Globe is an app for people who want to rent a space for a short period of time (even just an hour) and hosts who have the space to offer it to them. With the demand for rentals down nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, those hosts include property managers who may have spaces that have gone unused. .
"We’re just connecting them to folks that want to get work done but they are slammed in with their roommates, their spouses, their kids," Manny Bamfo, CEO of Globe, tells USA TODAY. "They’re not used to being crammed in like this."
What sticks out about the company right now is its huge jump in guest interest amid the pandemic, where others in the hospitality space have experienced a significant downturn and have slowly started to see occupancy rates rise.
Guests crave something simple right now: To find a space that's nearby, either in their building or neighborhood, like a nearby living room they can use to be productive.
How and why Globe started
Bamfo co-founded the company last summer with chief technology officer Eric Xu, a college friend from Washington University in St. Louis.
The concept originally grew out of wanting people to be able to make money every time they go to work. Homes are empty throughout the day, after all, so why not rent them out to fellow workers who may want a more intimate setting for a coffee meeting or phone call than a Starbucks?
Just as their business began to grow, the coronavirus pandemic hit. The pair grew concerned people wouldn't use the service. The company nearly went under at the end of February and into March, because hosts who previously gave inventory while at work were suddenly at home and didn't want guests.
But then a new phenomenon happened. Property managers on short-term rental platforms like Vrbo and Airbnb had empty spaces due to the downturn in travel around the country, particularly conference travel, giving Globe a new type of consumer: Someone who wanted to leave their house for a bit close by to get work done. A few weeks into the pandemic, Globe saw an uptick in interest.
The company rebounded in mid-March, growing 100% over eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May. It has added 30,000 new users amid the pandemic, since March 1.
"We give them the opportunity to be able to get that respite" Bamfo says.
As states have opened up and transitioned from lockdowns to "safer-at-home" orders, Bamfo says that many people are still working from home. And those who have returned to work are still looking for places to take breaks in between meetings, hitting both of the service's sweet spots.
"It demonstrates that the country’s starting to open back up and there’s a way for us to add revenue," Bamfo says.
Why might people use a Globe space? Essential workers may be looking for breaks during the workday; non-essential workers may use it as a work space. Hosts clarify what type of activity they are comfortable with in their units, and guests are matched accordingly.
The company has noticed different trends across the country. On the East Coast, for example, many people are booking solo. The West Coast is seeing more collaborative business, with customers booking rooms with their roommate or meeting with a manager. Several people in the South have inquired about booking a space for a church service (though depending on the state, restrictions may prohibit large gatherings).
"Everybody’s kind of thinking about space differently across the several regions that we’re operating in," Bamfo says.
How guests can use Globe
Guests can download the app at globeliving.com, and companies that want to rent space for their workforce or conduct interviews with job candidates can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hosts can list their homes at globeliving.com/#/share-your-home.
Once downloaded, guests can search for listings, scroll through results and click on individual spaces for details.
Pricing ranges anywhere from $25 to $100 per hour and varies throughout the country. A booking in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be less expensive than New York City, for example.
All guests are asked to follow local municipality laws regarding COVID-19. Guests must also submit a picture of their temperature (i.e. a photo of their thermometer with a temperature reading) in order to receive check-in instructions. Bamfo says Globe implemented that rule in an effort to keep both guests and hosts safe.
The company has seen high temperature readings, and those accounts have been paused for 14 days. It is not aware of any positive tests among its clients.
Globe asks its hosts to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 cleanliness guidelines, and give them a checklist of what to clean before and after bookings (such as light switches, TV remotes, toilets and showers).
The concept of renting workspace by the hour exists elsewhere in the industry: Some hotels serve as day workspaces, also known as flex rooms. Before the coronavirus, it wasn't uncommon for people to book hotel rooms for small group meetings.
"A hotel room with free Wi-Fi might be worth it if you had a full day of Zoom/web meetings planned," Steve Carvell, a professor of finance in Cornell University's SC Johnson College of Business, told USA TODAY. "We all know what it’s like when children and a significant other are using Wi-Fi bandwidth while an important business meeting is going on."
Given that the pandemic is far from over, these types of services may be just what consumers are looking for a reprieve from their day-to-day monotony.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Escape your COVID-19 quarantine by renting a space with Globe