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EP151: How to Use Airbnb to Facilitate a Business Accelerator

So you’ve planned a retreat for entrepreneurs and booked the Airbnb, but lack of interest forced you to cancel the event. Now it’s time to get creative and find a way to recoup the money you spent on accommodations. What if you listed the space on Airbnb yourself, and sublet it out to get your money back?

Chris Reynolds is the founder of Entrepreneur House, a business accelerator that holds events worldwide with the intent of creating a community where entrepreneurs can live together for four weeks, attending goal-setting and productivity workshops as well as taking part in advisor-led seminars and one-on-one coaching sessions. Chris has taken advantage of the Airbnb platform to book accommodations for Entrepreneur House retreats in Chiang Mai, Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro, and then sublet those bookings when they weren’t being used!

Today, Chris shares the objectives of Entrepreneur House as well as his advice for Airbnb hosts. Listen in to learn how he was able to negotiate with a landlord who caught him subletting an Airbnb space illegally – and turn that potential conflict into a lucrative business partnership.

Topics Covered

Why Entrepreneur House was launched

  • Business accelerator for established entrepreneurs
  • Offers cultural experience through four-week retreats held all over the world
  • Provides community and sense of belonging
  • Leverage each other’s skills while mountain-biking, for example
  • More productive than regular environment

How Chris employs Airbnb for Entrepreneur House

  • Uses platform to book accommodations for attendees (in advance and last minute)
  • Sublets Airbnb when event is canceled or doesn’t need space for entire booking period

How Chris handled being caught by the landlord for subletting without permission

  • Landlord discovered Airbnb listing and called meeting
  • Chris explained intent to recoup loss as entrepreneur
  • Landlord altered contract to allow for short-term rentals
  • Chris partnered with owner of leasing company to book the following year

The dynamic around illegal activity in Barcelona

  • Drinking on the street, graffiti and pot lounges are technically illegal, but rules not enforced
  • Short-term rentals are illegal, but people continue without much fear of retribution

Chris’s advice for Airbnb hosts

  • Include photos of all rooms (better pics = better bookings)
  • Offer a flat screen TV (almost always indicates better quality)
  • Put forth the time and effort to compose a thorough description for your listing

Chris’ guidance for dealing with a landlord if you’re listing your rental on Airbnb

  • Be clear about why you’re using the platform
  • Enter negotiations with a proposal that will benefit you both
  • If the landlord says ‘no,’ respect the fact that they control the property



Chiang Mai Event Details

Connect with Chris


Entrepreneur House Podcast

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Email: jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 151

Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real-life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.

Jasper: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Make your own at hostfully.com/pad, and a special for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners, you’ll get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.

Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Get Paid For Your Pad. And today, I have a very special guest. His name is Chris Reynolds, and he is the founder of The Entrepreneur House, which is a business accelerator, and he uses Airbnb to facilitate his accelerator program, to hold events all over the world. So, it’s going to be a really interesting episode.

Chris, welcome to the show, and thanks for joining me.

Chris: Hey, Jasper. Thanks for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here.

Jasper: Yeah, it’s fun to be on the other side of the microphone. Just a few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Chris on his podcast, which is called The Entrepreneur House. I was introduced to you by a friend of mine, a common friend, who also has been a guest on the show, Danny Flood, who runs a magazine, OpenWorld Magazine, and he introduced me to Chris. I came on his podcast, and then he told me how he had used Airbnb to facilitate his business accelerator program. And so, I figured it would be interesting to hear his story.

So, Chris, tell us about The Entrepreneur House.

Chris: Well, The Entrepreneur House is a business accelerator for established entrepreneurs, and we do retreats or events, you can call them both one and the same, in different cities around the world for four weeks at a time. So, we will have a group of entrepreneurs come to cities like Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and stay for four weeks, where we live together, and we do workshops, goal setting, productivity exercises. We have advisors come in and give seminars, or have a day where they just come in and give one-on-one sessions with the attendees of The Entrepreneur House. And we’ve done, I think, eight or nine now, and currently building for one in Thailand later this fall. And they’re just a really cool experience.

What we noticed, Jasper, is that there was a lot of entrepreneurs that were out there and traveling the world, but going from hostel to hostel, or doing some co-living experience, and they weren’t surrounded with other entrepreneurs. They would be around start-off digital nomads, they would be around, maybe, some freelancers or people who just worked online for a company, and they really missed, they really longed for that belonging, to be around other established entrepreneurs that could talk the talk and enjoy an incredible experience together. So, that’s where we created The Entrepreneur House into what it is today.

