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Need a couch to crash on? Overnight mixes Airbnb with Uber on-demand

If you’re heading to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend, and you haven’t yet booked a place to stay, well, we wish you luck. Booking.com reports lodgings in the area at 82-percent reserved, with the cheapest place at $453 for three nights (if it hasn’t already been booked). Airbnb listings are averaging $628, with only 8 percent available.

Short of booking a hotel an hour away or coughing up the cash for the high rates, there’s a new option for this year’s attendees: Overnight. Currently available for iOS, this latest sharing economy app takes the Airbnb and Couchsurfing model and combines it with the spontaneous, on-demand approach of Uber and Booking Now. The service is available in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, and is now launching in the Coachella Valley of California, which includes the resort town of Palm Springs. To celebrate the launch, Overnight will host users in a pop-up campsite from April 15-17 and April 22-24, during the festival’s two weekends.

Update on July 14, 2016: The service has expanded to San Francisco and New York City.

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“I saw an unmet need in the market for spontaneous travelers who need last minute accommodations…”

“We’re proud to call L.A. our home, and Coachella is in our back yard,” Overnight Co-Founder and CEO Asher Hunt told Digital Trends. “We wanted to offer something unique to our L.A. community and have a home to offer weekend/day retreats for folks year round. It’s a great way to kick things off.”

Overnight is designed for the impulsive traveler who doesn’t plan in advance, and those who encounter unforeseen lodging needs, like a last-minute trip or unexpected guests. But instead of hotels, Overnight connects vetted users with homeowners who might have a sofa or bedroom for you, just like Airbnb and Couchsurfing.

“Last summer I was pulling 20-hour days at a startup based out of a home in San Francisco, and desperately needed a quiet place to get a few hours of sleep,” Hunt told us. “Due to my last minute request, my options were limited, and either outrageously expensive or simply too lavish for my needs. I wanted a clean, safe place to sleep, nothing more. I immediately saw an unmet need in the market for spontaneous travelers who need last minute accommodations and weren’t able to plan ahead.”

Overnight founder (from left to right) Artia Moghbel, Ethan Kravitz, and Asher Hut. "I immediately saw an unmet need in the market for spontaneous travelers who need last minute accommodations and weren’t able to plan ahead," Hunt says.
Overnight founders (from left to right) Artia Moghbel, Ethan Kravitz, and Asher Hunt. “I immediately saw an unmet need in the market for spontaneous travelers who need last minute accommodations and weren’t able to plan ahead,” Hunt said. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Here’s how Overnight works: After registering a profile with his or her Facebook credentials, the user drops a pin of a desired area to stay, and sets a radius. A request, which includes detailed info of what the user is looking for, is sent to hosts in the area. After viewing the user’s profile and request details, the hosts have the option to decline or make a booking available. Finally, the guest has the option to accept or pass. Transactions are designed to move quickly, and payments are handled via the app.

According to the company, the service has facilitated more than 1,500 stays, and recorded an average response time of less than a minute during the South by Southwest festival in Austin. You won’t have to wait long to find out if you’ll have a roof over your head or not.

Of course, for a major event like the Coachella Festival, it’s wise to plan in advance. But sometimes, bookings fall through or plans change. Overnight is designed for situations like these, but it is also catering to a new trend in spontaneous booking. It’s why Booking.com, which found that half of its hotel reservations were made within 48 hours on a mobile device, launched its Booking Now app last year. HotelTonight is another similar app that targets last-minute travelers.

“30 percent of bookings done on mobile are done day-of.”

“I’m a last-minute traveler and I lived out of a bag for the better part of four years,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t home more than 10 consecutive days at a time. That said, the idea was born more out of necessity and personal experience, and the research tied it all together. Once we started taking a closer look at the way people travel, we found that 30 percent of bookings done on mobile are done day-of – and Millennials are taking nearly double the amount of trips per year, versus Gen-Xers. The convergence of trend lines in mobile booking, travel frequency, adoption of sharing economy, and desire for experiences led me to a clear conclusion – we need to do this.”

“People need shelter every night, and the frequency of travel is accelerating,” Hunt added. “There’s a gradient of opportunities and use cases in travel accommodations and they aren’t all being satisfied.”

Instead of servicing the hotel industry, Overnight is helping homeowners make some extra cash. Not only would it make more rooms available to travelers, it’s building a community among users – something that attracts users to Airbnb. But as with Airbnb hosts, Overnight’s aren’t exempt from the same city regulations.

After placing a location pin, a guest makes a request to available hosts in the area. After a host reviews and accepts the request, the user can choose to accept. Hosts can only charge up to $250 per night.

“It’s a more authentic and local experience,” Hunt said. “It’s also inherently less expensive to book with locals than to book a hotel. We love facilitating human connection and bring the convenience of Booking Now to local hospitality.

“Booking Now and services similar to it enable same-day bookings at a discount, but the average price is generally higher than our $250 maximum nightly rate cap,” Hunt added. “Overnight guests can enjoy all of the same amenities at half the cost, and meet really cool people in the process. Also for hosts it’s a paradigm shift. They’re able to host opportunistically and privately, and they don’t manage a calendar. Enable hosting, make money.”

Since launching in the Coachella Valley, Overnight has expanded to San Francisco and New York City. For the future, Overnight says it’s looking at London and Paris.

Les Shu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I am formerly a senior editor at Digital Trends. I bring with me more than a decade of tech and lifestyle journalism…
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