Recharge
hotels

Recharge, which lets users book hotels by the minute, just launched in New York

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Recharge, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based company whose app enables users to book a stay in a hotel for just 66 cents a minute, is opening in select New York hotels today, after testing its service over the last year in San Francisco.

The company has also raised an undisclosed amount of funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures, the corporate venture arm of airline JetBlue, which began providing seed funding to early-stage tech, travel and hospitality startups roughly a year ago.

Recharge’s earlier investors include Binary Capital, Floodgate, entrepreneur Rick Marini, Eniac VC, Expansion VC, investors Scott and Cyan Banister and early Google engineer Harry Cheung. They’d provided the company with $2.3 million in seed funding as of June of last year.

Recharge is an interesting startup, one that we’ve half-kiddingly compared in the past with hotels that have long rented rooms by the hour for illicit activities. Given the caliber of the hotels with which it’s partnering, however, it’s seemingly time to rethink its place in the world. In New York, customers can now book rooms at The Pierre, W New York, The Knickerbocker and 1 Hotel Central. In San Francisco, it has struck partnerships with 15 properties, from the downtown Hilton hotel to the five-star hotel Taj Campton Place.

According to co-founder and CEO Emmanuel Bamfo, Recharge, which has been used by at least 25,000 people to date, has several primary use cases. These include business travelers who may want to freshen up before heading into a meeting; families who might be doing some shopping and dining and need a place to relax; and local commuters who don’t have the time or inclination to ride home between work and evening engagements.

Recharge’s partnership with JetBlue is purely financial for now, but Bamfo sees a day, too, when airlines use Recharge as a perk to offer for first-class travelers. You can imagine the business traveler whose flight is delayed being given a Recharge voucher, for example.

According to the 10-person company, the average stay is two hours. Customers of its most expensive hotels pay $3 a minute for the service, money that it shares with the hotel. Bamfo says the revenue split depends on the day and the time of month. (Hotels are always trying to maximize RevPAR, or the revenue pulled in from each available room.)

Bamfo also says that 75 percent of the people who’ve tried the service so far have used it more than once. “We have a lot of recurrent customers who use it several times a week, and sometimes even more than once in the same day.” The ultimate idea, he says, is “to provide a bed, bath and shower at the right price point, no matter where you are in the world.”

For the company to truly scale, one might imagine that subscriptions would need to come into play. Imagine buying a package of, say, 10 hours to stay in hotels in San Francisco or New York to be used within a certain amount of time. Asked about them, Bamfo says there’s high demand for such a product, and that subscriptions are likely coming.

“We see a lot of ways to [generate] incremental revenue,” he says, including hotel subscriptions that include food, massages, even personal trainers. “There a lot of things we could be, and will be, doing.”

Pictured above, left to right, co-founders Will Johnson, Emmanuel (“Manny”) Bamfo and Chris Lo.