AltoVita has a mission to revolutionise the corporate housing and global mobility world by bringing to market a triumvirate of innovative thinking, better tech capabilities and alternative accommodation. The company aims to create better business for corporations and shake things up along the way. The corporate housing sector is largely dominated by legacy models and according to co-founder and CEO, Vivi Cahyadi, now has been the perfect time for a re-think in the way this market is served. We spoke with Vivi to find out what’s behind AltoVita’s vision and what lies ahead for the future for global corporate housing and short-term rentals.
PillowTalk Media: You founded AltoVita in 2016 with the company’s COO, Karolina Saviova. What’s the backstory to the company and what were the driving motivations for you to launch?
Vivi Cahyadi: Prior to co-founding AltoVita, I was managing, for 8 years, a large portfolio of real estate assets -from commercial, residential to often complex industrial properties. Real estate comes with significant capital risks so the idea of building an asset light model while being able to tap into the largest asset class in the world without exposure to balance sheet risks was attractive to me.
Via a mutual friend, Raunaq Hanspal, I met Karolina Saviova, my Co-Founder & COO of AltoVita. We hit it off really well from the beginning as we share not only the same vision but also the grit to do whatever it takes to make AltoVita a success.
After many Skype & Whatsapp calls over several months, we finally met in person in Prague in March 2017. That’s when we started working together on the actual value proposition and product. AltoVita was officially launched in January 2018 and we discovered our product market fit with multinational companies that relocate between five to ten thousand employees per year.
As we’ve both lived in over 20 countries and relocated numerous times with work and personally, we resonate well with the product, the sector and the problem that we are solving.
PTM: AltoVita has a mission to disrupt the corporate housing sector by bringing to market both a new product and a new way of purchasing that product. Can you tell us a little more about why you believe this sector of travel/housing is ripe for disruption?
Vivi Cahyadi: The corporate housing sector is largely dominated by legacy models, still using call centers and inefficient operation with spreadsheets, PDFs and emails as their main tools. Two of the large legacy models have disintegrated amid covid-19 and this is a testament that status quo is no longer a viable and sustainable model.
We see the pandemic as an opportunity and catalyst for better technology adoption in a sector which has been adverse to change.
At AltoVita, we focus on developing the technology to untangle the multi-layered cost structure of corporate housing’s complex supply chain not only to dramatically improve employee experience, but also supplier experience.
The antiquated model is labour intensive with cumbersome administrative processes and outdated software. PDFs and emails are still the most commonly used tools to communicate property details to employees, while spreadsheets dominate the workflow between corporate housing providers and relocation companies when it comes to rates and availability. This could get extremely disorganised and data could no longer be relevant with the dynamic pricing mechanism often adopted by the majority of serviced apartment and alternative accommodation suppliers.
PTM: A recent Skift article said that AltoVita believes it has found a sweet spot between stylish Airbnb homes and traditional, uniform serviced apartments for the corporate relocation buyer. You also stated that 80% of your inventory of 20,000 are ‘alternative accommodation’ (20% are serviced apartments). What have been the challenges of bringing this ‘new’ asset type to the corporate relocation market?
Vivi Cahyadi: When it comes to the corporate relocation market, duty of care is the first thing you must embrace. It is the employers’ responsibility to take care of the well being, security and safety of their employees, particularly when they are expected to relocate their lives, often with family, to a difficult or a remote market.
With alternative accommodation, it is not new news that quality consistency is an issue.
At AltoVita, all units must go through a stringent two-tier quality control system before they are listed on the platform. The assessment includes both the professionalism of the property manager to deliver corporate quality standards & demonstrate duty of care as well as the suitability of each individual unit for corporate stays.
Since AltoVita was founded, we have seen that the alternative accommodation is becoming more professionalised. The growth of this professionalised segment will contribute towards corporate clients utilising more alternative accommodation inventories.
We still have a long way ahead but with covid-19, consumer preferences suggest that alternative accommodation is now the more cost effective and safer option offering privacy with less communal area vs. hotels
PTM: You work across multiple continents and therefore have a clear view of both the opportunities and the challenges of the global industry. How has this influenced the strategy behind AltoVita’s growth plans?
Vivi Cahyadi: An investor once asked me why we are so adamant about having a global footprint. Why are we not tackling one market at a time?
The simple answer is because the global footprint is precisely the barrier to entry to the £50bn worth corporate housing we are attacking. The value arises with a consolidated single-source platform that is able to provide unlimited housing options to our clients, particularly in obscure markets.
PTM: Later this month, AltoVita is hosting a 5-day symposium and awards ceremony for corporate housing with a vision to start meaningful conversations around leadership, technology adoption, duty of care and operational excellence. What is it about the symposium that you are most excited about?
Vivi Cahyadi: It’s been a challenging time for all of us over the past 8 months. As such, it is easy to overlook that every challenging junction, also contains the seeds of opportunity.
Over the 5 days of the AltoVita symposium, you will hear from experts in the fields of global mobility, real estate and hospitality discussing opportunities from different perspectives. We will cover topics from corporate housing, real estate opportunities driven by global mobility to smart home technology.
Two features that I’m particularly excited about is first the virtual celebration of the AltoVita Corporate Home Awards and second, the special session featuring female leaders discussing corporate travel technology transformation and diversity & inclusion from the perspectives of 3 different regions, the UK, the US and Europe.
We will also have a rare opportunity to hear from the chief executives of three industry associations, Worldwide ERC (largest association in global mobility), the Association of Serviced Apartments and the Short Term Accommodation Association in a fireside chat format.
PTM: Finally……. if weren’t taking over the corporate relocation and housing market….. what would you be doing instead?
Vivi Cahyadi: My husband and I have a small, but growing S/EIS fund that we deploy to invest in promising startups in the UK. As he has a PhD in aeronautical engineering, he prefers to invest in university backed technology startups with hardware touch, while I tend to invest in businesses that I feel close to, PropTech and female-founded startups.
If it weren’t for AltoVita, I’d be spending more hours with my piano, mastering German and transforming our investment portfolio into a more structured fund, be it a family office or a Venture Capital.