The world is rife with me-too startups, which makes it all the more refreshing when a founder comes along that manages to find a broken market that’s hiding in plain sight.
That’s what Mike Kennedy appears to be doing with Koala, a young outfit determined to update the stodgy world of property time-share management, wherein people acquire points or otherwise pay for a unit at a timeshare resort that they intend to regularly use or swap or rent out (or all three).
It’s a big and growing market. According to data published last year by EY, the U.S. timeshare industry grew nearly 7% between 2017 and 2018 to hit $10.2 billion in sales volume.
It’s a market that Kennedy became acquainted with first-hand as a sales executive at the Hilton Club in New York, which, at least in 2018, was among 1,580 timeshare resorts up and running, representing approximately 204,100 units, most of them with two bedrooms or more.
Despite this growth, timeshares don’t jump to travelers’ minds as readily as hotel rooms or Airbnb stays, and therein lies the opportunity.
Part of the problem, as Kennedy see it, is that timeshares are harder to rent out than they should be. If a timeshare owner wants to reserve a week outside of the week that he or she purchased, for example, that person has to go through an antiquated exchange system like RCI (owned by Wyndam) or Interval International (owned by Marriott). Kennedy, who spent 10 years with Hilton, says he saw a number of his customers grow frustrated over time with their inability to better control their units’ usage.