CEO MISTERB&B – MATTHIEU JOST
“…my host was not happy to assume the fact that two gay men were at her door, and were planning to share a bed…”
Matthieu Jost is a French entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of the LGBTQ+ tourism website “misterb&b”. His aim is to offer a travel and social networking website which empowers the gay community to travel “more safely, feel welcome, and get local insider tips wherever they go”. Founded in 2014 in Paris “misterb&b” is counting more than 310,000 LGBTQ+ hosts in 135 countries until today, but it’s a community that is “always-on”.
INTERVIEW What is “misterb&b” about?
MATTHIEU JOST “misterb&b” is the first short-term rental platform entirely dedicated to the LGBTQ community. Offering private or shared rooms, full apartments and +100,000 gay-friendly hotel rooms, it allows our community to travel safely and connect with the local gay communities through our network of 310,000 hosts in over 135 countries.
INTERVIEW How did you get the idea of “misterb&b”?
MJ Years ago, after an unpleasant stay in Barcelona: My host was not happy to assume the fact that two gay men were at her door, and were planning to share a bed. I didn’t feel welcome, I didn’t feel accepted, and that episode spoiled my entire trip. I remember thinking no one in the LGBT community should ever have such an unpleasant and unnecessary experience, so I decided to create “misterb&b”.
INTERVIEW What is a LGBT+ friendly hotel, or travel in general? Is it just about different, not represented needs or is it about “non-discriminatory environments”?
MJ It’s mostly about non-discriminatory environments. LGBTQ travellers need to feel welcome and treated equally, by any staff member, from the front desk to the restaurant or the room service. Whenever a hotel facility wants to advertise their property on “misterb&b”, we let them sign a non-discriminatory, LGBTQ-friendly chart. This makes the facility aware of the needs of our community of travellers and it helps us select the ones that should be included in our offer or not.
INTERVIEW Forbes called “misterb&b” the “gay Airbnb” is this a correct description, or does this sound in a way exclusive, like “just for gays Airbnb”?
MJ Let’s say we didn’t take this definition in a negative way. Mainly, because it was just a matter of semantics. It made people aware of a different way of traditional, mainstream airbnbing aka renting out your space. Every day we work against labelling ourselves as exclusively gay. It’s an LGBTQ oriented service, then, of course, our gay clientele is much more faithful, present and directly connected to the brand, but we’re very inclusive: everyone, gay or straight is welcome to use the service. Of course, as long as they share and respect the values of the LGBTQ community.
INTERVIEW A lot of brands are doing “pride-collaborations/ capsule collections” in this very special month, what do you think about that? Is it an advertising/image thing, honest concern, or something else? Is this question irrelevant though, if it helps to make LGBT+ more visible?
MJ Branding yourself as “gay-friendly” or putting a rainbow flag on a website cannot be enough. LGBT travellers will need to feel a sincere interest, beyond the pursuit of the “pink dollar”. For instance, our collaboration with Dockers has been fueled by their interest in donating the gains of the pride-themed t-shirt to Outright International. If we felt this could’ve just been an advertising effort on behalf of the brand we would’ve never collaborated with such a project. We were sure of the genuine interest of Dockers in contributing to the cause: as one of the fastest-growing startups in the gay industry we’re well aware of pinkwashing threats and we want to avoid them. The collaboration came from Dockers’ interest in “misterb&b” to begin with. They approached us, presenting their #DockersChallengers project, which involves sharing stories of entrepreneurs who have changed the rules. As part of the project, Dockers has also created Pride-themed t-shirts, with the proceeds going to an NGO which fights for LGBTQ rights. This was something that truly inspired us to get involved. We were given the opportunity to select the NGO which would receive the donation, and we chose Outright International. Among others, Outright International is one of the LGBTQ NGOs we support on a daily basis through a program called Mister for Good. It allows us and our users to make donations to several organizations fighting for LGBTQ rights around the world when making a reservation through misterb&b.
INTERVIEW Is it an aim of life to make your company irrelevant, in the illusion of a future without differences between humans with different genders or sexual preferences?
MJ Sure. In an ideal world, we would not exist. But we’re not naive. Although there’s a growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community worldwide, we are still facing huge challenges in a lot of countries, LGBTQ rights are being threatened even in places from which you thought there were enough victories. And day after day you hear and read about people being attacked or discriminated for who they are. Maybe things will be easier for younger generations but I’m quite sure we will still be relevant for many years to come.