The life of an entrepreneur can be an unpredictable ride filled with both triumphs and challenges. But thankfully for Homads co-founder Vi Nguyen, COVID-19 has been a challenge she felt ready to face head-on.
“We were really well prepared for this," she says upon reflection.
Founded in 2016, Nguyen created Homads after searching for a platform that would allow her to rent her home out for more than 30 days. Other players like Airbnb and Vrbo already focused on short-term rentals, but Homads set out to connect renters with medium and long-term options on a month-to-month basis. They've also built a data product called Localizer that helps renters determine their neighborhood compatibility based on their individual interests and lifestyle.
Unlike its big competitors decimated by the evaporation of short-term rental market, Homads is holding strong against the COVID-19 headwinds. The lean, Austin-based startup has actually seen a 500% uptick in website visits since the onset of the pandemic, reflecting the current need of longer-term housing in the midst of the pandemic. Nguyen sees the next six months as a critical opportunity for the company's growth.
“The market has totally shifted,” she explains, referencing the slowdown of travel and the rising need for longer-term housing. "That’s very interesting for us in the next six months to capture that market and become a different player."
Launching a tech startup might seem like an unexpected path for Nguyen, who previously founded a production company. So how did she make the jump from the media world?
“I’ve been an entrepreneur, but it’s a different thing to start and run a tech company, so I reached out to the Austin scene," she says. "I talked to everyone I knew. My developer, who built the core of Homads from the very beginning, was a college friend. The ability to ask someone who understands that industry really helped me not only build my network, but also build Homads.”
"I thought it would be a lifestyle business," she adds, "and after a while, we realized Hey, I think we’re a startup!”
The ups and downs of entrepreneurship test every founder. But Nguyen, a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, credits her resilience to her parents.
“We really watched them struggle to raise us,” Nguyen says. “My mom owned her business, which really set the stage for me to really understand what hardship really looks like. So when it comes to struggles in general, we knew how to survive, if not flourish.”
None of this has made running a business easy, however. For Nguyen, fundraising is a particular hurdle, especially as one of the New Majority of founders who continue to face uphill battles accessing the networks and funding opportunities available to their white, male counterparts. But she won't let this stop her from making big waves.
“I think the best advice recently had to do a lot with resilience. There was a moment where I was tired of fundraising, and I asked a mentor about it, and she told me to do your steps. She has a friend that tells her 'Are you out of options? Whenever you have a bad day, it will be a bad day. But if you have more options, then do the next steps. Keep on going.’"
And Nguyen, along with her startup, is surely running forward.
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