Movin' On Up!

Posted by brian.sharples Jun 28, 2011

What were you doing 15 years ago?  Interestingly enough, fifteen years ago I was CEO of a business called Intelliquest and at about this time I was preparing to take that company public. Well, at that same time in 1996, an industry was being born, as Dave and Lynn Clouse were planning to launch a site called VRBO.com (or Vacation Rentals by Owner), so they could help their friends manage and market their vacation rental properties.   


Boy does time fly… 


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Fast forward to 2004 when Carl Shepherd (the co-founder of HomeAway) and I were lost on a highway off the coast of Oregon, headed to a place named Depoe Bay.  It was here we met the owners of the premier U.S. vacation rental sites, A1Vacations.com, GreatRentals.com, CyberRentals.com and the most prominent of all, VRBO.com. We were there to share our idea about transforming the vacation rental industry: we wanted to build the world’s most complete vacation rental marketplace, but we knew we couldn’t start from scratch to do it. In February 2005, Carl and I formally established HomeAway (formerly called WVR Group—don’t ask!). That month we acquired three of those four sites, as well as the U.K.’s, Holiday-Rentals.co.uk. In June 2006, we combined their inventory, along with that of FeWodirekt.de, a German company we acquired in December 2005, to launch HomeAway.com


VRBO.com wasn’t part of the original acquisitions we made to form the company- although we sure would have liked it to be.  As pioneers of the early vacation rental industry, the Clouses knew they had something special.  They didn’t want to sell the business they’d poured their hearts and souls into until they felt like they had found a good home for VRBO. According to Dave, “Over the years, we were approached dozens of times by those who wanted to acquire VRBO. Because of this, we were able to take the time to ’choose wisely‘ who we wanted to partner with.” Consequently, after much observation they realized “…there was no better place for VRBO to be than at HomeAway.”  With that, they decided to entrust their business to us, and we’re so honored they did!  


As many of you have now seen, this summer we are celebrating the fifth and fifteenth anniversaries of HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, respectively.  I’m extremely proud to be part of this company, which is fueled by the tireless efforts of our global team and the brand advocacy of our loyal customers.


Looking back on our accomplishments, I feel as though we’ve made tremendous progress towards our long-term mission, and I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things we’re most proud of, in no particular order:


•    The launch of HomeAway.com— this was a massive effort that helped us put our company on the map and is one of the reasons we’re celebrating today!

•    The acquisitions of VRBO.com and Homelidays.com—when we first started the business, we had some major competitors among these two brands, but luckily they’re now on our team and helping us to build the world’s largest vacation rental marketplace

•    Our First Super Bowl Ad— one of the boldest moves we’ve made at HomeAway—spending millions of dollars on a high-profile ad, while being a young tech company is usually a recipe for disaster, but I’m proud to say the commercial was a success and just won the Gold Effie award for one of the most effective campaigns of the year (other winners included Old Spice and Snickers)!

•    Raising $250 million in private equity funding on one of the worst days of the stock market in recent years—this is a true testament to the quality of the vacation rental offerings from our customers, the strength of our business and the future potential of the vacation rental industry

•    The entrepreneurial spirit lives on - the early vacation rental businesses were literally started at and run from the kitchen tables of their founders, and we try to epitomize that entrepreneurial spirit in every move we make, even honoring the idea at our weekly all-staff meetings, which we call “Table Talks.” We feel forever indebted to those original owners who helped us kick start our journey and define the culture of our company 


But the thing I think I’m most proud of is the impact we’ve had on our customers.  We’re thrilled when we hear another success story of an owner who was able to afford their dream retirement home as a result of the businesses we’ve either created or brought into the HomeAway family.  On the traveler side, and I can certainly relate, it’s heart-warming to think about the millions of vacation memories created as a result of HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and our other sites.  It was because of these great memories that I decided to start this business back in 2005!


