We all know the phrase “sharing is caring”, yet most of us aren’t getting that caring feeling when we’re waiting for our ride-share or combing through reviews to book a place on AirBnB. Those experiences feel like regular business transactions, only with strangers instead of large corporations. That’s where MyPlace comes in. Zach Bell, co-founder and CEO, shares his vision for a sharing via community networks, how MyPlace is evolving to fill that vision, and how his experience in On Deck Scale have shaped that path.
Note: This is part of a series where we talk to On Deck Founders alumni about the companies they’re building and what it will take to propel them to the next level. Consider joining our incredible community of founders who have launched over 1000 companies worth over $9B. Apply here.
Sharing is a trust-based business
Zach Bell bills himself as “impatient”. When he has a need or a problem, he’s not waiting for someone else to fix it. So, despite founding several companies, he’s never set out to create a startup — only to find a solution.
His current company, MyPlace, was born out of that solution-focused mindset. Zach was often traveling, whether for enjoyment or as part of his role at Habitas, a hospitality group. He was adamant that while he wasn’t staying at one of his apartments, he’d like for them to be enjoyed by his extended network of friends and family. But there wasn’t an easy and efficient way to let those people know that this was an option — and renting the spaces out on a short-term basis wasn’t something Zach was interested in.
“I was frustrated that [my apartments] were always empty and I had no interest in renting my house to strangers. I just wanted my friends to be able to use my places while I was away.”
He quickly engineered his own solution — a simple, no-code website with an embedded Google calendar. He shared the password with close to a hundred of his friends. It didn’t take long for that number to balloon to 2,000 individuals sharing their homes with each other simply through the mutual trust of everyone being connected through direct or secondary relationships. Complete strangers also started asking to be included — but only to share with their own networks of trusted individuals. That’s when Zach understood that he’d discovered the missing element of the promised sharing economy turned marketplace — trust.
Scaling through trust in On Deck
Zach followed his instinct when it came to the next stage of growth for MyPlace. He knew about On Deck from sharing a stage with Erik Torenberg, On Deck’s co-founder, at The Web Conference a few years ago. Zach greatly respected Erik and when he saw the launch of On Deck Scale he saw a path for him to join the community.
“None of the original programs spoke to me because I wasn't looking for my next thing, I was doing my next thing. I felt that this program was right for me — I had my thing and I was going through growing pains. I thought being around people that are in the same position could really help. And it has.”
While Zach’s personal and professional networks are full of knowledgeable and successful individuals, joining a program with peers who had a breadth of knowledge and experience related to scaling a startup was a case of being at the right place at the right time. As members were navigating this very particular roadmap, each one shared their expertise to help others — effectively collectively growing their companies.
“One of my main challenges was growing a team quickly. I had a few people in my Mastermind group that had thousands of employees at different parts of their career and they were able to give me advice throughout the process. Without On Deck I could have made some hiring and firing mistakes.”
The program provided guidance, while the camaraderie among the cohort accelerated any efforts of the members. Zach, unsurprisingly, values the sharing aspect of On Deck.
Through ODS, Zach also had structured opportunities to connect with the investor community of the On Deck Angels cohort running in parallel, which led to a surge of additional funding into MyPlace from the angel investors he met with. The sharing culture of On Deck Fellows meant that Zach was also introduced to Ocean Ventures. The VC not only invested in the company, but has been an incredibly helpful and involved partner for MyPlace’s growth. The sense of caring for others’ outcomes and sharing resources to make goals a reality is something that resonates with Zach’s vision for MyPlace.
Building for a true shared space
With trust being the steady underlying current from the onset, MyPlace was getting flooded with users asking to add their closest contacts to the site. But Zach understood that the company needed to focus on building the product over focusing on user growth, which is naturally built in through the network effect.
Unlike the simple, original website, the MyPlace that will stand at full launch is a complicated hybrid — a big piece of software that’s part booking management tool, part social network, and part search engine.
By leveraging the support of his On Deck cohort and services like On Deck’s Talent Hub, Zach expanded MyPlace’s team to make that platform a reality. He understands that MyPlace users, and most people, need trust to share things that they value. So, most people aren’t looking to become microentrepreneurs with their biggest investment — their home.
“We don't expect to be the place where you find housing all the time. We expect it to be the place to check first. Our users ask themselves ‘Do I know anyone in NYC?’”
MyPlace will be a part of a whole ecosystem of options for travel accommodation, but it expects to be the first on the list because it’s powered by the faith shared between already established networks. Most people instinctively reach out to friends and family in a location they’re visiting, MyPlace creates an easy reference point to see exactly where their connections are located — especially useful as we see relocations and nomadism skyrocket thanks to the new normal of remote work.
A future vision of sharing with MyPlace
While the focus for MyPlace — for now — is to enable people to share their living spaces. That requires the company to effectively create digital networks of the real life connections people share. By enabling users to visualize their rich and distributed networks, Zach envisions a future of shared experiences, not just spaces.
“People want to share with their friends. We've been taught that since kindergarten. There is an intangible and deeper value you get when you share what you have with friends and friends of friends.”
Once that’s in place, Zach believes people will use those networks to share anything they’d like — whether that’s household items or knowledge and experiences. Through the beta program and Zach’s own experience in On Deck he knows that people like to share. His vision is that we’ll be able to share anything with our friends - through MyPlace.
To start we can all share the place where our hearts are with the people we trust when MyPlace launches to the public.
MyPlace has a growing waitlist in Beta, be sure to create an account here.