Vakast, a Newport Beach, California-based online travel agency for vacation rentals, has just announced a $1.3m seed funding round (read here). Monique Berry, COO, answered our questions about the company, its present, and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Monique. First, can you tell us a little bit more about you?
Monique: I am Monique Berry, COO of Vakast. I have worked with the company since October 2013. I am responsible for the overall operations, which include business development, marketing, PR, customer service, graphic design.
FinSMEs: What’s your background?
Monique: My background is in International business criminal law and marketing in the communications, finance, beauty and entertainment industries.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Vakast. What’s the opportunity you found in the market?
Monique: To begin, there is a major demand for vacation rentals, its a hundred billion dollar market and growing. We found that in a sea of vacation rental listing sites, it was very challenging to obtain a decent selection of properties and then compare those properties without having to go back and forth between websites in short it was confusing and time consuming. Therefore, Vakast built a platform to bring together 1.5 million properties in an exceptionally quick, user-friendly and aesthetically appealing website.
FinSMEs: How does Vakast work? Tell me something about the features.
Monique: In short, we are an online travel agency with the largest inventory of vacation rentals worldwide. Visitors on the Vakast website can enter their destination (any where in the world) and click search. They will receive their results and a see Vakast’s quick view color-coded grid that will display seasonal rates, number of bedrooms and the total properties for that particular search. If a customer needs help finding or booking a
vacation rental, they can call or write to our world-class and exceptionally friendly customer service team.
FinSMEs: Can you introduce the other team members?
Monique: Huan Truong (CEO) and Tam Nguyen (CIO) are the founders of Vakast. We have a team of business development, partner relations, marketing and customer service professionals.
FinSMEs: Where are you now in terms of growth? Some numbers?
Monique: We are experiencing exceptional growth and demand for our services. In fact, at this time we are scaling up our team of customer service representatives due to the high volume of inquiries and bookings. Our customer base is also growing and we are receiving a ton of repeat business.
FinSMEs: You just raised funding. What can you tell me about the investors?
Monique: Our investor Mr. Chinh Chu (a billionaire) is a Senior Managing Director in the Corporate Private Equity group of The Blackstone Group. Ken Pansuria is the founder of Fine Hospitality Group, LLC., (FHG) a financial investment company in the hospitality industry. Pansuria owns and manages dozens of franchise hotels such as: Intercontinental Hotels Group, Hilton, Marriott, Choice and Best Western. Nicky Nguyen is the owner and founder of NJ Enterprises Inc., a successful multi-million dollar furniture company that manufacturers fine and custom furniture for the hospitality industry.
All of our investors are exceptional business men and well-known and respected philanthropist.
FinSMEs: How are you using the funds?
Monique: We are using the funds for marketing, IT, and our overall operations.
Monique: To better support our international customers, we will be expanding our operations into Europe, Australia and Asia. We will be increasing our marketing efforts to increase our visibility and to educate consumers; families, groups, business travelers, etc. on the numerous benefits of vacation rentals.