Flat-Club Launches Its ‘Trusted Airbnb For University Students’ On U.S. Campuses

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You might not think there could be a new take on the Airbnb model but Flat-Club thinks it has found one. The startup pitches itself as a sort of LinkedIn for short-term renting – or perhaps Airbnb for Students. Why LinkedIn and Airbnb? Well because – in something of a niche – it helps alumni and students of top universities to find short-term accommodation by leveraging existing social networks to create trust. Today it’s launching in 30 U.S. universities with a competition between universities for travel money, gadgets and internships. Universities now using the service include Columbia Business School, INSEAD, King’s College, LSE, IESE, and others.

Angel-backed Flat-Club’s model is that it takes a 6-15 percent charge but doesn’t charge the host. The average stay is almost a month, whereas Airbnb is a few nights. After launching first in London it now has 3,000 apartments in 10 major cities and 30,000 verified users after 22 months of trading.

Unusually, hosts on Flat-Club can choose who sees their postings – for instance, only alumni of specific universities. They say this brings more private hosts to post on Flat-Club.

They claim research by UCL found that 10 percent of private people will become hosts under the traditional model (Airbnb, Housetrip, 9flats, Wimdu), compared to 20 percent under the Flat-Club model – renting within trusted networks.

Anyone – not just students – can join, but to access the university clubs, you have to have a university email address.

The startup’s idea solves an obvious problem. Universities have obvious pain, since they have issues placing people for short periods. They hate sending people to Craigslist.