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Phoenix startup snags $2M from unicorn-spotting venture firmPhoenix startup snags $2M from unicorn-spotting venture firm<div class="ExternalClass25B9FBB2BD6F4B539D4FB0CA6B0B3BF9"><p>It’s an only-in-Phoenix story.</p><p>A trio of Silicon Valley tech workers have an idea. It’s too expensive to test it in San Francisco, so they give it a whirl in Phoenix. Six months into the concept, they’re taking home $2M in seed funding from Khosla Ventures, the Silicon Valley unicorn spotter. A "unicorn" is a start that hits $1 billion in value.</p><p>“It was such a simple concept, and no one else had done it,” said Michael Chen, one of the three co-founders of WanderJaunt. “We kept wondering, ‘what are we missing.’”</p><p>WanderJaunt is building a decentralized hospitality brand based in Phoenix, Arizona. Chen and his co-founders take long-term leases on unique, well-located properties and then lock in short-term rentals through AirBnB, VRBO, TripAdvisor, and other established platforms. The three founders learned how to scale an operationally complex business as early stage employees at DoorDash. </p><p>“If you think about it, the concept of branded hotels is less than one hundred years old,” said Chen. “Conrad Hilton created the first modern day hotel chain in 1919.”</p><p>WanderJaunt plans to be the first “branded” decentralized hotel chain. For now, the company lets the existing platforms handle its reservations. Working with the property owner, WanderJaunt does the interior decorating from colors of paint to Tuft-&-Needle mattresses to appliances, dishes, linens and shampoo. </p><p>Chen’s company readies the properties between guests and handles all property maintenance and management. It also guarantees a consistent guest experience no matter which property is booked in any WanderJaunt location, similar to hotel customer expectations.</p><p>Seed funding totaling $2 million has been invested in the company by renown unicorn-spotter Khosla Ventures with participation from SV Angel and others. The deals, which closed July 28, funds market expansion, hiring software engineers to create a proprietary platform for WanderJaunt, as well as other support staff based in Phoenix.</p><p>“Michael Chen and the team at WanderJaunt are just the latest success story to prove that Phoenix is the best community for taking a risk and testing out a new business idea,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “This funding is going to help WanderJaunt create jobs in our community, expand into other markets, and perhaps most importantly, show that investment flows to great ideas.”</p><p>Expansion into other markets is high for WanderJaunt’s near-term plans following the round of seed funding. Its properties in Phoenix at The Oscar, a made-from-shipping-containers apartment building, have been booked through most of the summer, typically a slow tourism period in Arizona.</p><p>“Phoenix is a national leader in new technology job creation,” said Daniel Valenzuela, chair of the Phoenix City Council Aviation, Downtown, Economy and Innovation subcommittee. “Here is another example of a non-traditional technology company. In the past month, we’ve seen a health care company building on a technology company and now, here is a ground-breaking innovative concept in the lodging industry, also a tech company.”</p><p>Valenzuela said that these types of companies keep diversifying the Phoenix economy and are good for the Valley and good for Arizona. He said, “This is another example of why Phoenix focuses on meeting the needs of the technology industry.”</p><p>Chen said that despite the founders’ San Francisco Bay Area roots, they picked Phoenix as the first market for the startup because of its innovation ecosystem and highly affordable cost of doing business.</p><p>“In Phoenix, we have an affordable opportunity to try out new ideas, something that both housing and office costs in San Francisco make too expensive,” Chen said. “When starting a business, you have so many things going against you, that you don’t need high costs to be another obstacle.”</p><p>WanderJaunt’s potential as a growing Phoenix company is applauded by District 8 Councilwoman Kate Gallego, who represents most of Downtown Phoenix.</p><p>“The city of Phoenix has invested heavily in encouraging growth from startups,” said Gallego. “Nearly 95 percent of the businesses in Phoenix have fewer than 50 employees, but when a company puts its roots into the city and grows, it helps draw other companies to grow. WanderJaunt is just the latest example of how Phoenix is a welcoming climate where new business can grow and thrive.” </p><p>WanderJaunt said it wants to lock in between 50 and 100 more properties in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, as well as look at other markets. Chen said that with the experience of building a rapidly scaling startup under their belts, he and his partners are ready for the work ahead.</p><p>“Scaling our business will be extremely complex,” he said. “Actually, the complexity of our business will increase exponentially with growth without building world class software in tandem.”</p><p>“WanderJaunt has been a great addition to The Oscar,” said Kathleen Santin, partner in The Oscar. “Partnering with them gives us the opportunity to share the shipping container living experience with Phoenix visitors from all over the world. Since opening in May, WanderJaunt has hosted guests from Germany, Australia, Mexico and all over the U.S.”</p><h4>Sidebar</h4><p>WanderJaunt is looking for talent interested in a career opportunity with a startup. It also wants to talk with homeowners interested in partnering as alternative accommodations. <em>Contact:</em> Hello@WanderJaunt.com.</p></div>8/2/2017 9:00:00 PMEric Jay TollCommunity and Economic Development Communications Manager602-617-3797