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turnkey11Some of the biggest names in online travel are tossing their support behind TurnKey Vacation Rentals, an Austin-based startup company that helps vacation rental owners market and manage properties. Backers of the company in the $1.5 million round include Zillow co-founder and former Expedia CEO Rich Barton; Orbitz CEO Barney Harford; Expedia co-founder Greg Slyngstad; Zillow CEO and former Hotwire executive Spencer Rascoff; Hotwire co-founder Karl Peterson; and others.

TurnKey helps vacation rental owners promote properties on VRBO, HomeAway and 25 other vacation rental sites. It also handles check­-in, cleaning, maintenance and guest support — meaning vacation rental owners don’t need to field requests in the middle of the night.  

The service sounds a bit like Escapia, a Seattle startup that was acquired by Austin-based HomeAway in 2010.

In fact, co-founder John Banczak, a former executive at HomeAway, led the post-merger integration of Instant Software and Escapia. He left HomeAway in 2012 to start TurnKey.

However, co-founder T.J. Clark, a former Hotwire exec who most recently served as CEO of, said that Escapia is more of a booking system for vacation rental owners. At TurnKey, he said they are trying to take over the entire job of the property manager, handling everything from booking the property to dispatching plumbers to fix leaky sinks.

T.J. Clark
T.J. Clark

“We are more about where technology meets the real world,” he said. The company operates a call center to handle all inquiries related to properties, and it serves as the marketing engine for each individual listing. At this point, the company is managing about 30 properties in the Austin area. It will use the new funds to expand to at least two new markets by the end of the year, Clark said.

“We think of each rental property as a business,” he said. “We take over the management of the rental as a business for the homeowner.”

A big part of that effort is online marketing, something that many regional property managers don’t consider. “Amazingly, less than half of them advertise on VRBO or HomeAway. That’s like not being in Google,” he said.

TurnKey also is looking to undercut the pricing of the regional property managers, which charge between 30 percent to 50 percent of the rental price as part of their fee.  TurnKey plans to charge 10 percent.

Mobile also plays a critical role in TurnKey’s approach, allowing renters to access properties via codes provided on smartphones and maps of properties. The company also is using mobile technology to dispatch cleaning and maintenance crews to properties.

Online travel news site Skift reported on the news this morning.

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