Zach Bell, MyPlace: “The fake sharing economy that we were given is really just open marketplaces”

Are some people simply born to be entrepreneurs? It’s a question you have to ask when you bump into someone like Zach Bell, who has helped to launch five businesses and charities over the past decade.

If there’s a single thread that connects all those projects, it’s community. Zach has held seed stage, executive roles at Remedy (now SGFY) and Habitas, and continues to advise global brands, communities and counterculture movements.

Here, Zach tells the story of MyPlace, a community-focused movement (of course) that he co-founded back in July 2019. Whether you want to launch your own company or are simply interested in how Zach achieves what he achieves, read on.

What’s your elevator pitch for MyPlace?

Share and discover places to stay around the world based on the people you know. Most people don’t want to rent their private homes to strangers from the Internet. But they’d love to host a friend or friend of a friend.

What made you launch a startup?

I made a simple Squarespace page over the weekend because I wanted to share my house with a few of my friends, I really didn’t want to rent it to strangers and it was so sad seeing my home sit empty while I was travelling. A couple of friends joined and then asked if they could add their houses, one thing led to another and it took over my life!

Zach Bell MyPlace
Zach Bell, Co-Founder of MyPlace

What problem are you trying to solve?

I am building an actual sharing platform. The fake sharing economy that we were given is really just open marketplaces. I hope to bring the magic of real trust and real sharing to everyone in the world. When we share, we all have more together!

Can you talk us through your journey so far? What’s a major milestone you’ve reached?

It’s been growing steadily since we started it. Our closed and private beta ended up in 40 countries with 10,000 trips in just two years! We just released a public version to the app store where anyone can download it, make an account and invite their friends to create their own, private sharing community.

Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes your startup from them?

Our main competitors and Facebook, WhatsApp and Slack groups where people share homes with their friends. We really don’t see Airbnb or other vacation rental sites as our competitors because we are not a vacation rental site. Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram groups are where people share their private homes with their friends now. We are making a better and consolidated place for that, not another vacation rental site.

How has the startup scene in the Bay Area helped and/or challenged your own startup’s development?

We’re 100% remote and building a platform that helps people live everywhere – so it’s been amazing! Our investors and philosophy are based out of the Bay Area, but since we are 100% remote we benefit from the best ideas and best community globally.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and how did you overcome it?

We started with a web-based host calendar. Not a mobile-based discovery tool. We thought that it would be all about calendar management for hosts to manage their guests. But what people really wanted was a discovery tool on their phones. So we made that!

Where do you hope your startup will be in ten years?

Helping a billion people share the things they care about with the people they care about. And that we can help everyone have more together!

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?

Become a poet and professional surfer. Haha. I would always invest more in big ideas sooner. Feel it, do it!

What would you say to potential investors reading this interview?

Watch this space! People are not going to want to stay home for 50 weeks a year and people also don’t want their homes to sit empty. Airbnb is just hotels now – and this is not for vacations – but for a whole worldview and mindset shift of the next generation of how and where we live!

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone looking to launch their startup?

Don’t raise money, that isn’t what you need to get going. Just start your idea with as little as you can and do it all yourself. If it works, you’ll know!

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.