Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Travel Startup Hopes to Be Industry Leader

Milwaukee-based Frontdesk raises $3 million from investors, plans for growth in 28 cities.

By - May 4th, 2020 04:23 pm
A Frontdesk rental unit. Image from Frontdesk.

A Frontdesk rental unit. Image from Frontdesk.

While the travel industry has been effectively shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, one Milwaukee-based lodging company is planning how to grow.

Frontdesk, which offers short-term rentals in 28 different cities, has raised an additional $3 million in debt and equity. Founded in Milwaukee in 2017 by Kyle Weatherly and Jesse DePinto, the company offers fully furnished apartments for lease through its own website and others such as Airbnb. It has over 500 units and has completed over 60,000 stays to date.

The latest funding completes a $6.8 million Series A funding round for the start-up. The company has the backing of venture capital firms as well as investors like Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry and Bill La Macchia, head of Milwaukee travel firm La Macchia Enterprises (The Mark Travel Corporation).

“Before the coronavirus crisis, we always felt that we had the most supportive investors imaginable,” said Weatherly, the firm’s CEO. “Now we are absolutely certain of it. Not only did they make good on their initial commitment, but they increased it by almost $3 million. This provides us the capital to not only survive the crisis, but accelerate our growth again when travel rebounds.”

In a press release announcing the funding round the company credited its focus on sustainable growth with being able to withstand the dramatic drop in travel. But it hasn’t been immune to the problem; it has had to temporarily lay off 35 of its 241 employees.

“We are opening a new chapter of Frontdesk history,” said DePinto, the chief product officer. “We may have been the underdog before, but now Frontdesk is positioned to be an industry leader. We would not be here today if it wasn’t for the dedication of our employees, the faith of our investors, and the support of our real estate partners.”

The company offers units across the country including in Phoenix, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Louisville, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

A number of venture capital-backed companies operate in the industry, including Mint House which has units in downtown Milwaukee.

Mint House, Frontdesk and other short-term rental startups sign long-term leases for apartments, provide furnishings and lease the units through short-term rental platforms including Airbnb. The companies often seek to cluster units in markets in order to achieve cost effectiveness with cleaning services and other property management functions.

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