A new home swap platform lets you travel the world like Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet

“We started Kindred with the goal of making travel a lifestyle, not just an occasional getaway,” explains the company’s co-founder and president, Tasnim Amina. Inspired by the flexibility offered through remote work, co-founders Justin Palevsky and Tasnim Amina have created a home exchange network that harnesses the power of community. By focusing on sharing rather than monetization, Kindred doesn’t take homes off the market or inflate home prices. The idea is rife, earlier this year the company raised $7.75 million in seed funding to grow the platform.

You were both early stage employees of Opendoor, an online platform for dealing with residential real estate. What inspired you to make the leap to your startup? Our experience at Opendoor has taught us that huge customer problems are actually huge opportunities for innovation. We were inspired to start Kindred to solve a problem we felt so badly about. During the pandemic, both of us have sought ways to take advantage of the newfound flexibility of remote working and spending more time in different cities. But in practice, current solutions have either been unreasonably expensive, or require that we abandon our homes altogether.

We’ve seen that there is a real unresolved customer need here – one that is likely to get worse as the cost of vacation rentals continues to rise. We didn’t know exactly what product it was going to end up with, but we did know that if we were crazy focused on solving this problem, we’d create something worthwhile.

What does Kindred offer its users that sets it apart from other services like Airbnb? Kindred is a members-only home exchange network, which is quite different from a vacation rental platform.

First, unlike rentals, there is no financial exchange between guest and host on Kindred. We’ve built a generosity-based economy where members give a night to earn a night, and the homes on the platform are real residences rather than investment properties.

Second, Kindred is built on trust. We connect members who have something in common (such as mutual friends or a shared network), and facilitate an introduction via video chat before accommodation is confirmed.

Who is the target customer? And why? Our goal is to enable anyone to share their home. We’ve seen the most attraction thus far, though, with remote workers who are incredibly flexible and are looking to travel frequently. In a model like ours that focuses on both give and collect, it is important for us to target the people who will be using the platform as both the traveler and the host.

How have your travel experiences affected this platform? We are both adventurers who love to travel, and we’ve used pretty much every travel platform out there.

During the pandemic, TASS discovered it to be a digital nomad. (Justin) also tried to purchase a vacation home in Lake Tahoe that I was planning to rent out on Airbnb to help cover costs. After deciding that it was too much work and too much risk, I ended up finding a couple from my college who lived full time in Lake Tahoe, and now I just swap homes with them regularly. Feeling like I had a vacation home without the risk or cost of a vacation home was an essential “aha” moment for us.

How does the invitation-only form work? What are your aspirations for the community on the platform? The chemistry within the Kindred community has absolutely blew us away – it’s one of the things we are most proud of. For example, leaving handwritten thank you notes has become a tradition in society. We’ve seen members leave the best gifts for each other, from flowers and wine, to handwritten poems, beautiful rocks, and even an original song recorded using house sounds (true story!).

To ensure we maintain an environment of trust, we grow primarily through referrals. Each accepted member has a unique code that they can share with others they think would be appropriate for their Kindred. This puts these apps at the top of the review queue.

People who are interested in applying but do not have an invite code can still join the waiting list. We accept homes on a rolling basis, on demand.

In other interviews, she’s discussed the downside of Airbnb, the way it incentivizes investors to buy properties that can provide affordable housing to locals. How does Kindred disable this form? Unlike vacation rental companies like Airbnb and VRBO, hosting on Kindred doesn’t generate cash flow – instead of earning cash, members gain the ability to stay in other homes. For this reason, our clients are people who want to be able to unlock value in their homes easily to travel more, not investors. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to buy a home to put in Kindred full time!

House swaps seem more intimate than renting. Do you consider this an essential part of the Kindred experience? This is definitely an essential part of the Kindred experience, and what makes Switching Home in the end so special. Since you are staying in someone’s home, you get a unique opportunity to explore a new city like the locals and build long-term relationships with the homeowner. Many of our members are drawn to Kindred because they want a travel experience that has the warmth, character and comforts of home. They want to feel like they really live somewhere, not just travel there as a tourist.

What is your dream home swap? I don’t know if it matters, but we want to get it out into the universe: we’re eager to recreate the movie Holiday. Cameron, Kate, if you’re reading this – please hit us up.

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