The story of this company that operates in the short-term rental market, born in the classroom at MIP. One of its founders, Felipe Aguilera, an MBA alumnus, tells us about it, illustrating opportunities and challenges and offering some advice to those who are about to begin the Master’s programme.
Good ideas, on their own, aren’t enough. They must be studied, closely evaluated, discussed, defended. It’s the best way to bring out their real potential: «In fact, if an idea is born perfect, it means that it’s not innovative», says Felipe Aguilera, alumnus of the Master in Business Administration programme at MIP and among the founders of Hostmate, an innovative startup with headquarters in Milan that operates on the market of short-term rentals. «We manage every aspect of the service, from putting the property online to the cleaning of the apartments, meeting requirements of the compliance side, receiving guests and maintenance».
Cross-cutting skills for a one-of-a-kind service
As often happens, Hostmate was born out of brainstorming: «About three years ago, together with some friends and colleagues, we started discussing the so-called megatrends in the property market. Among these stood out home sharing», says Felipe. «And so we created Hostmate. Currently we operate mainly in Milan, but we are slowly expanding in Turin and Venice. Rome and Florence will be our next big challenges. We want to distinguish ourselves from our competitors and to offer a unique service». There are many variables to manage and they require a wide range of professional skills: «For this reason, two other MIP alumni joined the team: Virginia Soana, currently business manager, and Amr Aladl, operations strategy advisor. Two people with very different academic backgrounds, in law and engineering. But the complexity of the business requires this», explains Felipe. «Our primary objective is to offer a high-level customer experience, which for us is one of the most important parameters. The customer must be satisfied: it’s the best guarantee for the success of our business. But to meet their needs, we must know every facet of the business».
Between bureaucracy and innovation
The operating context is also important. «Italy offers two fundamental advantages for the short-term rental market: widespread home ownership and large tourist volumes. On the other hand, however, we find a strong resistance to change, along with the bureaucratic and administrative aspect: it’s truly challenging to manoeuvre through the various requirements», explains Felipe. Luckily, these limits are compensated «by the great availability of talented and young, and not so young, people, who have a desire to innovate, change the rules, fight the fear of what’s new».
A Master’s that teaches how to do
Characteristics that also marked Felipe’s experience at MIP. «My previous training was in the field of finance, but I felt the need to gain further expertise in logistics, operations, in innovation in general. In particular, I felt the need for a Master’s that led me to “do”, in addition to “learn”. The MBA has fully met my expectations. We had the opportunity to work with professors who shared excellent guidelines for the definition of “agile” business models, operational and organizational, able to survive in uncertain and continuously changing environments, like that in which we live today. In the same way, open communication and the constant sharing of experiences with my colleagues favoured the proliferation and the improvement of ideas which then materialized in concrete projects. Hostmate is one of these». Lastly, some advice for those who are about to embark on this path: «You have to prepare yourself for an intense period of study and work, and don’t forget that a large part of the value of the MBA comes precisely from this dialogue between colleagues, like that between me, Amr and Virginia, and professors. So, speak up and raise your hand».
A response to the challenges of Covid-19
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the hospitality industry, Hostmate and their team have managed to react: «We decided to take advantage of this particular situation to fast-track some important projects included in the strategic plan, in particular, Hostmate Accommodation Facilities and Hostmate Rentals Centre», says Felipe. «The first project, for example, aims to help the less digitally equipped establishments by adding their property to the main virtual booking platforms, managing it, and helping them to communicate with their guests». With respect to the future of the sector, however, the alumnus makes this comment: «We expect tenants and guests to pay more attention to hygiene and health issues and to increase the use of digital channels for booking, communication and payment of services, but we will be ready to face the new challenges».