This summer it will be ten years since the storied internet pioneer and Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen wrote his famous Wall Street Journal op-ed, titled “Why Software is Eating the World”. It was a thought he and other industry visionaries expressed privately for a while before that, but by summer 2011 the idea had hit the mainstream: the internet of real-time data, social interactions, and smartphones will alter the world forever, upending every single industry and the way it does business.
Ten years later, it is obvious how right Andreessen was: a social or mobile bust, like the downfall of the dotcom-era, first-generation internet companies in 2000, never happened. The world of 2021 is a world where Facebook and Twitter rule the media, Amazon defines retail, and activists grouping on Reddit can bring down entire hedge funds and stock-market listed conglomerates.
The beauty of free-market capitalism is that it allows disruptors to use new skill sets and technologies to do away with inefficiencies. But it also means the bigger the disruption is, the bigger the inevitable new inefficiencies will be, which a next generation of innovators will get a shot at solving.
To understand this, we find ourselves in a place as remotely removed from Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley as you can imagine: a tree-lined, quiet street in the upscale Lozenets residential neighborhood in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria.
It’s a sunny, unusually warm February afternoon, when my colleague Alexandra and I ring the bell of the office of Quendoo. At Vitosha, we recently completed our investment in the holiday property management startup, and we’re here to check in and update with the team.
Much like the office, the founder team is also nothing like your cookie-cutter set of hipster internet disruptors: instead of twenty-somethings in sneakers, we are met by Georgi, Christophe, and Gorian, all gentlemen over 40, dressed in neatly pressed shirts and trousers.
Today, Quendoo is the fastest growing holiday property management tool in Southeast Europe, combining a booking system, channel manager, and a community-first approach with property owners; the company’s secret sauce, slowly cooked over nearly two decades in the business.
The founders first started during the boom of the 2000s, albeit a very different one than the Silicon Valley kind: the decade that the holiday property business on Europe’s southern shores exploded. Selling lucratively priced seaside apartments and villas to private investors led the company to offer property management services to the mostly foreign new owners, which then led them to be the first to include the option to directly rent out the property through existing booking engines, which finally resulted in developing their own engine and marketing tools.
And this is where Quendoo, after ten years of operation, uncovered the big, unfulfilled promise of a property world eaten by software: the lack of professional management solutions for small property owners, outside of a handful of monopolistic, global booking systems and software for enterprise-level hotel chains.
As Gorian and Christophe put it, you can’t really understand the needs of property owners if you haven’t been catering to them for well over a decade. The explosive growth of the holiday property market, combined with the appearance of dominating platforms like Booking.com and AirBnB, have created an entire class of people whose livelihood depends on their holiday property investment. From urban families owning a single property in Bulgaria or Greece, to increasing numbers of local residents who remodel and market their own summer dwellings and then do the same for their relatives and neighbors.
Hundreds of thousands of property owners rely on rental income and value appreciation for their current paycheck as well as retirement, and their number is expected to go into millions by 2030. In the words of the Quendoo team, this opens up an entirely new market, which isn’t catered to by solutions whose clients are either holidaymakers or enterprise hotel chains.
While Quendoo is far from being the first property management tool for private owners, its unique approach is that it optimizes for the large global booking engines, as well as for the increasingly growing secondary channels, providing a unified payment solution and marketing optimization for the listed properties. And then there’s the community approach, that the Quendoo founders are particularly proud of.
“Working with local residents and owners for such a long time”, says Gorian, “we invest heavily in helping them with setting up their property in our system, making sure it all works. "
For us at Vitosha, the bet on Quendoo is a bet on a fairer, better marketplace for everyone. If global online commerce can unlock access to products and services for anyone anywhere, it also means there’s a huge opportunity to offer solutions and value on the supply side of the market, here at home, on the beautiful coastlines of Bulgaria, Greece, and the rest of our region and Europe.
Taking back control - it may be an expression tainted by the recent political upheaval in Europe and beyond, but in the case of Quendoo, it’s a shining promise of bringing back the value of online opportunities to where they are created. And that’s something we’re more than excited to back with our venture funding and growth resources at Vitosha.