Andy Peck and Rachel Martin of TrustedHousesitters

TrustedHousesitters: The Atom Collection

As part of The Atom Collection in partnership with Atom Bank, BQ is hunting down some of the UK’s most disruptive businesses that are changing the way we go about our day-to-day lives.

The latest company to feature is TrustedHousesitters, an online business which has transformed the way people across the globe arrange and organise house sittings.

Headquartered in Brighton, the company has facilitated over a million nights of house and pet sitting all around the world since its launch five years ago and boasts 300,000 members.

Andy Peck came up with the idea of launching the business back in 2011 after a near death experience in the Andes led to him taking time out to recover by sitting a house in Spain.

“In 2011, I had a lucky escape from death after being stranded at altitude in the Andes,” he told BQ. “I had a long period of recovery and needed somewhere to rest and recover. So, I went to sit a house in Spain.

“The idea was that I’d spend a few months there writing a screenplay, looking for a new start. The property was amazing, but the best part of my trip was the bond I made with a dog called Dave. Dave made me think that I should start a business which brought pets like him together with people like me, people who love animals but who wanted to travel so they couldn’t keep a pet full-time.

“The sharing economy was just taking off, and I knew I wanted to make this a free exchange, opening up a world of travel to people who want to visit new places more affordably and more authentically. Most importantly, this would mean pets could be cared for in the place they love the most: their homes, rather than taken to kennels which are costly and can cause them distress.”

House sitting isn’t a new concept, it is something which has been around since time began. However, Andy, a former marketing officer and entrepreneur, saw an opportunity to bring it into the 21st century. This led to the launch of TrustedHousesitters, an online portal connecting vetted house sitters with home owners who needed someone to help them manage their property and pets.

“TrustedHousesitters is now the world’s largest sharing economy travel business specialising in house and pet sitting,” he added. “We have a global community of 300,000 people who between them own some incredible properties all over the world, from chocolate box cottages in the British countryside to New York loft apartments, villas in Barbados and chateaux in France and Germany.

“Nearly all the homes have pets. The idea is that you join the site as a member, and these properties are among the places you could stay in for free. In exchange, you take care of the pet, which is the part of the holiday that beats any other in terms of affordability, authenticity and adventure.

“For home and pet owner members, you can find likeminded, trusted sitters to care for your pets in the comfort of your home whenever you go away for free, saving a fortune on kennels while keeping pets much happier.”

Andy launched the business with his fiancée Rachel Martin. He pitched the idea to her and she fell in love with the concept. So much so, that she quit her job as a leading PR executive and sold her flat to help him get it off the ground. Since then, they’ve never looked back.

“My main advisor and source of inspiration over the past six years has been my fiancée and co-founder Rachel Martin,” he said. “Rachel is a PR guru, who prior to meeting me was one of the driving forces behind the launches of eBay and in the UK.

“As for funding, we’re completely boot-strapped. To launch the business, I sold my car and Rachel sold her flat, this paid for two round-the-world tickets which we used to research our markets and recruit our first few hundred members face-to-face. “

But how do home owners know that the house sitters are safe and suitable to look after their pets? This was always going to be a reoccurring challenge and one Andy would have to address if TrustedHousesitters was ever to become a success. Luckily, he found a solution.

He said: “We provide both free and paid for verification procedures so our members can feel confident that the people they meet through our site can be trusted. To provide this, we have partnered with global digital identity check leader, Onfido. What Onfido provides is accurate identity, address and background checks powered by machine learning technology.

“Members also choose to build their trust profiles through references and recommendations, and if they wish to acquire a higher level of verification, Onfido offers an optional police background check. Members who pass this are given a second digital verification badge, making them more appealing to many home owners. We’ve been told by Onfido’s founder that we have the most robust verification process in the sharing economy!”

Since its launch five years ago, TustedHousesitters has since grown from a small tech start-up based in their flat in Brighton to one of the sharing economy’s largest success stories. Having grown by 70% year-on-year, the company now has a 300,000-strong community spanning 140 countries and has facilitated over a million nights of house and pet sitting all around the world.

The Brighton-headquartered company now employs 30 people and has even been recognised by Sir Richard Branson having won the GREAT award. Looking forward, Andy has exciting plans for the business as he looks not only to continue developing TrustedHousesitters but also the sharing economy as a whole.

He concluded: “With more and more people turning to the sharing economy to enrich and afford their lifestyles, we’re bracing ourselves for another year of growth. In a recent independent survey we commissioned just after the referendum, more than 44% of people said they would turn to the sharing economy to make affordable travel plans.

“Combined with the rising trend in staycations, we’re the solution to thousands of people’s travel plans. Plus, we’re catering for the millions who wish to visit the UK, offering them places to stay so they can spend more while they’re here on restaurants, theatre trips and shopping. As a business, many experts cite TrustedHousesitters as offering a model that is the future of the sharing economy.

“Increased relationship building between two parties without monetary incentive is universally proven to increase trust. The next few years will see a growing adoption of sharing through trust as a means of experiencing more.

“I call this the trust economy, where there is no limit to what you can enjoy, beyond your ability to prove you are a caring and reliable person. We see the future of the sharing economy evolving into a trust economy marketplace.”

Published: 27 January 2017

Article by Bryce Wilcock
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