As Uber and AirBnB struggle with trust issues, Melissa Yang has found the killer app to overtake AirBnB in China. Today, she raised $300 million, valuing her company, Tujia at $1.5 billion.
What’s her killer app? While tech companies are creating a digital layer on our human world, she has created a trust layer on the digital world.
She co-founded Tujia 5 years ago, after staying at a friend’s villa in Sanya, China. At the time she was working for Microsoft’s search engine, Bing. She found herself surrounded by hundreds of empty houses and thought “These empty properties were a great waste of resources. That’s when I decided I would quit Bing and set up our company.”
So she set out to create the “AirBnB of China”.
But Melissa quickly found the Chinese had different needs. As an example she says - “My husband and I traveled a lot in the U.S. and Europe. So it’s common to take out the trash when we leave. However, in China, let’s say somebody booked a villa for about $100 U.S. a night, and you ask him, “By the way, when you leave, please take out the trash,” he wouldn’t be happy.”
The solution? “We managed all the properties ourselves from the beginning.”
Melissa created a ‘service layer’ on top of the AirBnB model, with a team to train each home owner on service, ensure honest photos, manage check ins, check outs, customer service and cleaning.
Her strategy has led to Tujai rapidly growing to 650,000 properties globally, where Asian visitors know the Tujia brand stands for a trusted level of service and quality.
In China, Tujia has now grown far larger than AirBnB.
Melissa explains: “Tujia is actually a Chinese word. It means ‘home on a journey.”
That sense of feeling at home wherever you travel has led to partnerships with travel and home rental giants like Ctrip and HomeAway, which have all now become investors in Tujia. Today Melissa raised $300 million at a $1.5 billion valuation to accelerate her global growth.
While tech companies like Uber and AirBnB have grown fast through the sharing economy, their dependence on the behaviour of their drivers and hosts has led to challenges with trust. Melissa is at the forefront of the next generation of companies that are growing rapidly - where they are adding a service and trust layer to the sharing economy.
While AirBnB has created a digital layer to your human experience, Tujia has created a human layer to your digital experience.
Tujia’s trust layer is Melissa’s billion dollar magic formula.
How can you add a similar service layer to your industry?
“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~ Damon Richards