To wrap up, I’d like to thank you all once again for helping to get us to this point.  Our customers are the life-blood of these two sites and we wholeheartedly appreciate your trust, support and commitment. We still have a long way to go, and I promise you we’ll continue to work tirelessly to make the experience of working with HomeAway better and better.


Here’s to the next fifteen years and the many more milestones to come! 




P.S. Check out the links to all of our Anniversary Celebration Items:


Press Announcement

Anniversary Trivia Challenge

“History of HomeAway” Timeline

Rent Your Way Around the World Infographic

ReservationManager™ is HomeAway’s new reservation management software designed for individual homeowners. Visit www.ReservationManager.com for more information.



A few weeks ago at the annual HomeAway Summit, I had the opportunity to meet with homeowners and property managers and I posed a simple question to the group: how many folks paid for their hotel stay with a check? Other than a few quizzical looks, the room was filled with a deafening silence.


The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we do things. We’ve come to expect the efficiency and convenience of shopping online and booking travel accommodations is no exception. Popular travel sites such as Expedia and Priceline.com have made the process of selecting and booking hotel accommodations simple and fast. The ability to pay online by credit cards enables travelers to finance vacations, not to mention accrue credit card reward points.


To help travelers discover the benefits of vacation rentals, and thereby maximize the results we deliver to your rental businesses, HomeAway believes we must “eCommerce – enable” our category. This translates into providing your guests the option to make easy and secure payments online.  In fact, this initiative is so important that we’ve made it one of our strategic priorities for the coming years.


We Listened

So you might be thinking, “Okay, accepting traveler payments online is certainly easier and faster than waiting for checks in the mail, but my booking process is where I need the most help. And I don’t want to pay more than 3% for credit card processing! How will you HELP ME?!”


Good question.


Over the past 3 years, I’ve heard from thousands of vacation rental owners via market research surveys and focus groups, HomeAway Seminars, and 1x1 interviews over the phone, email, and in person.


Here’s what you told us about booking guests:

•    Turning inquiries into bookings takes a lot of time and effort: you’d like to simplify the booking process

•    You want tools to decrease “busy-work” (data entry, reminding guests of payments due, etc.), increase your productivity, and keep you organized

•    You’d like to provide a more professional and consistent guest service, while maintaining control of the booking and screening processes

•    You want to spend less for online payment processing - or figure out how to accept online payments in the first place, and

•    You’d like a consolidated view of guest and reservation information across all HomeAway, Inc. marketing sources (HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, etc.)


We’ve heard your needs and ReservationManager is our solution.



ReservationManager is meant to simplify your overall booking process by making it easy for you to respond to inquiries, generate quotes and rental agreements, and offer online payments to your guests. In addition to simplifying your booking process, we’ve used our scale to deliver standout pricing, saving you money:


•    2.5% Visa, MasterCard, and Discover card processing

•    1% eCheck (ACH) processing


And it’s important to note that neither the credit card nor eCheck payment options involve hidden costs – no set-up, no monthly or per transaction fees, and no long-term commitment.


ReservationManager is now available to all U.S. homeowners who list on HomeAway.com, and we are working to enable online payments for non-U.S. homeowners. And while we don’t yet have a specific date, we plan to offer ReservationManager to VRBO.com homeowners too.


Visit www.ReservationManager.com to learn more. And, if you'd like to see how ReservationManager works, join us for an online product demonstration followed by questions and answers with the ReservationManager product team. View upcoming dates and register now.


I look forward to receiving your feedback and suggestions on ways to make ReservationManager even better. If you have questions, suggestions, or simply want to continue the Reservation Manager conversation, please check out these discussions:


ReservationManager Discussion or E-Payment Discussion


To stay up-to-date on new ReservationManager features and enhancements please join the ReservationManager Group.


As always, we’re here to serve you – our success depends on it.


Best Regards,

Patrick Duncan


Director, ReservationManager Product Marketing



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