A year after securing an investment on ABC’s Shark Tank, the AirBnb-like service Rent Like a Champion (RLAC) is coming to the Akron-Canton area for the 2017 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the company is looking to sign up at least 25 houses near the golf course by the end of this year.
Established in 1999, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is played on Firestone Country Club’s South Course and professional golfers are already looking for places to stay nearby.
"We’ve been providing lodging for golfers, caddies, tournament vendors and sponsors, and fans coming in for the event," said RLAC CEO Mike Doyle. "With a bigger group, they would rather stay in a house than a hotel room for the four to five days and that’s where we come into play," said Mike Doyle, CEO of RLAC.
Like AirBnB, RLAC allows homeowners to list their property with no upfront costs on the website and earn extra income when someone books their home. However, the Chicago-based company works in a niche, renting homes for weekend sporting events in small cities and college towns to sports enthusiasts and professional athletes. This distinguishes the business from AirBnb which focuses more on typical vacation-location, big city rentals for tourists and business professionals.
Professional athletes and sports fans login and search for properties by event and location. They can select the size and price bracket of the home they are looking to stay in. After a home is booked, RLAC exchanges contact information between the two parties via the online platform so that WiFi passwords, keys, and other details can be worked out ahead of time.
In Akron-Canton, RLAC is looking for homes of different sizes and price points for the five day event next August. Doyle encourages all interested owners close to the golf course to sign up.
"The more (people signed up), the better," Doyle said. "The closer to the course, the better. Our renters will be interested in anything from five to 10 miles. We want to have a group that fits every size and budget level from one bedroom condos to six-bedroom homes."
Homeowners decide the price at which to list their house. Since most people are new to renting their home, the website gives advice on list prices depending on the number of people the home can sleep and how close to the course it is. After a booking, RLAC earns its money by taking 15 percent of the rent charged by homeowners and a 9 percent fee from renters. For owners more than 10 miles away from the golf course and country club, Doyle said they would definitely still be interested in listing the house and seeing if it gets booked.
For those that worry about renters trashing the place, RLAC insures all homes with $1 million insurance policy, which becomes the primary policy for the duration of the rental. Renters must also submit a $1,000 deposit and agree to a contract taking responsibility for any damage to the home.
"Our rentals are typically at a higher price point," said Doyle. "The clientele we market toward generally treat the homes very well. We have less than a 2 percent incident rate."
During the event, owners usually stay in town or with family in order to maximize the savings that they earn from renting out their property. People have used these savings to make additions to the house, pay off the mortgage faster, set aside for children’s college fund, or go on vacation.
Last year, cofounder Drew Mitchell and Doyle secured an investment of $200,000 from Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban and Chris Sacca in exchange for 10 percent equity in the company. In an update that aired on Nov. 11, the company revealed it has made more than $5 million in sales since partnering with Cuban and Sacca.
The idea first came to Mitchell and his cofounders when they were struggling to find tenants to rent their apartment in 2006. All that changed when they put up an ad on Craigslist to see if anyone would want to use it as a crash pad after Notre Dame football games. The listings booked immediately and RLAC was born. In 2010, Doyle joined the company to expand the business to other college towns and sports.
"When we were on Shark Tank, most of our focus was around weekend events for college football games," Doyle said. "In the last six months, we’ve made some strides into other big time events around the country. One of the places we’ve seen the most success is PGA tournaments."
The company offers rentals in more than 20 towns across the country. RLAC graduated from 1871, Chicago's hub for digital startups, and moved to the incubator and co-work space Catapult Chicago.