Jasper: Awesome. Well, it definitely sounds like something that I should join.

Chris: Yeah. I’d love to have you.

Jasper: Yeah, that would be really fun. I’ve done a lot of similar types of things, but never for that long, though. I’ve done the DNX CAMPs that our common friend, Marcus Meurer, organizes, and it’s just always really fun to hang out with like-minded people, and there’s a ton of stuff to learn from each other. I learn so much every time I go to an event, you know, because you can’t figure everything out by yourself.

You know, as an online entrepreneur, you need to be skilled at so many different things. You need to be aware of all these different types of technology, the newest platforms that you could use to create content, social media, design, SEO. There’s just so much that you need to be aware of, and it’s just impossible to do it by yourself.

Chris: Yeah, and that’s one thing that really makes it so powerful to be around entrepreneurs for an extended period of time. If you do have a question about SEO and that’s not your specialty, there’s three other people in The House that are great at it, and you can just walk over and knock on their door, chat them a message and say, “Hey, let’s meet at the pool and talk SEO for a minute, if you can spare some time.” And, you know, when you’re having lunch, when you’re going to dinner, when you’re downhill mountain biking, when we’re visiting temples in Thailand, we’re having masterminds because we’re talking business.

And it’s quite incredible because the people that come are more productive than they are in their regular environment, whether it’s back home in their office or hopping around the world, traveling, and building their business. They come in and they see this kind of synergy that exists among the group, that everybody’s really there to set goals and get things done, but also have an incredible cultural experience at the same time. And you see, really, their results catapult from that environment.

Jasper: Man, it’s really inspiring. I’m just thinking, maybe I should organize a business accelerator for Airbnb hosts. It would be really cool to just get together in some tropical place with like 50 Airbnb hosts, and check out each other’s listings, and share experiences, and help each other improve. That would be really cool.

Chris: Yeah, that’s a great idea. It’s a great idea.

Jasper: I’ll have to pick your brain at some point about how you organize these things. But, that kind of is a bridge into the topic of this episode – how do you organize these things? Well, you’ve used Airbnb to facilitate these events, right. So, I’d love to hear about that.

Chris: Yeah. So, it’s quite simple. You know, Airbnb is such an easy tool to use, for the most part, and so, for many of our Houses, we’ve had to use… Well, we use Airbnb to find our accommodations, but we’ll get signups, you know, 10 days, 5 days, even the day of the start of our event, and we’re like, “Oh, crap! We’ve got more people coming. Where do we put them?”

And so, not only do we use it to find the accommodations in many places at the beginning, but then, at the last minute, where we need to find a place rapidly, we’ll hop on Airbnb and find something that fits our parameters, you know, it’s a good quality. Everybody who comes to The Entrepreneur House has their own individual room, so there’s one room per each person. And then, you know, we’ll just book it.

And, yeah, so we can talk a little bit more into the tactics that we use, the details. The negotiations that we use has proved to save us a lot of money. Yeah, for the most part, that’s just how it is.

I’m in Rio de Janeiro now, and so, when we came down here about this time last year, I had never been to Rio before, and I was coming in blindsided, other than what I’d heard from my friends and people that had lived here. And so, I hopped on Airbnb, and I was like, “I want a place near the beach, Copacabana,” so I just looked for something that fit in our budget and booked a room. I booked an apartment and we were solid. We had a good apartment for the group.

Jasper: Awesome. And so, you’ve used Airbnb to provide accommodation to the people that sign up for your programs, but you’ve also been on the other side of the equation. You’ve also been hosting on Airbnb, correct?

Chris: Yeah. So, sometimes, like Barcelona, actually, has this regulation where if you rent on Airbnb, you have to do it for 30 days or more, and because of that, you know, short-term rentals on Airbnb are now considered illegal in Barcelona. So, we’ll use Airbnb, but we’ll book it for the amount of time that we need to, and sometimes those overlap. So, we’ll have The Entrepreneur House for four weeks, and one apartment, we actually rented for five months when we were in Barcelona, and we were like, “Okay, now this apartment’s empty, these rooms are empty, what are we going to do?” So, we put it back on Airbnb and rented it. I’d guess you’d call it subleased. And we rented it out to people that are coming to town for the weekend.

