How I used MVP with Airbnb

About 6 months ago I bought my first apartment. I deliberately went for a 2 bedroom apartment, with a view to offset my mortgage by renting one room out. After settling in I became reluctant to search for a full time room-mate, I was enjoying the freedom that living on my own afforded me.

A friend pointed me towards Airbnb with the understanding that I could probably make a reasonable income without having to share my apartment on a permanent basis. This was exactly what I needed.

The area I live in is very quiet, and relatively far from the hustle and bustle of Central London. I didn’t think there would be much demand, if any at all! It would be a waste of time and money furnishing the room if no-one wanted to stay there.

I needed an MVP to prove it was worthwhile. (MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. For more information on this, I highly recommend reading ‘The Lean Startup’, by Eric Ries). Instead of furnishing the spare room, I advertised my bedroom on Airbnb. This meant minimal up front costs, and the opportunity to find out not only the demand I could expect, but also whether I would feel comfortable letting strangers into my home.

My initial expenditure was £55 spread across towels, new bed linen, pillows and key lock box (for when a guest arrived and I wasn’t in). As a Product Manager I took great enjoyment in planning a remarkable experience for my potential customers. I could leave chocolate on the pillows, fit a smart lock for access to my property and a raspberry pi powered welcome screen at the entrance — It was hard to contain my excitement, but I had to focus on releasing the MVP first and evolve the experience as revenue came in.

So I prepared my room and posted it up on Airbnb with some pictures took on my phone. Within hours, I started to receive booking requests and enquiry’s.

Over the last 30 days I’ve been over 50% booked, met some really great people and I’ve still had the apartment to myself at times, which is invaluable to me. All in all, the MVP was a huge success. It showed me that there is clearly demand for a short stay hotel room in my area, and I would generate just as much revenue, if not more, from hosting on Airbnb compared to having a long term room-mate.

I have now fully furnished my second bedroom and decided to pivot a little, offering a more premium hotel experience. That is still in the experimentation stage, more on that later.

This shows how powerful, useful and effective an MVP can be. With very little up front costs, you can test and validate your idea, and you can learn things you didn’t even think you could know. Next time you have an idea for a product, think about how you can create an MVP to test your idea, and validate your assumptions.