Montreal tech entrepreneur sells luxury vacation app to Airbnb
Published Saturday, February 18, 2017 3:01PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 20, 2017 9:13AM EST
A Montreal-based company specializing in high-end retreats was recently sold for enough money to guarantee its founder a permanent five-star vacation, but he says he’s just getting started.
Joe Poulin recently sold his start-up, Luxury Retreats, to apartment rental app company Airbnb for a reported $200 to $300 million USD.
“I think it’s a great compliment to our team here in Montreal,” he said. “We’ve been very focused on our product and our service and the standards that we’ve built over the years. How we inspect our properties, it was a testament to that. Airbnb said ‘Look, we think you guys do an extremely good job.’”
The tech powerhouse has committed to keeping its entire luxury-based division in Montreal, meaning Poulin and his 250 employees will stay in the city.
“I’m super proud of that,” he said. “I’m really proud of the team.”
Poulin started Luxury Retreats in 1999. At the time he was just 17 years old, but was already working as a web developer. He was travelling to Barbados to see a client when inspiration hit.
“I had stayed before in a Holiday Inn before but I was in a six-bedroom, six-bathroom villa on the beach,” he said. “I had a cook, a maid, a driver, a butler and I definitely didn’t grow up that way. It was interesting. I thought, ‘Well, I could be building these websites for these owners or maybe I could build my own website.’”
Initially his idea was met with rejection from financial backers. After honing his business plan around commissions, he began signing up property owners around the world. The website now offers clients a choice of 3,300 villas for rent worldwide.
The journey to the top hasn’t always been smooth.
“(It’s been) a many, many year rollercoaster ride,” said Poulin. “I think it’s constant highs and lows. As long as you’ve built a really good product or you’re focused on building the right products, it could be market timing… That’s always what kept me going. I know we’re building the best.”