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HYH-43 Mark Scheel’s “Colorado Airbnb Host Meetup”

Hosting Your Home - Airbnb host stories

Release Date: 04/28/2018

Download Episode! Mark Sheel is a Google Android developer and Airbnb host in Colorado.  He has long used Meetup.com to organize his large developer group in Denver, and leveraged that experience to create a 500-member   Colorado Airbnb Hosts Meetup. Debi and Mark have been exchanging info and tips for the past couple of years.  Colorado is an exceedingly desirable tourist destination, so it’s no wonder that there is a high interest in Mark’s group in Denver.  This discussion can provide listeners with some ideas of how they might organize groups in their own areas.  The show notes cover much of the conversation.  Airbnb, if you’re reading, Mark wants you to listen to the very end (57:30) or check the show notes to learn Mark’s pet peeve about your calendar software! Links are included at the end of the show notes. 0:00 Debi updates us about Host2Host the Oregon trade association by hosts, for hosts. 3:00 Debi talks about how she and Mark met, and introduces Mark. 4:30 How Mark got started renting on Airbnb and progressed to own two ski condos that he rents out, plus occasional rental of his home in Denver. 13:22 Mark talks about his real profession as a Google Android developer and creating a 600-person meetup group in Denver.  He then goes into starting the Airbnb Meetup group.  He remembers being at the Airbnb Open in San Francisco in 2014.   He was presenting at another conference with Android work, and took advantage of being there.  He said he was blown away with the hospitality of Airbnb and its employees.  So the next year, he attended the Paris Airbnb open and had such a great time there, he realized you couldn’t  explain to people who weren’t there just how fabulous it was.  He traded snowboarding tips with a host from the Middle East, who in turn shared camel riding tips with Mark! 16:50 On his way back home from Paris, Mark found himself a little melancholy over the prospect of not having any more contact with other Airbnb hosts for an entire year until the next Open, so he decided to create a local group.  So – this begs the same question that happened to Debi the year before:  how to reach other hosts when the Airbnb platform blocks it?  This was November 2015.  He was the only attendee at his first Meetup, and the next month he had three.  Now they have over 500 members.  He did have a stroke of luck, in that just then, Airbnb had scheduled a marketing event to recruit more hosts but a blizzard prevented the Airbnb employees from getting to Denver.  Airbnb somehow found Mark and asked him if he’d take over MC’ing the event at a bar they had already rented, and of course he said “Yes”!  Airbnb sent out emails to existing hosts and invited them to come to the bar to meet with Mark and the first drink would be on Airbnb.  Ever since, they’ve had good attendance.  Mark sends out a monthly newsletter with pretty good info about local and even international info. 20:00  Debi asked Mark what his membership requirements are, and he told her that anyone can join, and now he’s getting people to join from outside of Denver,  probably for access to the newsletter and info in it.  He does not have a Facebook account.  He said that he finds leading the Airbnb Meetup to be so easy compared to his Google Meetups, because they can just talk.  He just finds a venue, tells people they can have one free drink, and then the attendees can just mingle and talk.  They do have some curated events and have had some very good speakers, covering taxes, legislation, bedbug-sniffing dogs, etc. 22:00 The site Denver.gov/STR is the repository for Denver short-term rental rules.  Basically, you can only do short-term rental of your house if it’s your primary residence.  You have to be licensed and include the permit number in your listing.  Each host has to collect occupancy tax and two other taxes.  All the hosts there are not opposed to the tax, but they want the City and Airbnb to work out tax collection to be done by Airbnb, so the hosts don’t have to do it.  Denver also allows the host to rent their entire house, part time.  Mark talked about a small part of Denver called Glendale that doesn’t currently have rules about short term rentals. 27:30 Debi asked Mark about an interview in the New York Times that he appeared in.  Mark was contacted by Katie Benner, a reporter for the Times who at the time lived in San Francisco covering Apple and startups in Silicon Valley.  She reached out to Mark in part because of the Colorado Airbnb Hosts Meetup Group.  He laughs about having several hours of interviews with Katie that was reduced to only three sentences in the final article.  During the interview, Mark encouraged Katie to contact Jill Bishop, another Denver host who has lots of great stories and was involved back in 2008 when Denver played an important role for Airbnb.  That was the same time as the Democratic National Convention.  