How being an Airbnb host led me to my next startup.

I am an Airbnb host in Toronto, Canada and I love what I do — meeting new people, hosting them at my apartments and showing them around town. I met many interesting people since I started hosting in 2012 and what happened just over two years ago has changed the course of my life.

My house. Photo by Airbnb.

It was a regular day and a couple from Germany has arrived to stay at my house. Everything was great and a day or two into the stay, they called me down to ask a question. It turns out they’ve cooked few meals and really fell in love with my bright green oven mitts. What?!

The infamous bright green oven mitts from Kitchen&Stuff store in Toronto.

Yes. They loved the oven mitts and were asking me where I bought them because they wanted to get the same ones and take them back to Germany. I thought it was cute of them, smiled and offered them to take it as a gift. They agreed and departed to Germany few days later. I didn’t think much of it and moved on with my day.

What happened next is kind of crazy. One year later, I received this:

Email I received one year after Gaby and Sascha have departed.

ONE. YEAR. LATER.

To say the least, it was a meaningful moment for Gaby and Sascha. Not so much for me, at first. But as weeks passed, that moment really grew on me. I felt really deep human connection there and a business opportunity but couldn’t clearly articulate it so I took some time to break it down:

  • Two humans were immersed in a physical context (my Airbnb) primarily for the purpose of shelter.
  • While inside the context, they were inevitably exposed to different smells, temperatures, textures, sounds and colours. They just needed a roof over their heads but all these secondary things played a huge role.
  • They noticed an object in its authentic context, tested it and loved it. Authentic context is important. Unlikely that those mitts would have been noticed in a pile of other ones in a store. Same way we often miss or misjudge an object when we see it in a store but then admire it when it is where it belongs. The fact that Gaby and Sascha were able to test it right away eliminated the risk of potential disappointment in the purchase.
  • Gaby and Sascha wanted to own the object so they can use it whenever and wherever they desire in the future.

We’ve become good friends with Gaby and Sascha since then.

Few days later I posted “Everything here is for sale” sign in each of my Airbnb. Without having to wait too long, I sold a chest and a blanket! Then I thought —

What if everything we see and experience in any context, could be bought with just a tap of a button?

Street, cafe, bar, hotel, clinic, all other Airbnbs, offices and more. Wherever we are, we can own a piece of context with just couple taps on our smartphone.

Currently with over 100+ venues in Toronto and growing, I am happy to announce that today, I am launching Encounter — an app that allows you to do just that. Open it when you see something you like in real life and order an item on your phone.

Encounter app in action.

The app is currently available to download in US and Canadian iOS App Store. (Search for Encounter or go here).

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