And so, we had a lot of cool groups. You know, people would come up from Madrid, and they’d come and stay. We had this big apartment. It was right in the center of the city. It was like five bedrooms. And they would stay and they would just have a college reunion. We had some women from Amsterdam that went to uni together, and they were married now and had kids, but every year, they got together and came to Barcelona. And so, we’d have cool groups come in, and we would just book it out.

In the summertime in Barcelona, you know, the rates are really high and you can get a fair amount for the apartment. So, we would make some money on top of that, of what we paid for it, and it was a good little deal that we worked out.

Jasper: Did you inform the landlords about putting these things on Airbnb?

Chris: I didn’t. I didn’t, and actually, I had one landlord come up to us, and they saw it on Airbnb, and we had a meeting about it, and they understood kind of what we were doing. But, yeah.

Jasper: Because you find these places on Airbnb… Just for me to get this right. You find a place on Airbnb, you rent it for like five months, and then you put it back on Airbnb for the time that you’re not using it? Or, would you actually stay at the apartment the whole time and you would rent out some of the rooms?

Chris: Both. I did both. And so, here’s the deal. It’s such an interesting city, Barcelona, how it plays out.

So, everybody rents short-term on Airbnb because they can get so much money, even though you’re not supposed to. And so, it’s just such a normal thing. And so, what Airbnb does is just fine… I think, in 2015, they fined, Barcelona, like €60,000, and for Airbnb, that was nothing. And so, it’s an interesting concept. The times I’ve had to rent the apartments out on Airbnb is because, usually, we had an event planned and either it’s overextending by just maybe a few days, by maybe a week or so, and it’s just sitting there empty, or we had an event planned and we didn’t get enough spaces filled, so we had to cancel that event. So, we just put it on Airbnb and rent it out.

Jasper: That’s pretty funny. So, how did you resolve the situation with the landlord when he found out?

Chris: Yeah. So, I was a bit worried about that. It was a larger leasing company that I rented it from. And so, I went in, and they explained the situation to me, which I completely understood, and I explained my situation. I said, “You know, I have this business accelerator. I have the people come and they stay for four weeks at a time, and we had some spaces that just didn’t fill up for the month, so we decided to see if we could recoup some of that money and rent it out on Airbnb.”

And so, you could see this guy was an entrepreneur, right. This was the boss of the leasing company. And so, the wheels started turning in his mind, and he actually said, he goes, “You know, you came in here and you were kind of a devil, but I think you just turned into an angel because I think we can make a partnership and rent some apartments out to you for years to come.” And I was like, “Score!” because I was worried about going in there. I didn’t know exactly what they were going to say or what they were going to do.

Yeah, we started chatting things out, and I said, “You know, in Barcelona, we have this event, and we have people come. These entrepreneurs come every year.” And the owner of the leasing company said, “Wow, this is really cool. I like this.” Yeah, so we chatted and he gave me a list of listings for the next year, a good list of apartments that we could rent out for the following year. So, it worked out to be a win-win.

Jasper: That’s awesome, man. So, included in that deal is also that you can sublet some of the rooms that don’t fill up?

Chris: Yeah.

Jasper: That’s great.

Chris: Yeah, he actually changed our contract. So, this happened about a month or so, maybe six weeks or so into the lease, and he changed the contract to where it was actually legal for us to rent those on short-term, based on the business and how it was set up. So, it was great.

Jasper: Right. It’s still illegal because of the rules in Barcelona, though, right? Is it?

Chris: Yes. It’s like… Okay, so Barcelona’s an interesting city. Like, drinking on the street is illegal in Barcelona, but everybody does it. You can walk by the police during a festival or whatever, and have a beer, nobody says anything. Graffiti’s illegal in Barcelona, but you see graffiti everywhere in the city. And so, Barcelona’s just one of those cities. It’s like, “Maybe if we decide to enforce this…” So, another thing, pot lounges or marijuana lounges are illegal in Barcelona, but they’re all over the city and they operate just fine.

So, it’s one of those things. Like, if Barcelona decides they’re going to enforce it, there may be a lot of people that are in trouble, but it’s kind of Spain, and it’s just their mentality. You know, “We’ll make it illegal, and then, if it comes to that day we decide to enforce it… It probably won’t ever come to that day, but if it comes to that day, there may be some fines that we can collect, a lot of fines we collect. But, we’re just going to let things happen because, you know, just enjoy Spain and enjoy Barcelona.”

