Student startup Prodbnb revolutionizes experiential marketing and hospitality


July 14, 2020


prodbnb team

Would you buy a $2,000 mattress without trying it? How certain would you be of your purchase if you only got 15 minutes with it in a showroom? This is the exact hurdle that many product marketers face today: convincing a consumer to make a financial investment into buying a higher priced, higher quality product. 

The significant financial investments that luxury products require need trial time, not just a couple minutes. Customers need to live with the product before they can be absolutely sure of their purchase. This is what is missing in traditional methods of marketing and advertising, such as billboards, TV/radio, and online ads, and thus, these campaigns don’t necessarily result in conversion to sale. This problem is even more prevalent now as online stores gain momentum and product companies no longer have brick and mortar showrooms.

A team of five UC Berkeley students from Professor Naeem Zafar’s Technology Entrepreneurship class, listed as IEOR 191, recognized this growing problem and saw an opportunity to solve it in the growing market of Airbnb. Kevin Lin, Suma Thati, Matthew Lam, Taanvi Malhotra, and Zishen Liu created Prodbnb, an online platform that connects marketers of high-end home good companies with Airbnb hosts. Prodbnb’s goal is to allow companies to “place” their products in Airbnb hosts’ homes, so Airbnb guests can interact with the products naturally during their stay. Such products include mattresses, paintings, furniture, lamps, and more.

The Prodbnb team

“We have a 3-way symbiotic relationship, where the users in our Prodbnb ecosystem (product marketers, Airbnb hosts, and Airbnb guests) mutually benefit each other,” said Kevin, CEO.

Product marketers, investing in the concept of experiential marketing through Prodbnb, can now effectively market their products in the natural environment with longer trial times, reducing customer conversion friction and increasing sales, creating positive brand impressions and awareness. 

Airbnb hosts get an extra source of income from voluntary product placement, while receiving high quality products for free or for a reduced price for their property. This increases the quality of their property, helping them gain more positive reviews and higher ratings.

Airbnb guests can now easily try, learn more about, and purchase new products in their own relaxed and natural setting, creating a greater shopping experience. 

“Experiential marketing isn’t a new concept by any means, but what we’re proposing will completely change the scene, which is incredibly out-dated. Not all companies have the resources to build showrooms or make trips to in-person trade shows,” said Matthew, head of technology.

Although their name implies they’re starting product placement in Airbnbs, their vision is much bigger. 

“The beauty of Prodbnb lies in the fact that it’s scalable to virtually all home product industries like smart tech, home security, and personal care, and also across the hospitality sector as well. Prodbnb has immense potential in places like hotels, cruises, and corporate apartments,” said Suma, head of marketing.

The Prodbnb Team’s Entrepreneurial Process:

The process to reach idea finalization required lots of market research. 

“When staying in Airbnbs, I’ve heard my parents say things like ‘Where did they buy this coffee machine?’ or ‘These bed sheets look great, I want to buy them for my bedroom!’” said Taanvi, head of operations. “But they tear apart the bed or Google endlessly online and struggle to find the exact product because either there’s no brand on the item or not enough information to convince them to actually purchase.” 

The Prodbnb team looked deeper into this issue by interviewing 97 travelers, and found that this situation was common among many. Combining this with the knowledge gained from reaching out to various product marketers and marketing experts, Prodbnb was born.

Having gone through an entire semester of this class, the Prodbnb team was able to draft a go-to-market strategy, map out their projected finances for the next 5 years, and pitch to a panel of VC investors. However, their work doesn’t end there.

“Our end goal is for any brand, big or small, to be able to more effectively market to their target demographic through our platform, whether that’s product placing hair dryers from Dyson or abstract paintings from a young artist in Los Angeles,” said Zishen, head of finance.

Article written by the Prodbnb team: Kevin Lin, Suma Thati, Matthew Lam, Taanvi Malhotra, Zishen Liu