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Montreal's Sonder picks up $10 million investment to expand "hometel" network

Montreal “hometel” company Sonder (formerly known as Flatbook) has raised a $10 million Series A round, led by Spark Capital, with participation from Thayer Ventures, Real Ventures, BDC Capital, and others, to add new cities to its peer-to-peer home sharing network and to grow its workforce.
Simultaneous to the fundraising, the company is re-branding and launching as Sonder, shedding its old identity as Flatbook, now able to offer more than 500 hometels in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Montreal and Vancouver.
Sonder’s hometels offer something different than the couchsurfing or truly peer-to-peer experience offered by other short-term rental services, in that the accommodations are managed by Sonder and must meet a 237-point checklist before being added to Sonder’s collection.
There’s a Sonder concierge service, available 24/7 by email, phone, and Facebook Messenger, with Sonder promising to respond to guest requests within minutes.
“The short term rental market is booming because consumers today crave unique and interesting accommodation options,” said Nabeel Hyatt, partner at Spark Capital. “But the market is also flooded with huge variance in quality and in that world Sonder’s model of offering unique places to stay with consistently amazing experience and service is the right model.”
Sonder’s two models are a leased model, in which Sonder leases a property from a real estate investor for a fixed monthly price and retains all revenue, and a partnership model, in which Sonder manages the property on behalf of a third-party owner and takes a percentage of revenue.
“We envision a future where anywhere around the world, you can use your phone to unlock beautiful, unique and well­serviced places to stay for a few nights or a few months.” said Sonder CEO and co-­founder, Francis Davidson. “Sonder aims to identify a neighborhood’s best apartments, houses, condos, villas and lofts and deliver exceptional service for every stay. Requests are responded to within minutes, all Sonders are live­bookable, 5­-star clean, incredibly comfortable, verified personally by us using a 237-­point inspection, stocked with all essentials, and most importantly come with a customized Sonder guide containing thoughtful recommendations cherished by locals.”
Aside from having to pass a 237-point checklist to have an accommodation added to the hometel network, Sonder also employs “neighbourhood guides” who offer advice to guests on where to explore, eat, drink and shop locally.
Sonder also has each accommodation professionally cleaned between guest stays, and makes sure that the bathrooms are stocked with toiletries, and that crisp linens and towels are restocked, and that the kitchens have at least a minimum of pots and pans, coffee, tea, and a full place setting for eight or more people.
Hometels are also equipped with fast, reliable Wi-Fi, supporting up to eight devices.
“According to a recent travel trends report, of the 16 percent of Americans who have booked a peer-to-peer rental, 40 percent say they still prefer hotels,” said Davidson. “This data shows that while travelers want an authentic experience, they also demand the dependability and security offered by hotels. Our premise is that there’s no need to choose between an authentic travel experience and dependable customer service and amenities. With Sonder, you can have both.”
Sonder plans to add Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto to its network later this year.
The company now has 60 employees in Montreal and San Francsisco.
In 2014, co-founders Francis Davidson and Lucas Pellan took their company Flatbook through Montreal’s Founder Fuel program and managed to secure a $3 million seed funding round.
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