Today WeHostels is announcing its public launch, pivoting from its beginnings as Inbed.me. The currently mobile-only app is targeting the space between CouchSurfing and Airbnb — the world of cheap hotel and hostel bookings. The startup is still riding its $1.2 million raised this past spring, and silently added 30,000 downloads in the past three weeks.
Before the WeHostels mobile app, the service existed as Web client Inbed.me – but surprise, we users all have our minds in the gutter and interpreted the name in the most inappropriate way possible. Though there’s been a name change, the concept more or less remains the same: Connect to Facebook and find last-minute affordable last-minute accommodations on-the-go. It’s not all utility, however, and the social link gives you options to connect with other guests so you can, as WeHostels puts it, make friends en route before you even get to your destination.
Of course, the other big switch-up would be that fact that WeHostels is entirely ditching the desktop in favor of a mobile-approach. According to the team, it was a pure logistics decision when they saw traffic from smartphones growing 10 times faster than their Web app.
“We decided to focus only in mobile because it’s a fascinating new arena that requires a very unique set of skills in terms of product design and distribution,” says co-founder Diego Saez-Gil. “By focusing only in mobile, we’re forcing ourselves to become experts on it, and therefore we can outperform any team in any big company working on it.”
Despite that focus, WeHostels sees beyond the smartphone. “In the future we plan to develop solutions for all devices and platforms – we will need to be ubiquitous,” Saez-Gil tells me. “But we prefer to start on the one platform where the new ways of interacting with the Web are happening.”
The fast and quiet growth that WeHostels experiencd over the last few weeks saw the userbase grow largely in the United States, with Europe coming in second, and from there travelers in South America and Australia getting on board with the network. The current version of WeHostels has 80 cities available, but new partnerships with Hostelworld and Expedia will hugely increase those options worldwide.
“We will keep growing in terms of cities and accommodations, and we will develop for other devices,” says Saez-Gil, who mentions that iPad and Android are up next. “In the longer future we consider expanding to other verticals in the travel space and becoming the one-stop-shop where young travelers plan and book their trips from mobile devices.”