So, that’s the mentality, yeah. That’s how it is there. So, that’s one of the reasons why, you know, if you go to Barcelona, it’s so easy to pop on Airbnb and find a weekend rental, or a few days’ rental. Technically, under the law, it’s not legal, but it’s one of those things that very few people are worried about, from my experience.

Jasper: Right. And is there a difference between renting out an entire home and a spare room?

Chris: Yeah, I believe so. So, if you’re living in the place and you’re renting out a spare room, I believe that’s okay. I believe. And I think what’s technically illegal is renting out the entire space.

Jasper: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, that’s the case in a lot of the European cities. You know, like Amsterdam, you’re allowed to do 60 days for an entire home. London and Paris are 90 and 120. I forgot which one is which. But, yeah, renting out a spare room, if you live in the place, if you’re there during the visit of the guest, is typically pretty much allowed everywhere, I think.

Chris: Yeah. And there’s a fine line, I think, or maybe I should say a gray area, even with that because even, sometimes, you know, if you rent it out too much, if you rent that spare room out too much, then it can be considered illegal.

Jasper: Right.

Chris: So, I think there’s a percentage or something.

Jasper: Hosts, I can’t emphasize how important it is to share recommendations of things to do or eat near your listing beforehand. Your guests won’t have to go through TripAdvisor, Foursquare, or Yelp. They won’t have to scratch their head and think about possible places right in the moment. I’ve been using Hostfully to create an online and printable guidebook to show my guests my favorite coffee places in Amsterdam. They use my recommendations, and I’m getting fewer questions from my guests as a result. I’ve also included screenshots of my guidebook on my Airbnb listing as a way to differentiate my listing from others. So, make your own guidebook at hostfully.com/pad.

Jasper: So, you’ve used Airbnb as a guest quite extensively. You’ve hosted on Airbnb in quite a creative way, I would say.

Chris: Yeah.

Jasper: You’re definitely not the, you know, sort of the standard Airbnb host.

Chris: Yeah.

Jasper: I’m interested to hear your opinion. Based on some of the experiences that you’ve had, what’s your view on how Airbnb hosts should conduct their business? Let’s say somebody wants to start out on Airbnb and asked you for advice, what would be like the top three things that you would tell them?

Chris: The first thing is, I think anybody would say, is photos. Photos, photos, photos. And I don’t know if this is in all cities, but I know in Barcelona, Airbnb would come out and actually take photos for you. And so, the pictures, just, the better your pictures, the better bookings you’re going to get, period.

And take pictures, for gosh sakes, please take pictures of every single room that you plan on having the people use, because there’s just so many people that will take photos of like two bedrooms and not the third bedroom, and then you ask them, why aren’t they taking a picture of the third bedroom, and there’s generally a reason they won’t, or maybe they consider that third bedroom, the couch that folds out, or even just a big couch that people can sleep on. So, have plenty of photos.

And, I found this to be true, very true, when shopping for Airbnbs and leasing it out, that the apartments with a flat screen TV always seemed to be much better quality than the ones that didn’t have a flat screen TV. I never rented an apartment off Airbnb that had a flat screen TV that I was disappointed in. And there’s been many that didn’t have a flat screen TV that I’ve been disappointed in. So, that’s key.

And then, give a good thorough description. Don’t just say… You know, it’s like anything. The better quality, the more time and quality that you put into your listing, the better results you’re going to get. And there’s just so many people that just throw up their apartment, throw some crappy pictures on there, say, “Yeah, it’s located in this area of whatever city.” And then, they just leave it at that and expect it to get booked out, and they expect it to get great reviews when they’re just not really putting their heart into it. So, it’s the time and effort it takes to put in a good quality post or a good quality apartment up on Airbnb. It’s so worth it, and it’s just so essential.

Jasper: Absolutely. Yeah, I think those are very good points.

You know, I wanted to go back to the meeting that you had with your landlord because, as I’m thinking about it more… You know, this is a really interesting topic because I know a lot of people are renting, and then they’re putting their spaces on Airbnb, and one of the questions that comes up the most is, how do you deal with the landlord? Do you tell the landlord? What do you do if the landlord finds out? And so, I would love to hear a little bit more about, you know, because in your situation, it turned out really well, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Jasper: Basically, the landlord caught you, and then you managed to turn it around and actually work together, which is pretty amazing. So, for the people out there who are renting and who might be caught in the future, or who might even be thinking about stepping up to the landlord and just coming clear and explaining the situation and asking to collaborate, what would your advice be for those people?

