Witnessing a growing interest in the Russian online alternative accommodation market, Moscow business incubator Fast Lane Ventures acquired a stake in Travelrent.com last month.
Founded in 2009, Travelrent.com is one of the startups emerging on the local scene, focusing on Russian language users in Russia and neighboring countries. The site currently lists 3,500 available accommodations, with 70% of them in Russia. It plans to increase its offer base to 12,500 available properties by the end of 2011, with 45,000 by late 2012, and up to 5 million by 2015 with the help of a strong affiliate network.
Fast Lane did not disclose the amount it invested in the startup. In answering a question about whether Travelrent had plagiarized leading US site Airbnb.com, Fast Lane Ventures told East-West Digital News that Travelrent followed a “parallel course and business model orientation.” The Russian company has no relationship with its US counterpart, but it “does not exclude” the possibility of developing a relationship in the future.
Travelrent’s design and functions were directly inspired from US leader Airbnb
Apartator.ru is another accommodations website currently fighting for leadership. The site’s test version launched in April. Focusing on short term apartment rentals, Apartator.ru features a reverse auction system in which owners compete for clients and provide them with relevant offers.
Apartator, which is now in the final weeks of its beta version, is currently limiting its service to 500 select apartment owners in St.Petersburg and Moscow, Apartator’s founder Anton Malkov explained to EWDN. “Within weeks, Apartator will fully launch with 10.000 apartments we previously collected across 200 Russian cities, and then we will quickly expand to other countries,” he added.
Another project, Tvil.ru, launched in February. The site offers advanced mapping and social functions and works on a CPL basis. It was awarded at a recent startup contest organized by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.
For the moment, Western giants have not developed actively on the Russian market. Airbnb – which is said to have raised $100 million in May of this year – offers a Russian version of its site, but provides no more than 395 offers in Russia. HomeAway, which has no Russian version, has a mere ten vacation rentals – up from seven in early June – mainly in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Fast Lane Ventures was founded in Moscow last year by two Western businessmen, French serial entrepreneur Pascal Clément and KupiVIP.ru founder Oskar Hartmann.
The incubator claims it brings projects from the idea stage to completion in a mere “50 days.” Among its recent projects are Jizo.ru, a metasearch engine for air tickets, Upladder.ru, an online premium job search service, VitaPortal.ru, a medical news site inspired by the WebMD.com model, and Domgeo, an online database of real estate available for purchase or rent.