The future of Sonder, which looks like Airbnb without hosts, depends on its ability to manage widely dispersed properties and differentiate its hospitality model.

WHAT HAPPENED: Sonder, a hospitality company now valued at $1.1 billion, rents out apartments like Airbnb, but manages check-in, amenities and other services like a hotel, instead of relying on a network of hosts.

Why it matters

  • As opposed to Airbnb, whose business model puts its hosts first, Sonder is about consumers. With a centralized supply chain—it leases and designs units, as well as provides amenities and customer service for visitors to the properties—Sonder can control the customer experience to a much greater extent.
  • Despite these differences, Sonder has already faced similar zoning law crackdowns to Airbnb after renting out a large number of units in individual buildings. Another obstacle to its business model is how to provide hotel-worthy services from afar given the wide dispersion of its properties across various cities. In contrast, Airbnb has the ability to rely on individual hosts.
  • While Sonder claims to remove the middleman, it lists properties on Airbnb, and Expedia, as well as its own site. This raises questions about how Sonder will market itself on external booking sites in order to stand out against individual hosts and traditional hotels.