Casai, a Mexican short-term rental startup, starts its operations in Brazil on Tuesday as part of the expansion strategy in Latin America. The launch in Brazil will have an investment of about BRL 100 million and begins with the offer of premium apartments, the startup‘s brand, in São Paulo city upscale neighborhoods, such as Vila Olímpia, Pinheiros, Jardins and Itaim Bibi. According to the company, Casai is already debuting with 90% occupancy.
Headquartered in Mexico City, Casai was launched in 2019 with the proposal to combine smart-home technology, design and luxurious amenities, like in hotels, for short-term rentals. Despite having started just before the 74% drop in international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the World Tourism Organization, Casai says it has tripled in size since the start of the pandemic.
Last October, proptech received a $ 54 million Series A round with the participation of funds such as Monashees Capital, Kaszek Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Today, Casai has in its portfolio about 300 properties in Mexico City, Tulum and, now, São Paulo.
Nico Barawid, Casai’s co-founder and CEO, told LABS that the startup was born out of a perception that the hosting industry needed innovation.
Smart-home and cultural immersion
Casai‘s business is based on the concept of the smart-hospitality. The startup offers fully equipped apartments for short or extended stays. The difference is the exclusive design – the properties are decorated by Casai design specialists and the projects prioritize sustainable products and local brands and artists – and the smart-home technology, in which the apartment is 100% connected and managed by devices.
The icing on the cake of the “Casai experience” is “Butler“, an internal system developed by Casai itself that connects to guests’ apps, giving them ownership over the entire interactive experience inside the apartment, attending to their requests remotely. In addition, smart keyless access allows check-in without the need for physical contact. Technology is also used to manage inventories and customer orders based on trends in consumer behavior.
Guests also have a concierge team available seven days a week. This support is digitally coordinated by real people and aims to give a more personalized touch to the stay, advising on top restaurants, tourist programs and support services. This curatorship is done by locals: they are the “Neighbors”, a service created by Casai to promote a kind of immersion in the local culture and to project a feeling of belonging and authenticity to the tourist experience.
“Local immersion is a very important concept for Casai. São Paulo is one of the most important and largest cities in Latin America. We aim to offer a differentiated experience in accommodation, in line with the high standard of services that such a cosmopolitan city requires,” explains Luiz Eduardo Mazetto, Casai’s general director in Brazil.
The search for this cultural immersion also guides Casai’s expansion strategy. According to Barawid, the proptech plans to expand its operation in cities with different profiles. In Brazil, cities like Rio de Janeiro, Búzios and Florianópolis are on the radar.
Read the main interview highlights with Nico Barawid, CEO at Casai:
New hospitality concept
“Before moving to Mexico City, I lived in San Francisco and worked at a fintech. I used to travel a lot for work and always stayed on Airbnb. I realized that this type of rental was excellent for its flexibility, but it did not offer as much quality and consistency as a hotel.
Technology is another aspect of Casai’s DNA, to optimize all stages of our operation, making the hiring, check-in and stay process easier, safer and more comfortable.”
The proptech real estate portfolio
“We are very strict in choosing the apartments that make up our platform. Casai does not own the properties but works in partnership with real estate and property owners to manage the rental. We also take empty apartments and transform them according to our quality parameters. We got it ready to receive guests.”
The pandemic impact on the business
“The pandemic was a major challenge for the entire tourism and travel industry, especially in the beginning, when people stopped traveling. But in July and August last year, we were already with 80% occupancy again.
I believe that with the pandemic, now people want to travel to stay longer, and they want more comfort, a more equipped property. Just as Casai provides.”