VRM Intel interviewed Justin Urich, CEO of SoCoastal, a hyper-local booking platform about his new venture and the value proposition it offers.
How would you explain what your company does in 15 words or less?
We find the perfect vacation rental so you don’t have to.
Where did the name SoCoastal originate from?
The name is actually a tribute to the birthplace of the business; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. So is short for Southern. Coastal is an elongated version of Coast. SC is the abbreviation for the state of South Carolina. (Pronounced so-co-stuhl)
What inspired you to start your own business?
In May of 2014, I lost my older brother (Nathan) to an extremely rare form of Leukemia. That experience made me realize that I wanted to spend the rest of my life pursuing ideas and relationships that I am nothing less than ridiculously-passionate about.
When did you officially launch and how many vacation rentals do you currently represent?
Not too long ago. We launched on June 27th of this year. Currently, we have a little over 600 instantly-bookable condos and beach homes.
How does your company generate revenue?
Currently, we receive a commission on confirmed bookings. Our commission percentage is negotiated exclusively with each property manager we partner with.
In the upcoming months, we plan to rollout new features and offerings that will allow us to diversify our sources of revenue.
What problem(s) do travelers suffer from currently that your service solves?
To put it bluntly: The process related to searching for and booking the “right” vacation rental is nothing short of a nightmare. We don’t believe there is just one singular problem we need to solve in order to create differentiation, which is why hope to address a few different problems:
Fragmented Inventory: We work to mitigate this by consolidating inventory from various property managers, in a single region, into a singular resource for travelers. The Myrtle Beach area is home to over 40 different vacation rental companies and we look forward to the opportunity to work with each of them.
Lack of “Real” Support: I’m not talking about the type of support you need when you’re having payment issues. I’m referring to the intricate level of support travelers need when trying to navigate crucial parts of the vacation rental selection process.
Help with questions like: What city? What neighborhood within that that city? Which resort? Which rental within that resort? What time of the year? All questions that end with “is best for me?”.
In my opinion, no automated travel bot or some guy/girl sitting in a call center that has never actually been to the destination that you’re interested in, is going to be able to effectively and authentically answer those questions. That’s where SoCoastal comes in.
We work with a team of hand-picked destination experts to offer guidance and recommendations based on real experiences. Each destination expert currently lives in, has lived in previously or frequently visits the Grand Strand. Not only is our team familiar with the area, but they are also familiar with the local property management industry and the specific vacation rental options available.
No Booking or Service Fees: I think it’s best to learn from the recent public backlash towards HomeAway and their implementation of these types of fees. SoCoastal is and always will be “booking fee free” for travelers.
What advantages does SoCoastal offer property management companies in the Myrtle Beach area that the big guys like HomeAway, FlipKey and AirBnB currently don’t?
We focus on the areas where we feel the larger players aren’t doing so well — specifically, in accommodating the complex relationships with property management companies.
- SoCoastal absorbs the time and cost related to developing a custom API connection from our partner’s property management software to our platform. There’s no need for manually updating property data — everything is automated. We require just a short amount of their time in order to get them fully-integrated and receiving booking requests.
- We handle everything related to the pre-stay process including: pre-screening guests, inquiries, customer support, recommendations on things to do, payment processing & management as well as emailed communications to guests.
- Our platform was built from the ground up to be universal. We understand that each business operates differently and we can accommodate just about any pricing and policy structure you can throw at us. And if we currently can’t support it — we’ll customize our system to fill the gap.
- We’re constantly updating and improving our platform. SoCoastal can roll out new features in just days or weeks, as opposed to months or even in excess of a year for the larger companies.
For more information about SoCoastal, please contact Justin at email@example.com or (843) 779-5533.