I’ve been interested in Vuepeer since coming across the site last September and reading about their plan to build metasearch tools for sharing economy travel services. Vuepeer also has a blog, The Shared Times, focused on peer to peer travel news. Recently I had the chance to talk with Vuepeer CEO, Alex Smolen, about his goals for this full service peer-to-peer travel business.
ShareTraveler: When was Vuepeer officially launched?
Alex Smolen: The blog was launched Spring 2016. Our meta search soft-launched this January but is still in development.
ST: On the Vuepeer About page it says you plan to “condense the sea of peer to peer travel information, onto one easily understandable platform?” Can you tell me what this means to you and how you came up with this idea?
Alex: I had used peer to peer rental services a few times. Each time I rented, it had been on a different website, and each time it took way too long to find what I was looking for. Not to mention that some friends and I almost had to cancel a trip because the traditional car rental providers ran out of inventory. Luckily I had known of Turo, here in the states, and looked for the European equivalent, ultimately finding a suitable car. After talking to others and seeing their interest for peer to peer travel accommodations, I decided to move forward.
ST: How are you guys supporting yourselves?
Alex: I entered a business plan competition in the University of South Carolina and I won some money my senior year so that’s what’s funding the business. Just Nick and I right now.
ST: What services are offered on Vuepeer right now?
Alex: We provide a lodging search, a peer-to-peer travel blog, and a directory of peer-to-peer travel rental providers. Our lodging search contains a modest 50,000 listings world-wide.
ST: There are a number of other metasearch engines for peer to peer lodging already on the market, why will yours be better?
Alex: At vuepeer we are looking to stay 100% peer to peer rentals. We’re also looking to branch off into different verticals. We want to be a travel solution for people looking to travel peer to peer. We want to bring in boats, car rentals, experiences. As people become more comfortable with this idea of peer to peer travel they’ll start to look to other markets. And we’re really looking to bring in some cool technology to this. We want to bring a level of personalization to it, make our platform remember your searches and queue up listings and really personalize it moving forward. We have cool technology that we haven’t seen other peer to peer rental sites do.
ST: I like the destination guides on Vuepeer which help people find sharing economy services in a particular location. How do you find the relevant services in each destination?
Alex: We have found the keywords that hit for each of the marketplaces in a search. If there are a lot of listings we will add them to the list. Our goal is that people can hit this link and find something they are looking for. We will add a couple destinations a month. And when we redo the website the destinations are going to become easier to search.
ST: Can you tell me about the individual listings directly on Vuepeer? How will these benefit people?
Alex: The idea behind the individual listings is giving property owners a place to aggregate their listing information from different marketplaces. Let’s say you rent out your car on Turo, and your home on Airbnb. You could link those profiles to your Vuepeer account, and the next time someone asks about your listings you can forward them one url instead of 2, 3, etc.
ST: What’s your 5 year goal for Vuepeer?
Alex: You’ll see the big four: lodging, cars, experiences and boats. We’d like when you search for travel you’ll pull up Kayak or Expedia and then you’ll pull up Vuepeer.
ShareTraveler commentary: The lists of peer to peer services on Vuepeer are curated, unlike what I have in my massive spreadsheet of all peer-to-peer travel services. This means you are getting top recommendations from Vuepeer for the destinations they’ve covered. I get questions from people asking for this sort of thing as it’s a lot of work to sort through every sharing economy service in a city to come up with the ones worth using. This is a good resource to check out.