You rent out your apartment on Airbnb and the guests are throwing an all-night rager. You only find out three days later when the neighbors are furiously and passive-aggressively putting up signs around the apartment building about “someone” throwing loud parties on the third floor. Minut just raised $14 million to further expand its privacy-forward “shhhh, it’s time to take it down a few notches” solutions for the hospitality sector.
“I was talking with one of the first employees at Airbnb, when they were at Y Combinator. Even in the very early days, they had an issue: When people are renting out their apartments they have a monitoring need. There was no other option but to put up cameras, and that was turning into a big problem for Airbnb,” Nils Mattisson, co-founder and CEO of Minut, explains where the idea came from. “Years later, that idea came back to me. Having been at Apple and having worked with a lot of technologies that were ahead of the times, in terms of combining machine learning and privacy. I first saw how these two came together and how we would be able to solve this problem and balance monitoring and privacy in a good way. So that was the original seed and where we’ve come back to now, almost 10 years later.”
The Minut sensor monitors noise, occupancy, motion and temperature in vacation rental properties. The company sees itself in the role of a co-host, supporting hosts in preventing parties, enhancing the guest experience and protecting their homes.
“The sensor is about the size of the palm of your hand. It’s an IoT device — it’s got a small computer in there and a bunch of different sensors. Instead of streaming the data to the cloud, we built a solution where analysis is happening on the sensor. And that enables you to use it in cases where you need to respect the privacy of people. That has enabled us to target the short-term rental sector. If you’re renting out your flat, you want to make sure that you get it back in the same way,” says Mattisson. “The value we provide to the host and to the guest is really that we provide monitoring. When we see there are problems with over-occupancy or things that could disturb neighbors, we contact the guests. In over 90% of cases, that means the problem goes away.”
Occupancy and room-use monitoring is big business across several sectors, and there are a number of products on the market that function similarly to Minut. Density, InnerSpace and VergeSense (the latter of whom recently raised $60 million) are competing for occupancy sensing for office and industrial buildings; in the residential sector, there are a few options, too. “We want to help you protect your space, maintain the privacy of your guests, and preserve your relationship with neighbors. This means helping you detect issues in real time,” Airbnb writes on its website, recommending Minut, NoiseAware and Roomonitor as options to its hosts.
Minut is taking an approach of sound analysis on the edge of the network — in other words, without sending video or audio data to Minut’s servers. The selling point is to be able to offer near-real-time data, without compromising guest privacy. Minut claims that Airbnb thinks that’s a very good idea:
“Airbnb is actively promoting responsible and sustainable tourism. Minut’s solution supports Hosts on Airbnb in their efforts to promote trust and safety in their homes and in communities,” Vladimir Beroun, senior manager, Public Policy at Airbnb, is quoted in Minut’s press release.
The company is selling the sensors relatively cheaply — at $50 — with a $150 per year subscription.
“We are more like a SaaS platform, and we charge a monthly fee per property. We charge for the sensor, but we’re not really trying to make any money on the hardware side. This business model change is what’s really enabled this funding round as well. To an investor we look more like a software company,” says Mattisson. “On top of the sensor, we are able to build this SaaS platform — we wouldn’t be able to do that if we didn’t have the data underneath.”
Minut’s Series B was led by Almaz Capital, with participation from Zenith, Kompas, Verve Ventures and Swiss Immo Lab. Previous investors Karma, SOSV’s HAX and KPN Ventures also participated. Minut claims it has tens of thousands of devices in operation in more than 100 countries. It has offices in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, France and Spain.