Featured Company Pitch: Local Bigwig

By Editor August 9, 2010

Local Bigwig logo

Company: Local Bigwig LLC

Website: www.localbigwig.com

Headquarters: New York

Year Founded: 2010

Investors: Self-funded

Founder: Ray Madronio

Employees: 11

Company Description:

“Live the Local Life” with Local Bigwig, a short-term home rental source and a place where global travelers and local homeowners meet.

By Ray Madronio, CEO

Ray Madronio, Local BigwigWith the mission to help global travelers and local homeowners meet, Local Bigwig LLC specializes in short-term home rentals.  However, the Local Bigwig brand itself focuses on far more than short-term home rentals—it is built to be the go-to source for travelers and locals alike seeking information on everything from travel tips and logistics to the latest city happenings.

Local Bigwig’s motto is “Live the Local Life” and it encourages homeowners to share their neighborhood secrets and “hot spots” with other users and travelers.  The website encourages travelers to enjoy a more genuine experience of a city—one that is difficult to attain in a traditional hotel.  Local Bigwig is the antipode to the typical tourist-y vacation, the one in which you stop at every popular museum and landmark but don’t really feel the vibe of the city that you’re in.

It is no surprise that I started writing the Local Bigwig business plan in the Rio de Janeiro-Galeao International Airport, about to board a plane home to New York.  As a travel and real estate buff, the website seamlessly combines my two loves.  One of the first things that I asked a fellow intern on their first “bigwig lunch” was: “so tell me about your favorite spots around NYU—interesting, cool spots that not too many people know about.”  Scouring for the city’s best-kept secrets is my hobby and now, instead of spending my Sundays going to open-houses around Manhattan, I brainstorm for the website.

After I graduated from Columbia Business School, I applied and got accepted to the B.E.S.T. incubator program-it was only a few months after the monumental moment at Rio de Janeiro-Galeao Airport.  Since then, I’ve joined forces with Marketing Director Wade Rimbach and a small, eclectic team of 10-15 that have found Manhattan from all over the world—Denmark, Great Britain and India, to name a few.  An affinity for travel is inherent in the Local Bigwig culture.  And with the diversity come interesting quirks and even more interesting topics for Blog entries: a Tim Horton obsession from the Canadian and a Danish fashionista’s escapades about New York, to name a few.  Most of the time, the members of the creative team sit with their laptops around a small circular table—a setup that is conducive to a consistent exchange of thoughts, ideas, even jokes, and allows fresh new ideas to be implemented and experimented with at a moment’s notice.

Diversity is not just geographic, but also educational.  While most of the team has some sort of business background (an intern, Alykhan Jivraj, and I always bond about our Berkeley Haas School of Business undergraduate background), we can get just as creative as we can be business-minded.  Marketing Director Wade Rimbach prefers to approach business problems with design thinking, as his educational background would suggest: he has a Masters in Organizational Behavior and International Management from Harvard University but also studied Product Design and Design Management at Parsons.  The innovation consultancy company Ideo is one of his inspirations as they use design research methods to focus on user needs to solve problems.  The problem here: travelers are stuck with traditional options that limit their immersion experience within a foreign city.  Or, when it comes to other short-term home rental websites, confusing payment plans and hidden fees abound.

Local Bigwig’s business model is flat-fee subscription-based.  This evades the commission-based model that consumers often find tedious.  Also, a subscription-based revenue model for homeowners and travelers leads to a more engaged membership base as they have already paid upfront for the service.  A concept borrowed from dating websites, homeowners will be able to search for travelers as well based on travelers’ criteria and travel dates.  Additionally, value-added services are optional for homeowners—perks such as cleaning, key-exchange, and concierge luxuries are available.

Local Bigwig has positioned itself to be the go-to in its industry; a place for people to go not only when they are looking for travel accommodation, but also when they need tips on anything from style, culture and food in New York City and soon, major travel destinations in the world.  To do this, the brand stays connected to people, locals like themselves, in many ways.  Social media is currently a huge part of the marketing strategy through popular tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and the Blog.  Through Foursquare, followers can track Local Bigwig’s “bigwig lunches” and “weekly wigouts,” two company traditions.  The Bigwig Blog is a huge part of the brand as it shares the tips and anecdotes of a young group of Manhattanites.  One of the featured entries is “Bigwig Breaks,” a section that shares tips about interesting things happening in Manhattan on a particular day—this can range from a free concert in Bryant Park to a ping-pong tournament for the working demographic.

In addition to social media, the Local Bigwig team also utilizes a rather unconventional tool: Yelp.  We are all avid and proud Yelpers: the Yelp logo is salient on our business cards as we have transferred a passion for exploring the city to one of our key business strategies.  And it is a transition that has been as necessary as it has been natural.  While building a product that aims to connect people with the local life, a very human and accessible approach is key; this is exactly what Yelp provides.

Local Bigwig hopes to attract advertisers and potential partnerships as a revenue-building source.  Additionally, as the website expands and continues to generate more and more traffic, we seek more exceptional web developers and online marketing analysts.

One of the primary goals right now is to expand the website’s reach.  One partnership that has brought a lot of traffic to the site is Outside.in, a hyperlocal information source that has incorporated the Bigwig Blog into its feed.  The number of viewers that see the Bigwig Blog has shot up since this collaboration.  We are steadily increasing memberships, home listings, and viewers and we’re brainstorming forms of guerilla marketing that we can enact to accelerate the process.  The website currently focuses on the New York area, with New York City and Hamptons properties, but we’re pushing to cover the rest of the United States and then, the world.

Local Bigwig – www.localbigwig.com