NomadX, a platform where digital nomads can find quality affordable housing, wants to revive the role of “hosts” as it believes in the importance of local community engagement, the company’s co-founder says.
“We want to bring the host back into the equation. The host is an important part of our platform,” David Nicol Williams, who is also chairman and CEO at NomadX, told Via News in a recent exclusive interview.
Before founding NomadX in Lisbon in 2017, Dave and his wife, Jen, spent years traveling the world and spotted an opportunity to enhance the way location-independent professionals—or digital nomads—live, work, and travel.
“In our travels throughout the world, we saw that there are a lot of nomads looking for housing and looking for community. My wife and I were looking for the same thing, and we just weren’t able to find it through a lot of the more traditional channels and solutions like Airbnb,” he explained.
Dave, a U.S. pioneer in the digital marketing, advertising, and ad tech industries and a serial digital entrepreneur for over 20 years, believes that online marketplaces such as Airbnb provide a good solution for short-term travelers but are expensive for slow-traveling professionals.
“So we saw the need for more of a month-to-month housing solution,” he said, adding that the apartments featured on their platform are typically about half the price of Airbnb’s listings.
“We want to bring the host back into the equation. The host is an important part of our platform.”David Nicol Williams, chairman and CEO at NomadX
NomadX was started in Portugal and is opening next on the Indonesian island of Bali in early 2020, and the company plans to expand to other top digital nomad destinations in the world.
In late 2019, NomadX reached a key milestone of having over 1,000 property listings across Portugal and with over 80% of the listings verified.
“The platform is made up of private apartments. You could share a department with a local or you can have a co-living space on the platform,” Dave said, adding that they have listings not only in Lisbon and Porto but other places like Ericeira, Peniche, Lagos, and Madeira.
“We want people to have the experience of not only visiting Lisbon but going to places like Ericeira that are becoming real hot spots for digital nomads.”
NomadX was started in Portugal and is opening next on the Indonesian island of Bali in early 2020. The company plans to expand to other top digital nomad destinations in the world.
Asked why he chose Portugal, Dave said he and Jen fell in love with the country and were inspired by its entrepreneurial vibe.
“We attended the first Web Summit [in Lisbon] back in 2016. I had no idea that so much entrepreneurship activity was going on here in Portugal and when we attended Web Summit, we just got really inspired by what was going on here.”
He said one of the main distinctive features of NomadX is that it is focused on professionals, mainly digital nomads, and not only offers housing solutions but also has a “community layer” built around it.
The company also plans to offer educational programs to help people become digital nomads, he added.
Dave argues that Airbnb, which is their “main competitor” and is “leading the way” for them, has become “impersonal”.
Airbnb’s initial concept was to help travelers get an airbed and breakfast at a house and it was all about the “host”, he said, referring to Airbnb’s original name—Airbed & Breakfast.
“But they’ve kind of transitioned away from the host. A lot of the hosts are now outsourced to a third party. So the relationship with the host isn’t really the same,” he added while emphasizing that “hosts” and the “local community” are an integral part of NomadX.
“You’ll have a local host who’ll help introduce you to the neighborhood, restaurants, and the local way of life. We also make it easy to connect with other digital professionals, both on and offline, through accommodations, online social channels, local meetups, and social events,” reads a promo on NomadX’s website.
NomadX is focused on professionals, mainly digital nomads, and not only offers housing solutions but also has a “community layer” built around it.David Nicol Williams, chairman and CEO at NomadX
Advantages for Hosts
On the advantages of listing a property on NomadX for hosts, Dave said many cities are cracking down on Airbnb and stepping up regulations and there is a lot more taxes around it.
“There’s a lot of turnover in the Airbnb’s too. Typically people are coming in for two or three days or maybe a week at a time. I think a lot of the hosts are looking for people to stay at their properties that are more consistent.”
He added that Airbnb mostly deals with tourists who may cause disturbances for neighbors. “With ours, it’s more of a professional audience—people that are looking to spend time in Portugal usually for three months at a time. They might leave and then come back.”
According to him, NomadX was initially a free platform but plans to introduce some fees in 2020. “The idea is to actually do it at a lower rate than what Airbnb charges as we feel like Airbnb prices are very high.”
“As we get more and more locations throughout the world, the idea would be to have more of a membership model so you can come in and you pay a membership fee. For that, you get everything included like ‘all-you-can-eat’ and then even having a VIP membership where you get access to our educational programs or you get free access to events,” he added.
Supporting Local Community
NomadX’s desire to support the local community is reflected in its founders’ decision to shift the company from a standard corporation into what is called a “public benefit corporation” to “promote friendliness, cultural understanding, and social interaction between digital nomads and the local communities in which they live and work”.
“One of the missions of the company is actually to give back to the community and to support the communities where we live and where we operate, whether that’s through doing workshops or doing events or doing fundraising-type events or planting trees,” Dave said.
He says this issue has become really important to the foundation of the company because Millennials and Generation Z—the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials—are looking for companies that “offer a benefit or have a mission beyond just making a profit.”
“The younger generation wants to work for companies that are either nonprofit or companies that have a broader mission,” he said, adding that they also prefer to give their money to companies that have a worthwhile cause. “And a lot of our clients are Millennials.”
“The younger generation wants to work for companies that are either nonprofit or companies that have a broader mission.”David Nicol Williams, chairman and CEO at NomadX
Employee Stock Plan
Dave also explained that people who work at NomadX has equity in it as it is an employee-owned company.
“So I look at the employees as my business partners. Instead of them coming to work and working 9 to 5 and putting in the hours, you know they have something more at stake. So we want to create a unique opportunity for everyone in the company.”