One of the fastest growing companies in America was founded by a Boise man, has a large Boise footprint, and its local presence will grow significantly this year.
Vacasa CEO and co-founder Eric Breon likes it in Idaho’s capital. And he wants to bring more people here or give qualified Boiseans a job in the burgeoning “sharing economy,” where everyday people earn extra cash by offering rides, pet sitting or renting out their vacation cabins in Garden Valley while they’re busy working in Boise.
“I like my sunshine and my mountains,” Breon said, as he was getting ready for a recent scouting trip to Budapest, Dublin and Milan — a few of Vacasa’s emerging markets.
Vacasa (pronounced vuh-KAH-suh) is a unique hybrid business. It’s a website that lists private homes for short-stay rental, like Airbnb or VRBO. But it also markets and manages the properties, so homeowners don’t have to worry about handling reservations or cleaning up between guests.
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Breon moved to Boise from Portland after college, thinking he was headed for graduate school. He crashed with a friend who worked for Micron, liked Boise and worked in startups and finance here before returning to Portland for several years. That’s where he started Vacasa about five years ago. Now, Breon lives in Boise with his wife, a Saint Alphonsus emergency physician, and two young sons.
He came up with Vacasa’s concept after enduring “personal pain” as a renter and owner. He’d look for a cabin or house to rent and end up frustrated. His emails went unanswered. He couldn’t tell how much a rental cost.
Meanwhile, the Breons had a cabin on the Washington coast that was built in 1898 and passed down through his wife’s family. They didn’t want to give it up, but whenever spring rolled around, they’d spend $4,000 on repairs and clean-up for a cabin they rarely used. They decided to try renting it out to vacationers. Local property management companies estimated they could get $3,000 a year out of it.
“We managed ourselves and did $24,000 that year,” Breon said.
That was the kernel of Vacasa.
Portland is still the company’s headquarters, with about 100 employees. But it “remains to be seen” whether Vacasa’s home office will stay in Portland, Breon said.
Vacasa felt “snubbed by the Portland City Council” last year, according to the Portland Tribune. Short-term rentals are illegal in Portland, but the council carved out an exemption for lived-in residences after Airbnb lobbyists pushed for it and met with city leaders, the newspaper reported in July. Vacasa officials “watched with a bit of jealousy,” the Tribune said.
Portland likely will take up a similar exemption for Vacasa-style vacation rentals, said Dana Haynes, communications director for Mayor Charlie Hales. It’s unclear when, but it could be as early as summer. “At some point, we will need Vacasa” to work with the city on creating that exemption, Haynes said.
“Regardless of what happens there, we’ll definitely be scaling up our Boise office at a pretty quick pace,” Breon told the Idaho Statesman.
The company began this year with about 50 employees in its Boise office and probably another 50 scattered around Idaho’s many vacation-rental markets, according to Breon. Vacasa is “looking to hire about 100 people in the Boise office over the coming year,” he said.
Recruiting, finance and IT jobs are among the new positions in Boise this year, he said.
Vacasa’s corporate website has several jobs posted for Idaho. There’s a $12-an-hour part-time housekeeper opening in Sun Valley and similarly paid internships in Boise. One maintenance job pays $15 to $17 an hour. The part-time jobs include rare-these-days perks: 401(k) matching and paid time off.
The company is on a tear. It landed at No. 9 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately held companies last year, with revenue that shot from $161,204 in 2010 to $26.3 million in 2013. That’s 16,192 percent growth over three years.
Breon expects Vacasa to hit $200 million in revenues this year.
“We’re going national and international right now,” he said. “We’re kind of splotchily national right now,” having just launched in Texas, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.
The next market is abroad: vacation rentals in places like Mexico, Belize and Panama.
“I want to make booking a vacation rental as easy as booking a hotel,” Breon said.