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Tiny cabin rental startup sees surge in bookings amid COVID-19

Getaway CEO Jon Staff joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss his company's momentum during the pandemic and raising $47.1M in series C funding.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. In today's spotlight, we're featuring a company that you probably heard of if you've been looking to book a trip to unplug. For that, a growing number of people have been turning to Getaway, a company that rents out tiny cabins in the woods without Wi-Fi for a totally and completely unplugged getaway. Joining us is the CEO of the aptly named Getaway, Jon Staff.

And Jon, good to have you on here. We had your co-founder, Pete Davis, on before. But the big news this time around is that bookings are up huge, and you just raised more than $41 million in funding. So how busy has it been in the pandemic?

JON STAFF: We've been super busy. With all due respect to all the pain that's happened in the world, it's been a wild year for Getaway business-wise. So prior to the pandemic, we were historically about 90% occupied. We had an up and down March and April and early May, like so many folks did.

But from about mid-May, it came back with a vengeance. And so we went from about 90% occupied to literally 99 and 1/2% occupied everywhere. So we have been very busy.

Yeah, it's interesting to see your growth, Jon. Because if you think about a company like Airbnb, for example, they have seen significant growth because people are sick of staying in the same home. But they still need to work somewhere else.

AKIKO FUJITA: Your proposition is no Wi-Fi, plugging out, completely sort of not being tethered to your phone or your email. I'm wondering who's booking. What more do you have in terms of insight on where you're getting that demand from?

JON STAFF: It's really the same folks that have booked Getaway from when we started the company six years ago. It's folks that are feeling stressed out, over-connected, overcrowded. People that hopefully love their jobs but know it's not good for us to work all the time. People who, you know, recognize the power of technology but know that we have to have boundaries between us and our devices.

And you know, early on in the pandemic it was suggested that Getaway find a way to add Wi-Fi, because many folks could now work flexibly. And we drew a pretty hard line and said, no, we still need a time and a space where we can go and really disconnect from our day-to-day grind. And so we never did that. As we all became familiar with the idea of Zoom fatigue, I'm pretty happy we decided to stick to our guns.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I kind of love that. Because you know, it's a way to distinguish yourselves against kind of the Airbnbs and just kind of book whatever, because they have cabins too. You could probably get a cabin. But drawing that hard line is very interesting to see in today's digital age.

When it comes to raising money, obviously very different than an Airbnb, because you guys are building these cabins. So I imagine that's the $41 million that we're talking about here. How much of that is going to go into the growth of expanding beyond? Because I myself was looking at Getaway. Things got very pricey in the pandemic. And even booking one became difficult, because so many people were chasing you guys.

JON STAFF: Yeah, we're fortunate for all the demand we've seen this year. It is therefore incumbent upon us to bring more getaways to more folks, and in more places. So you know, all of that capital basically will go to expanding.

So we just opened a new location in the Catskills that we call the Western Catskills. We're under construction about to open outside of Chicago. We're under construction about to open outside of Seattle and Nashville. And hopefully, we'll be opening several more beyond that even this year. So we will be busy trying to fill in the map with more getaways.

AKIKO FUJITA: Jon, what do you see beyond these current bookings and cabins? It seems like you've got a lot of opportunities at hand here to go beyond just these getaways, but potentially move into lifestyle. What's sort of the grand vision as you see the company grow at such a significant rate?

JON STAFF: Well, the first thing to say is I'm a believer in the entrepreneurial, kind of one-on-one lesson of focus, focus, focus. And so right now, it's all about open more outposts, which is what we call these locations where we put our cabins. Make sure each one is better than the last one. Learn as rapidly as we can. And as I said before, bring it to more folks.

But you're absolutely right that the Gateway brand is not about tiny cabins in the woods. It's about having more balance in your life, about carving out the time and space to do nothing, to be off, to be with the closest ones in your life. And over time, while we don't have any plans immediately, we hope that we'll be able to bring balance to folks' lives in lots of other ways. But nothing to announce yet as we're sticking to our knitting and have a lot to do in the core business.