July 1, 2020
While segments of the hospitality industry reel from a lack of bookings due to COVID-19, the extended stay sector is thriving, Sonder Inc. co-founder and CEO, Francis Davidson told Cheddar.
"We basically found a pocket of demand of people that need social isolation amidst the pandemic," he said.
Sonder, which leases, renovates, and rents out apartments from its website and through third parties like Airbnb and Expedia, recently closed a $170 million round of Series E funding. That brings it's valuation to $1.3 billion, according to the company. Davidson credits the company's success to its dedication to health and personalized services.
"We really pride ourselves on really higher standards of quality and consistency and, specifically, when it comes to cleanliness and contactless service. That's something that's not really available in the hospitality industry," he pointed out.
When travel returns to normal, Davidson said, the company has no plans to abandon its extended stay model because its properties "are actually places that are much more comfortable for a longer stay."
"Not having to be at the front desk to check in and having access to most services digitally is something that will have been accelerated by the pandemic, but those were, frankly, bets that we had placed years ago and is the very foundation of how we offer service in our business," he added.
While many Americans in the hospitality industry were forced out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, including many at Sonder Inc., the company has been fortunate enough to bring back or restore hours for at least 100 employees.
"The success in our efforts to increase demand has actually meant that we had to have way more people to help service the occupancy that we didn't expect because of the very dire forecast of the industry," Davidson said.
Sonder's success amid the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the fundraise, are signs of a very bright future for the company, but Davidson said the plan remains to keep the same energy that has brought the company this far.
"We're back into growth mode," he said. "We want to build a new age hospitality company. That's investments in technology, those are investments in launching new locations — more cities, more countries."
Updated July 1 to clarify that Sonder brought back or restored hours for at least 100 employees who were affected by pandemic-related layoffs, furloughs or hour reductions.