New York City-based CasaHop aims to be the go-to place for home swapping on the web, and it’s signed up a pretty impressive lineup of investors. The company just raised a $1.2 million seed round led by First Round Capital, with participation from Lerer Ventures, Betaworks, hotelier Andre Balazs (who owns The Standard and The Mercer), MTV co-founder and Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, TechStars managing director David Tisch, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) founder Nicholas Negroponte, 24/7 Real Media and Tacoda co-founder Dave Morgan, and Moat and WGI Group co-founder Jonah Goodhart.
The idea behind CasaHop is to democratize home sharing, and use technology to help people find places to stay and learn more about the places that they’re visiting. There’s something about being able to drop into each others’ lives and travel like a local that’s appealing, but few sites have specialized in the experience. Paul Berry, the ex-CTO of HuffPo and partner in SoHo Tech Labs, where CasaHop was incubated, has done a number of home swaps over the years, but believes it could be made easier.
So now there’s CasaHop to facilitate the process. For now, the team is looking to push out product early and iterate along the way. It’s still early on, but the startup is already looking to add new features. While the site is mostly focused on connecting people with each other to exchange homes now, Berry said the team is looking to roll out travel clubs and build more community features for the site.
It’s also looking to increase its visibility — and that’s where its investors and advisors come in. Berry told me this morning that choosing the right investors was just as important as getting the cash to help incubate the idea. Balazs, for instance, is a luminary in the travel and hospitality field, and Pittman has been instrumental in building huge consumer brands.
CasaHop is just one of a few startups to come out of Soho Tech Labs, which was founded by the likes of Ken Lerer, Eric Hippeau, Jonah Peretti, Eric Ashman, Berry and Greg Coleman. Ben Regenspan, another HuffPo alum, is the CTO of CasaHop, which now has about 14 employees in total.