Habitas, a start-up that creates and runs 3D-printed hotels assembled on location ‘like Lego’, has received the backing of Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, alongside a roster of other high profile investors.
Habitas, which was spun-out as a broader hotels start-up after co-founder Oliver Ripley used 3D printer technology to create a camp at the Burning Man desert arts festival, has raised a total of $20 million to expand the concept into permanent hotel sites in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Its proof-of-concept hotel complex, which targets a Millennial audience, is based in Tulum, Mexico.
Other investors to have contributed to the $20 million capital raise aimed at establishing Habitas as a “Club Med for Millennials”, include, reports the Financial Times, Tim Steiner, chief executive of online supermarket Ocado, Justin Mateen, the co-founder of dating app Tinder and Div Turakhia, the Indian ad-tech billionaire. High profile technology investors Maurice Salem, Shervin Pishevar, Mike Novogratz and Jonathan Teo have also contributed funds. Kalanick, who recently sold off most of his remaining shares in Uber, raising $2.5 billion, has made his investment through in 10100 VC fund.
Mr Ripley says he has spent the past six months rounding up the profile of investor he also wants to act as a “brain trust”, to help the company grow. The new funds are earmarked to fund Habitas’s establishment of 7 new locations, in addition to the current hotel operation in Mexico, before the end of 2020. A site in Namibia is due to open later this month and Ripley expects 10 to 12 new sites a year to follow this year’s initial expansion drive.
Bhutan and Saudi Arabia have both been explored for suitable locations for the pre-pack hotels built for the customer persona of the Millennial tourist that prioritises a ‘social holiday’ over a ‘fancy lobby’. With rooms priced at between $200 and $400 a night, Habitas is positioning itself somewhere between a hostel and five-star hotel, with the ‘experience’ offered core to the brand. As explained by Mr Ripley:
“We are focusing more on the people, the community, the experiences — a little bit like Club Med for our generation. What is the equivalent to Club Med for us? Incredible experiences with food, with music, with the right kind of wellness — not the fanciest spa but really just reconnecting.”
Habitas rooms are manufactured by 3D-printing technology in Mexico before being flat-packed and shipped to location, where they are customised to the local environment and hotel complex style. The existing facility, says Mr Ripley, can manufacture up to 100 rooms per month. The technology is roughly the same as that used by SoftBank-backed modular housing start-up Katerra.
Habitas’ 3D-printed hotels can be constructed within six to nine months and earn a return on investment within two years — much faster than most traditional hotels. Habitas could expand into franchising or even social housing in the future. Two subsidiaries have been set up to keep the company’s real estate and manufacturing units as separate entities.
Mr Ripley has established himself as something of a serial entrepreneur, having previously invested in Kite, a digital imaging company sold to Canon, and Elite Daily, a digital media company sold to the DMGT, the owner of the Daily Mail newspaper.
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