The President and partner of Jim Pickell, tells us about this vacation trend that is getting more and more popular.
Leyla Melek

FASHION&TRAVEL Can you tell us about yourself?
JIM PICKELL Sure! I am an entrepreneur that loves working in ways that disrupt existing business models and creating new and more efficient ways of doing things. As Sony I headed up digital distribution and launched the first platform to distribute digital movies, ebooks and music. I left in 2007 to form, now the largest online school in Latin America with over 2000 teachers and 200,000 students having studied English. While trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, I explored this concept called home exchanging. Ed Kushins, the CEO and founder was one of the recipients of my inquiry. The rest is history. Now I am the President and his partner. The concept has changed the way I travel and my life in many ways.

F&T And what can you say about
JP People often join to save a few dollars but the experiences they have change their lives. This is why they keep coming back. I suspect we have a 95 percent return rate for members who have engaged in at least one exchange. We are different than other services in that everyone that works for our company are home exchangers. And we have over 20 people working 24/7/365 to support our members, by phone, email and live chat, in 15 languages.

F&T Who are your members?
JP Really anyone that has a place to sleep; however, there are certain demographics that thrive in our community. Teachers that like to travel affordably, love culture and have summers off. Remote workers that have flexibility. Active retired people that want to see the world, but on a budget. We’ve been told our service has allowed people to retire earlier. People who have pets have the opportunity to either bring their pets to a pet friendly home or watch each others and be assured they are trading with a pet lover. And, among others, families that want multiple rooms, a kitchen, a dishwasher and a washing machine. Often times things like high chairs, strollers, cribs, toys etc. I’ve used the service to exchange with incredible ski cabins and chalets so that teaching my children to ski is affordable.


F&T How big is
JP We have over 66,000 listings in 150+ countries. We have doubled in size over just the last 3 years.

F&T What was the first thing you did when you first started working at
JP I brought on some very strong people from my past to help accelerate innovation within the company. I like to think of our company as a 23-year old start-up. While we are very dependent on our strong history, without constantly reinventing ourselves and embracing change, we will cease to evolve. So now we move at the pace of a start-up.

F&T What are your challenges?
JP Our biggest challenge is the fact that our concept doesn’t lend itself well to advertising. People are not exchanging homes, they are exchanging experiences. And most of our new Members came in as referrals who had the benefit of hearing some of these stories. We need to continue to find ways to encourage the exchange of these stories. Fortunately, the pace of storytelling among our community continues to increase as we grow. We have now facilitated over 1 million exchanges and their are probably as many stories floating around out there!

F&T Can you tell us about your cooperation with tripadvisor?
JP One of our priorities is to reduce the amount of time it takes for people to navigate an exchange. One of the most fun pieces of exchanging is fielding inbound requests, often in areas or neighborhoods with which our members are unfamiliar. When we asked our members how they learned more about the area, the nearly unanimous answer was by using one of the most trusted brands in travel, Trip Advisor. Integrating their information on our site was natural.


F&T is a good example for sharing economy. Why is sharing economy important and is it widespread?
JP While to me the sharing economy is not the exciting new trend it’s being made out to be, the recent evolution is transformative. I see it as using technology to facilitate, not replace personal relationships. So rather than working through faceless intermediaries, people can now interact with real people, build real relationships and create authentic experiences. I see people starting to realize that the first chapter of the internet took something away and they are seeking ways to get this back. Home exchanging started with a printed catalog and inquiries being sent with a stamp and envelope. Our early adopted sought out this human connection. Now we can offer this to an increasing number of people more efficiently and people are excited about that.

F&T What future plans do you have for
JP My primary focus is to make the service intuitive, accessible, personal and efficient. Our members will be able to access our service on mobile phones but also on their TV set. They will be able to make decisions by swiping with a thumb. Rather than using our 56 filters for a search for a ski cabin, they can lean back and browse some personalized ski collection and open the door to new places they have never considered. We will make suggestions that meet their needs. And we will continue to increase the level of support they have available so those that are not the DIY (“do it yourselves”) type of people, can enjoy white glove service if they so desire.