This startup turns short-term rentals into ecommerce brand showrooms

Brahm Buck

If you recently stayed in a short-term rental, you may have admired your host’s taste in furniture, or brand of coffee. In some cases, you may have even noticed a QR code on the back of their furniture (or coffee), which took you to a website to learn more about […]

If you recently stayed in a short-term rental, you may have admired your host’s taste in furniture, or brand of coffee. In some cases, you may have even noticed a QR code on the back of their furniture (or coffee), which took you to a website to learn more about the item, or purchase it at a discounted price.

If so, you’ve already taken part in the Glimpse experience — a brand-to-consumer service run by a D.C. startup.

Founded by Purdue University graduates Akash Raju, Kushal Negi and Anuj Mehta, Glimpse connects brands to services like short-term rentals, coffee shops, ride-shares and coworking spaces, to create intimate product showrooms for customers.

“We’re really forming this win-win-win relationship,” Raju said of Glimpse.“For brands, they’re able to reach new consumers wherever they want… For showrooms, they’re able to receive these products and boost their guest experience… and consumers are getting these amazing experiences wherever they are.”

Glimpse is backed by Y Combinator, the noted Silicon Valley startup accelerator that was also an early investor in Airbnb. It took part in the YC accelerator program during the summer of 2020, and closed a $1.5 million seed round led by Origin Ventures in the fall. The startup now works with more than 7,000 short-term rentals in the United States. The traction earned the team a spot on Technical.ly DC’s RealLIST Startups 2021. The company is based in Vienna, Virginia, as both Raju and Mehta are from the broader DMV area, but follows a remote-first workplace model.

Despite its quick growth, the startup had humble beginnings. Devised while Raju, Negi, and Mehta were studying at Purdue, Glimpse originally operated under the name “Dime.”

“We use the name ‘Dime,’ [as] a way to get something [low] cost, really quick,” Raju said. “…When we shifted our focus… we started thinking about names that really encompass the core behavior that we were trying to create. And getting a ‘Glimpse’ of a product in an intimate setting was what we were trying to create.”

The team staged their first showroom in a rented U-Haul. Parked in the middle of Purdue University, it was packed with goods like handcrafted mugs and journals from a local seller.

“In that one day, just a three-hour window, she saw over $800 in sales,” Raju said. “A small maker doing this on the side — that was more than you’d make in [about] a two-week period.”

What’s more, the seller used her online presence to bring people offline, which is a core thesis of Glimpse, he added.

“With the rise of ecommerce, the big thing that’s missing is these physical, touchy-feely interactions,” Raju said. “…That’s the relationship that we’re trying to create, but we’re trying to do it in a new way.”

Further, Raju also sees Glimpse as an opportunity for people to experience products in person, even if working from home or social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many retail stores permanently or temporarily closed their doors due to COVID-19, many work-from-home Americans jumped on the opportunity to purchase short-term rentals in warm places like Palm Springs, Raju said. To foster client relationships in new areas, Glimpse temporarily relocated to Southern California, as well.

For clients that did experience financial blows, the team brainstormed how they could help, Raju said. From about March to May 2020, Glimpse connected rental companies to nurses who needed housing.

“Looking back…I think we did the right thing,” Raju said. “We stopped focusing on getting them products and just [focused on] helping however we could.”

In the next year, Glimpse hopes to expand their software to give brands an even more flexible, individualized experience, Raju said. In the next five, he wants Glimpse to be the mainstream solution that brands look to for adding a physical component to their e-commerce store.

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