Ultimately, Jill ended up hosting Katie at her home and there ended up being a great article in the Sunday New York Times. Mark knew the article was going to be printed on June 17, 2017 on Father’s Day and tells a cute story about the article and his dad. 32:00 Debi asked if Airbnb gave Mark any recognition over it and he said just some individual employees that he knows did reach out to him.  He said Airbnb supports him when they need something, but not so much in a financial way and he doesn’t really need anything from them.  He thinks that Airbnb’s “Host Clubs” sort of compete with other groups like his and he’s happy that his Meetup pays for itself.  He finds the hardest thing is to find the venues – he knows that the best thing is to have a regular meeting day, like the first Monday of the month, but that just doesn’t work for his travel schedule.  He tries to schedule them 6 weeks ahead. 36:30 So now he uses the same venue, Blake Street Vault, which he began using with his Google group, and the venue likes that he brings in 30 or 40 people on a slow Monday or Tuesday, and all of them have at least one drink (which the sponsors pay for) and a lot of them have food.  Their latest sponsor is “Noise Aware” which makes a product that monitors noise level, without invading guest privacy.  He reached out to this vendor through their website. Sponsors: Mark tries to add photos to each Meetup for interest [ed note: the photographs are private to the meetup, for members’ privacy].  He has a process to onboard new sponsors, where his group tries out the product first, and if they approve of it, they invite the sponsor to give a talk that’s 80% hosting advice and maybe a slide or two at the end that is about their product.  Noise Aware got back to Mark immediately and is now one of their newest sponsors.  Other sponsors include Slice, a Home Sharing insurance company;  Wheelhouse, a dynamic pricing company; Notion, a Denver-based startup making home sensors; LockState, a Denver-based smart lock company;  and Properly, the San Francisco-based company that produces software for managing operations such as cleaning. He really feels strongly about helping the sponsor’s businesses because the hosts end up having better tools. Debi wondered if the sponsors are able to get feedback from hosts – Mark has a private Slack group of 50 members and uses that group to validate products and has provided useful feedback to the vendors.  Slice has been a great vendor and was one of their first sponsors.   They have had some products that didn’t work out.  They don’t use Facebook. 44:00 What does Mark get out of the Meetup?  He describes the level of support and warm feelings that come out of the group.  He says their primary engagement of hosts is at the Meetup face-to-face meetings, and then outside of the in-person meetings there is a limited amount of discussion on Meetup, but 90% of the online conversations are on Slack.  He said there is a constant influx of new members.  He is really excited at how well Denver is growing and thriving.  He considers himself mostly as a matchmaker at the meetings and tries to direct the person to the expert that he knows will have the answer. 49:30 The two begin talking about expanding the Meetup into other areas outside of Denver.  He’s mindful of his time commitment, and can’t put a lot more time into it.  He gives a good rundown of how much time the Meetups take each month, and notes that he really enjoys that time spent. He knows there will be a payback eventually in the form of an answer or help when he might have a critical issue that he doesn’t know how to solve. 53:30 What is Mark passionate about in the Airbnb space?  Airbnb Opens! He recommends everyone attend if another Open is in our future.  He’s also passionate about smart homes.  In his properties he has Google Nest thermostats, Google Home devices (some of his properties use those to turn the lights on and off, music etc).  He uses smart locks and set them to the last four digits of the guest cell number.  He uses Nexia as his lock provider, and the underlying lock is Schlage.  (and he writes his own software for setting the codes).  He uses Nest video cameras for his driveways and feels that these cameras have been very helpful in assisting good guest compliance with some house rules. 57:30 What Mark finds most annoying about Airbnb software?  #1 Pet Peeve:  in the calendar, if he has a five-day minimum stay rule, and if there are two days between stays, in the host view, it shows those days as available; but they’re not available, by rule.  He wants the calendar to show the host the days that are not available if they are not available by rule – and then he wants to be able to easily convert them to be available without going through an elaborate configuration. 59:30 Debi wraps up the conversation. LINKS: Sponsors: Noiseaware:  https://noiseaware.io Lockstate:  https://www.remotelock.com/ Wheelhouse:  https://www.usewheelhouse.com/ Slice Insurance:  https://www.slice.is/ Proper Insurance:  https://www.proper.insure/ Mark's Listings, Meetup info, and NY Times article: vailspot.com airbnb.com/rooms/805030 (vail original) airbnb.com/rooms/14155149 (vail new) airbnb.com/rooms/9512789 (denver) meetup.com/colorado-airbnb-hosts meetup.com/gdg-denver  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/technology/airbnbs-hosts-professional-hotels.html