we're badasses. Can I say that? Yeah.

Alex Husner:

We love that.

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah. And, you know, we're, we're ready to to make our mark, in what sense in the sense of, of implementing, what we see is a disparage is a is an unfair playing field, our marketing director who I believe and he's met Noel Russell, yeah, yeah, she, two months ago said something that just warmed my heart, you know, it was she was telling us a story about when she was a kid. And growing up in Watsonville, which is, you know, right next to Santa Cruz, where I grew up. And one day, her dad surprising her and taking her on this, on this little trip to a vacation rental, and how she won she, in the morning, she looked out the window and said, How I'm going to own one of these one day, right. And neither one of us came from a family of means, you know, I lived in a one bedroom apartment with with five other people, you know, my parents and two brothers, and she hurt her parents were, you know, on a socio economic, same level, and to, and it was as a result of a favor that someone did for her dad, to allow them to stay there. And, and, and so that's kind of what we're creating. I mean, you got, you know, the industry has all these vacation rentals sitting empty for four that aren't being rented, why not allow another experienced like Noel's to happen, to inspire her to grow up and be successful so that she can afford our own or look out the window and see marine life and become a marine biologist to save the planet? You know,

Alex Husner:

yeah, so that's, that's the that's the special thing about our industry, I think is that it just is truly an entrepreneur type industry that as built, you know, the best conversations that we have with people are stories like that, you know, that they just they had a passion for it, and they made it happen and you know, bootstrapped but somehow it's come in become a very profitable business down down the line. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. Well, I think we are about at a time, I think, Ben, I talk to you all the time. So I feel like I could talk to you forever. But if you will indulge us. Ounce. I'm gonna let you go first, this time with your burning question that you would like to ask then, and then I'll come up with one.

Alex Husner:

Okay. So in your lifetime, who has been your biggest mentor? And what did you learn from them?

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah, the man who gave me my first check. And I learned this from them. And it's interesting, you asked me that. I recall him telling me there is nothing like the feeling of coming in first. And now you fast forward 25 years and I have to disagree with that. Because I have experienced the most amazing, blissful feeling when I've been involved with ventures where coming in winning, winning together, if you will, winning together beats it hands down. And the reason I say that is the most influential is because if he wouldn't have said that, to me, that thought would have never been in my mind to contest it. Right. Yeah, right. Yeah. Okay. So

Annie Holcombe:

that leads me to mind with that. If you were to look back at 20 year old band 21 year old Ben, what would you tell him would be your biggest, biggest obstacle? The biggest challenge that you would face in your journey to

Alex Husner:

rephrase that is like eight or nine or 10 years proportionately. That's such a diverse scale there.

Annie Holcombe:

Any one thing that stands out to you?

Ben Jamshahi:

Yeah. What what would be my advice to him?

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, just, I mean, not necessarily advice, but just like, you know, what, what something you should look out for what's something that you should be mindful of, and it might go back to this statement here that you were just saying, be mindful of that. But it sounds like you've had such a incredibly colorful life, and you've done all these things. There's got to be some things that stand out.

Ben Jamshahi:

Oh, absolutely. You know, I the I can tell you which one what it would be. And so I, you know, along the journey, I've met some amazing, wonderful human beings and, and yet, I haven't been able to get marriage down, right. I've been divorced three times. I amazing, X wise, and they are amazing moms. And we're friends. But I wish I could be a better husband. Or at least figure out how to be a better husband. That's one thing. Well, you're

Alex Husner:

still got time. You've got plenty of years.

Annie Holcombe:

Ben, thank you so much for joining us. And again, I know that next year is really bright for Wednesday. And I personally am excited to see where you go, because I know we're working with your lexicon is working with Wednesday and your team over there. Alex has been tremendous to work with. So excited to see where you go. And just really appreciate you getting up early on the west coast to talk with us today. Yeah,

Ben Jamshahi:

you guys are dynamite. Thank you for having me.

Alex Husner:

What's the best way for our listeners to get in touch with you?

Ben Jamshahi:

It would be shoot me an email at Ben at

Alex Husner:

Wednesday. And wednesday.com Okay, yeah. And the web. The website is wednesday.com. And I'm sure

Ben Jamshahi:

wednesday.com is the website. Absolutely. Awesome.

Alex Husner:

Awesome. We'll include links in the in our show notes, too. But thank you everybody for tuning in for another episode. If you want to learn more about Alex and Annie, you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com And make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast app, and we will see you next time. Thanks, everybody. Thanks

Ben Jamshahi Profile Photo

Ben Jamshahi

Director & CEO

Ben is a proven entrepreneur in information technology and consumer focused businesses with three successful exits. Ben has also owned a variety of vacation rental properties over the past 20 years and is intrigued with the opportunity to transform the Host and Traveler experience through the sharing economy. Ben loves to surf, travel and spend time with his three children.