Special overnight stays are suddenly easy to find

Hundreds of start-ups see the light of day every year. Many of them grow into a stable company, some fail prematurely, and a very small part conquers the world. Who are these starters, what do they want, what do they do, where do they want to go? Start Me Up delves into a world full of promises, uncertainty, perseverance, vision and hard work.

He was lying in a dragon’s egg when he thought of it: we need to bring together supply and demand for special places to spend the night. For René Schoenmakers, Vipio is the solution to a problem he himself encountered. “I wanted to spend the night in a special place with my son. We finally found that dragon egg on the Veluwe, but it was a hard search. Too hard.”

And then you start making something yourself. At least: if you think like Schoenmakers. That’s essentially how Catawiki, the company he founded in 2008, started. He has now become an expert when it comes to marketplace platforms and has a great love for them. In addition to Vipio, he also founded an international marketplace for collectors: LastDodo.

Then it starts running

“The fun, and also difficult, thing is that you have to work on both the demand and supply sides at the same time. That is certainly difficult in the beginning, because you have to convince accommodation providers without already having many potential customers. And vice versa, it is difficult to stimulate demand if there is still little supply. But once it starts running, it starts running.”

And it does. A large team is now working on the top floor of an old building in Assen to further expand the range, improve the platform and raise awareness of the name. Since its launch in 2020, more than 100,000 people have booked a holiday in a tree house, a lighthouse, a beach house, a special glamping tent or one of all those other special places. “We are fully committed to marketing, including through paid advertisements. You see that we are well liked and it is getting better.”

Googling and calling

There is still significant growth, and it comes much more easily now than in the beginning. Schoenmakers: “If you start from scratch, you have to google and call, looking for special offers. That takes a lot of time and effort. Apart from that, we launched our platform in the middle of a lockdown. That’s, let’s say, not ideal. On the other hand, we saw that during the period when there was no lockdown, people were looking extra hard for special experiences. That actually helped us.”

Schoenmakers certainly believes that there is growth in this segment of extraordinary experiences. “We see in our statistics that millennials in particular attach value to this. They are well represented and also know where to find our gift vouchers. So they also like to give away experiences. But you actually see all age groups coming back to us.”

Vipio has now grown big enough to attract the attention of providers of beautiful and special locations, also from other European countries. ,,That’s how it goes. Now they want to be on our platform and it is up to us to make good decisions about who fits in and who does not. I think that we only consider 5 percent of everything we receive to be special enough and actually put it on the site.”

Freddy Mercury

‘Special’ is quite an elastic concept. Schoenmakers and his people have a somewhat fluid definition. “Either the accommodation is very different from the ‘normal offer’ on booking sites, or the location is very remarkable, or there is a striking history associated with the place. An example of the latter? It is known that we have Freddy Mercury’s holiday home in Montreux on offer, but you can also sleep in a castle room where William of Orange once stayed.”

The selection of all those locations is done manually, and will remain so for some time. “What is and is not special is a gray area. A machine cannot take over that quickly. But we are urgently looking for programmers and sales people to help us grow our platform. We continuously improve the technology and use feedback to optimize the selection process.”

Vipio’s revenue model is entirely on the supply side. The Drenthe start-up receives a commission per booking from the provider of a special location. That is an ax that Schoenmakers has often used. “Platforms are something I was already working on in 2001. Then I made an online version of Handje Kontantje with my then company Missing Link on behalf of Boom Pers. Was actually exactly Marktplaats and it might well have taken that position. Then I thought: next time I’m going to do this myself, develop it myself.”


Who René Schoenmakers, Marco Borgman, Aike van Deursen

What Platform for special overnight stays

Where shafts

Why Because such places to sleep were difficult to find

How Thanks to platform experience, pure entrepreneurship and investments