Anna Skigin left behind careers in finance and retail to self-fund a concept that tackles a gap in the new and emerging 'sharing economy'
Frank Porter might sound like a name of a 1950s English TV detective, but Canadian-Russian serial entrepreneur Anna Skigin’s app is actually the very literal “honest concierge”.
It manages private homes and properties that are available to rent on the world’s top booking channels such as Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway, TripAdvisor and Expedia.
Having just closed a seed funding round through friends and family, Skigin tells Arabian Business why the market needs her start-up.
How did the idea of Frank Porter come about, and why did you decide to launch it in Dubai?
Frank Porter came about during a trip to Dubai in early 2017. We noticed how the sharing economy hadn’t really arrived in the city yet.
While it was very common to rent out your home on Airbnb and other platforms in other touristic cities such as London, Paris and New York, no one was actively doing it in Dubai.
They didn’t even know the process – and regulations had only just allowed it. So it seemed like a massive opportunity considering the city is one of the most visited in the world. Luckily, we turned out to be right – and our business is growing considerably.
Why should consumers use Frank Porter as opposed to managing their listings themselves?
Managing a listing takes time. There are many elements involved, including guest communication, pricing, check-ins/check-outs, cleaning, laundry, maintenance and emergencies, and they all play a part in creating that five star experience for guests.
We take away all that hassle so that owners can sit back, relax and focus on just making money. We also take care of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) licensing and pay all tourism fees for our clients.
Is the market for short-term lodging and leasing fairly untapped in the UAE and wider Middle East, or is it becoming saturated?
The market is far from saturated and there is a lot of room for improvement. The legalisation and regulation of “holiday homes” is very new and ensures that only serious companies remain. Airbnb and other platforms have only been legalised here in 2016, and the market is already booming. This has created a very interesting opportunity.
What is your business model? Where does your revenue come from?
We take 17 percent commission on rental income using multiple platforms. This is the most transparent business model for our clients – we make money when you make money. Our motivations are the same. There are no hidden fees.
What were some of the challenges you encountered while setting up the firm, and what are your main challenges now?
Our main challenges included the regular start-up difficulties: the process of setting up a business in a new country, figuring out which license we needed, dealing with regulatory bodies, etc.
Now that we are growing fast, the main challenge is ensuring that the Frank Porter vision and standard infiltrates every single aspect of our business. We are working hard on this and it’s paying off massively.
What is the costliest part of the business?
For us, the costliest part in terms of time and money is setting up each apartment. We put a lot of time and effort in making sure each and every property is marketed to its full potential. We use top photographers and go out of our way to make sure the properties are well styled and have everything a guest needs.
What are your future plans for the firm? Where do you wish to expand and when? What is your vision for the business?
The future plans are for Frank Porter to be a household name in Dubai – where people automatically associate our brand with quality for property management and short-term letting. From then, we will gradually move into the other emirates and eventually the whole MENA region.
Where does the name come from?
Frank Porter literally means “honest concierge”. To be frank is to be honest and a porter is a concierge. “Frank” is a person you would hand over the keys of your apartment to – and never look back – trusting that upon your return, the apartment will be exactly as you left it… or even better.