You may think of Vacasa as a vacation rental company, but it’s really not. It’s a technology company. Just ask the new chief technology officer (CTO).
“Our founder was passionate about technology in the early days of the company,” said Jeff Flitton, named CTO earlier this year after working at Vacasa for two years. “It’s most important now that we use technology because we are endeavoring to do property management at a scale like no other.”
Vacasa, which raised a $319 million series C round in October, uses technology to integrate its platform directly with others more than its competitors do, Flitton said.
“I feel like it’s a real differentiator for us and the owners to be able to list their properties on our own ecommerce platform,” he said. “It’s important that we get it in front of as many people as possible, so we integrate with a number of channels.”
The company considered going through a channel manager – a “middleware” integrator piece of software that would operate between Vacasa and another website – but the results weren’t as good, Flitton said.
“Direct integration yielded higher results because we were able to have higher quality and consistency in our data,” he said. “Going through a channel manager meant we had to work with the lowest common denominator.”
To have access to the richest possible dataset, the company intentionally built more direct integrations, he said.
So far, Vacasa has direct integration with Vrbo, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Google, TripAdvisor and HomeToGo. And there’s likely to be more coming down the pike, Flitton said.
“We have a bit of a pipeline out there,” he said. “At this point, we feel like we have our bases pretty well covered. The next step in channel integration is to release an open [application programming interface] for smaller, boutique travel agencies to integrate to us.”
Big companies such as Airbnb have their own website interface, Flitton said.
“It’s more of a collaborative effort, and we conform to their specs,” he said.
But the smaller, boutique websites, such as Ski.com, nonetheless drive a lot of value in their markets.
“The open API should be a force multiplier for us,” he said.
Other technology uses
Vacasa has headquarters in Portland and Boise, and also has technology teams in Santiago, Chile; Auckland, New Zealand; and Destin, Florida. Right now, it has about 40 tech people in Boise, with at least six open positions, Flitton said. The company hopes to draw from tech workers leaving larger cities for an improved quality of life, he said.
“Philosophically, we’re a real believer in opportunistic hiring,” he said. “We hire the right people when they become available. We’re fortunate that, because of growth, we can do that.”
Without technology, Vacasa couldn’t scale to the extent it has, Flitton said.
While one person can schedule 10 housekeepers, Vacasa has thousands of them, around the world, and the company not only wants to optimize their scheduling to get units ready to rent as quickly as possible, but also wants to be humane to the housekeepers and give them a consistent workload, he said.
“We have thousands of employees who make sure Vacasa homes are clean at the end of every stay,” he said. “We have to use technology to make those decisions.”
Flitton’s job is to continue the technology work that Vacasa started.
“Right now, we’re mostly about making sure we’re making the right investments” in areas such as property management, field management, online travel agencies and integrations with others, he said.
Vacasa is also looking into adding machine learning to help improve guest services, by using past activity – whether the person booked a stay or not – to infer what customers might want, without being creepy about it.
“We try to be very mindful of how often and how we interact with guests to encourage brand loyalty without overstepping,” he said.