Chris: I think, really… See, I went in there, and I just wanted to be completely honest and not hide anything from the landlord, and tell him my situation, because I wouldn’t say it’s a situation of desperation, but it was a situation, like, “I’m just trying to recoup my money from this business that I’m trying to run.” And I would just be clear.

And if you are going in to negotiate, now, I know there’s different landlords in different countries with different mentalities all around the world. What you want to create, you want the perfect end result for both you and the landlord. So, you want to figure out a win-win scenario before you go in and negotiate and communicate with the landlord, and say, “Okay, I know there’s a way to do this where there’s a win for you and a win for me.” Maybe it’s splitting the money that you guys create from renting out on Airbnb.

And that’s just really the best way to do it. If you’re going to hide anything from your landlord, one, it’s going to stress you out because you’re going to be worried about the landlord catching you, and it’s just going to add more stress and drama to your life. And so, when you do talk to that person, you just want to be, I think, authentic and make sure that you have a win-win scenario. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

And, I would say, if it doesn’t, first off, they control the property, bottom line. I would say, respect that, because at the end, I think it’s more important to not have the worry of possible legal issues if you don’t respect their parameters and what their decision is. But, I think if you can pitch it in the right way and you have the right landlord, because they’re renting it to you, and as long as it’s within the legal guidelines given, you know, there’s some gray area in different cities around the world, as long as it’s in the legal guidelines and everybody thinks it’s a win, then I think the landlord, more often than not, would probably make it a go.

Jasper: Right. So, just to summarize, make sure you’re honest, don’t try to hide anything, and think about the position of the landlord. Put yourself in the shoes of the landlord, and think, you know, “How can I offer some value to the landlord? How can I make this appealing to the landlord?” Because if you’re just looking at your own situation, then if there’s nothing in it for the landlord, it’s just going to have a liability to the landlord. So, you know, there’s no real incentive for the landlord to go ahead and agree with it.

So, I think that’s a very important point. Figure out, how can you make it appealing to the landlord, how can you work together so that it’s a win-win situation. And I totally agree, that would be the best way to go.

Before we get to the end of the show, I’m really interested in your The Entrepreneur House events. I know there’s one coming up in Thailand. Can you provide a few more details about what the event is about? Because there might be some people who are actually interested in this.

Chris: Yeah. So, this October and November, we have… Actually, it’s just going to be one event for this year, so it’s The Entrepreneur House in Chiang Mai, and it runs October 26th to November 24th, and this event is for higher-level entrepreneurs, so six- and seven-figure earners in annual revenue for their business.

And what we do is, we have a handful of advisors come in. Sometimes they come in for one day, sometimes they come in for the whole month, and they’ll give workshops, presentations, one-on-one sessions. You have access to that advisor while they’re there, and they’re really powerful because, usually, the advisors have an income somewhere around half a million with their business. So, they’re really established and pretty successful. And we have the advisors in different respects for a business. So, sometimes we’ll have people that have a software business, or sometimes we’ll have an author, or sometimes somebody who specializes in sales and marketing, in all these different things so you can get a balance in your business if you need to ask those questions.

And we stay at this resort-type place in northern Thailand, in the mountains, that has a nice infinity lap pool with an open-air restaurant, a nice gym that opens up to the pool, a cafe, and we have a really good meeting space. Everybody that comes and stays, they have their own personal room with their own bathroom. There’s no shared rooms. And you can get a studio hotel-style room, or you can get a one-bedroom, depending on what you prefer.

And we’re just right in the heart, kind of, of the techie district of Chiang Mai, where there’s a lot of cafes and amazing food, and just a really good environment to be productive. And on the weekends, we do fun stuff, like mountain biking, visit an elephant rescue camp, visit Thai temples, and stuff like this. So, it’s an incredible experience.

Jasper: Awesome. That really sounds cool. I’m definitely going to look into it. So, it starts October 26th. For those who are interested in finding out more about the event, and also about your podcast, of course, they can go to theentrepreneurhouse.com.

Chris: Yeah.

Jasper: Awesome. Well, Chris, thank you so much for coming on. I really love what you’re doing, and hopefully, I’ll be able to be part of it in the future. And it was great to hear about your experiences with Airbnb.

Chris: Yeah, thanks for having me on, Jasper. I am very honored and I enjoyed the show. Thanks, man.

Jasper: Awesome. Well, for the listeners, thanks so much for listening. And, of course, next week, there’s another interview, and every Thursday, there’s also a news recap of the week. So, make sure you don’t miss it, and I’ll see you next time.