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Vacation rental companies like Airbnb offer easy access to a plethora of short-term stays, but what about employees stationed at a location for months? Recognizing a gap in the travel industry, Workbnb is determined to focus on people who are often overlooked.
As a participant of Techstars, an accelerator program in Tulsa, travel startup Workbnb is on a mission to improve the lives of millions of workers across the country by accelerating the proliferation of workforce rental homes.
“Construction workers, journeymen, linemen, in most cases they don’t book where they stay. They get their travel assignments from the company. So, if the company can’t find housing, they will put them in a motel or hotel for months,” Workbnb CEO Yeves Perez told The Black Wall Street Times.
As Tulsa continues to become a growing hub for tech entrepreneurs, Perez has moved his startup from Las Vegas to the home of the original Black Wall Street.
At a time when employers are desperate to retain their workforce, Perez says employee wellbeing and satisfaction should be top of mind. That’s where his app comes in. Workbnb helps companies find comfortable, longer-term stays for their employees in an industry dominated by short-term vacation rentals.
Business-to-consumer apps like Airbnb make it tenuous and stressful for companies to schedule stays for dozens of employees, a problem that Workbnb seeks to capitalize on as a business-to-business entity.
“Imagine being an office administrator or travel manager for a big construction firm, and you’re trying to look for 30 employees. You have to do one search at a time, one booking at a time,” Perez said.
Instead, Workbnb allows the office or travel manager to select available units for each employee that they can then drop into one secure shopping cart purchase.
Globally, the vacation rental market size was valued at $74.64 billion in 2021, according to Grand View Research. With estimates showing the market size will only continue to grow, Perez believes he’s carved out a niche that will benefit both employees and their employers.
Ultimately, Perez credits the pandemic as leading him to pivot towards Workbnb. While working with his mother’s company, he realized how limited apps like AirBnb were for clients seeking a long-term workforce rental.
Workbnb: A Black-led travel startup
Determined to create a solution and test his theory, Perez created a Facebook group in 2021 to find rental hosts willing to do long-term stays. The Workbnb app coalition group quickly grew to 600 participants across 39 states. Using polls and other forms of data-gathering, Perez learned he was onto something that could be innovative and lucrative.
“As a tech entrepreneur, you’re not building in a closet by yourself, assuming what people want,” Perez said.
Meanwhile, Perez said he wasn’t getting much support from the tech community in Reno since the company wasn’t blockchain based. He applied for an accelerator program in Reno, only to be turned down.
But after a random phone call from a French international news travel platform interested to learn more, he realized his purpose was worth fighting for.
Perez said apps like Airbnb don’t even try to understand their clients.
“They’re not even trying. And they’re not treating their hosts very well. That’s why we’re having so much success. We want this to be a Black-led venture, and we want to own this space,” Perez said.
Building a tech company near Black Wall Street
When Perez started his company, he had no idea Congress would pass a bipartisan trillion dollar infrastructure law to revamp the nation.
“That’s effectively going to send 10 million construction workers traveling over the next 10 years. They’re calling it the infrastructure decade.”
For Perez, the fact that he is accelerating his company in a place that was once home to the most wealthy Black business district in the nation adds extra meaning to his work. And like Black Wall Street’s resurgence after the city-sanctioned 1921 Race Massacre, Perez is determined to move in the spirit of those entrepreneurial giants who came before him.
“Being half-Black, half-Mexican, I sit on two sides of the culture of workers in the United States. You know, there’s a lot of Mexican workers and there’s a lot of Black workers, blue collar workers,” Perez said.
“If they keep getting put into these motels and hotels, going into the next 10 years of travel, that’s a huge missed opportunity.”