James Jenkins-Yates (Politics, 2011, County) spotted a gap in the market to service properties for absent property owners.
The idea for the start up Airsorted came to James Jenkins-Yates after he became an Airbnb host himself to pay the bills and realised how much maintenance and preparations hosts had to do in advance. No one had spotted that gap in the market, so he decided to set up a company to service properties for absent property owners.
Since starting on his own in February 2015 with a single-page free trial website and a couple of adverts on Google and Facebook, James now has 50 employees and has expanded to Sydney, Edinburgh and Dublin. He is also proud of having made £12m for the people who use his service as Airbnb hosts.
Becoming an entrepreneur was almost an inevitability for James, who had set up his first online business working with companies like LoveFilm at the age of 14, but he says: “The number one thing I gained from Lancaster was the confidence to go out into the world and stake a claim to it. University also teaches you to think.”
He arrived at Lancaster from his home in Worcestershire without having seen the campus, but having done all his research on line. He was attracted by the idea of a campus university. His initial intention was to study Business Studies, but he decided to follow his true interests and switched to Politics.
His course came with a year’s study abroad, which he did at the University of Nebraska. This was the making of him, as he knuckled down to study US politics and to get to grips with a different culture in an unfamiliar education system with easier work, but a larger volume of it, than at Lancaster. He enjoyed the experience enough to go back to the USA to work for a year after his graduation in New York on Wall Street.
Another important aspect of James’ undergraduate studies was his participation in the University debating society, which took him all over the country to visit other universities. At first he struggled to talk on a given subject for even one minute, but practice brought him confidence in public speaking, which is vital to his business life today. He says: “Today, selling my company to investors is a huge part of what I do.”
After graduation and his return from New York, James took a series of jobs first as a Treasury Analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York, later as a Business Analyst for UBS in London. He then took time out to learn to write software.
During this time he became an AirBnb host to keep himself financially afloat and realised how much maintenance and organisation was required from hosts to welcome people to their properties, particularly if they were not living in situ. He had found an untapped corner of the market so he set up AirSorted to take the hassle out of being an AirBnb host.
Starting off with a one-page website describing the AirSorted approach, and advertisements on Google and FaceBook, James began to talk to people about his thoughts, and adapted his business according to the feedback. Business took off. His latest plans are to expand into Europe and further afield.
“One huge mistake people make,” says James,”is to have a business plan before they do anything. “You need a website saying what you are doing and then you need to put it in front of a range of people. They will soon tell you if what you are doing is something they want or not.”