A startup from Russia called TravelRent just launched aiming at the short term private accommodation niche that is so huge in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere in the Russian Federation. We took a look at the new site, which ended up being a mix of good and bad features – but at least an improvement over previous Russian websites.
Let me start with the good things about TravelRent before heading off into a dissertation on what many startup companies do so wrong. First off, TravelRent does solve a number of so called “points of pain” for potential guests, as well as for apartment owners wanting to lease their properties. The primary advantage TravelRents has over previous entries is, of course, “being better than horrible is not so hard.” From personal experience, even the best domains in Russia can have the worst online business sense. I know because in our PR and Marketing business, we have tried to communicate with dozens of Russian Federation entities – not one of which even still has the slightest idea how to engage on the web.
So, TravelRent appears to have gotten someone who know how to create an updated design and some good tools. The image below shows the crisp, and no-nonsense layout and aesthetics of the news site. Nice images sizes, easy navigation, and clearly defined info and tools, make this a pretty nice platform. Twitter, Facebook, and etc., the company at least understands something about channels. For their part, TravelRent is approaching what they say their “vision” is. Mr Stanislav Frolov, CEO of TravelRent.com, had this to say.
“While creating TravelRent we did our best to simplify the process of booking short-time rental accommodation and to provide guarantees to those making use of this process.”
Now for the bad news. First off, the developers here are behind the curve where “social” is concerned. Hardly anyone cares about being part of YOUR community – thank you very much, we have enough of those to go around. Take it from an expert, there’s no time left to engage with a Russian Federation apartment rental operation – we just need to see, appreciate, and book your rooms – period.
Bad news item 2 – the site does not appear to be Google Chrome friendly, the buttons “no-worky” in my default browser. My Opera? No, not very well either. Internet Explorer? Wait a minute, their social media buttons, language selection, and some other buttons don’t work in anything! Not good. In the case of TravelRent, Fastlane Ventures, a Moscow Internet property development company, went a bit TOO FAST. The site has some bugs, not to mention three year old corporate PR dogma in their release. Marina Treshchova, CEO of Fast Lane Ventures, commented on the launch of TravelRent:
“The perceptiveness of the business model adapted by TravelRent.com has already been proven abroad. The leader of the segment – American Airbnb – has already risen more than $110 mln of external investments. We sought to find a mutually beneficial solution and include this company in our business portfolio.”
I know Russian business people appreciate directness, perhaps more than their contemporaries to the West. So, here goes. You guys did your best job here in beating Welcome to Russia and 100 other Federation booking portals – then kicked the football out of bounds instead of in the net. Fastlane evidently feels creating MORE booking portals, is BETTER than funding just one really good one.
The firm also developed RentHome.ru, who’s 1 Twitter follower I actually could find. And, the KupiBonusclub?, Teamo – a Russian dating/ marriage site – yeehaa, and DOMGEO – a nice real estate site that pretty much accomplishes the same rental aspect, plus Jizo – yet another flight meta search engine – ho hum. There are others too.
An “edgy” company like Fastlane has potential in an emerging Russia and East European market, I just hate to see Treshchova’s good efforts masked by antiquated marketing lingo, dated ideas about social platforms, and mediocrity leaking into otherwise great ideas! Travel, tourism, and even dating and sex sells, of course, but you can sell a lot more of it with a more up to date and refined approach. As a last note, I did manage to find the 3 Twitter followers of TravelRent on Twitter via a Google search. Sheeesh.
How’s that for direct?
For more information on TravelRent, interested parties can contact Lada Shcherbakova, PR Director for the companies at +7 495 2213351