Friday Q&A: Steve Barsh, CEO of Packlate.com - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 19, 2010 1:30 pm

Friday Q&A: Steve Barsh, CEO of Packlate.com

The DreamIt Ventures managing partner is diving back into his own new startup -- with a travel focus.

Update: Minor copy edits. Changed logo.

As reported in this week’s Venture Capital Roundup, Steve Barsh has had a busy week.

The DreamIt Ventures managing partner got his tons of national press for his latest startup, Packlate.com, from TechCrunch, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The company, based in University City (though with plans to move to West Conshohocken) aims to be a last-minute vacation booking service and has received funding from ETF Ventures and First Round Capital.

“It’s not a rocket ship yet, but it is kind of jiggling on the launchpad,” says Barsh.

Barsh says the idea has been brewing for years as he mentored young entrepreneurs at DreamIt while maintaining vacation properties in Utah.

“You know the saying ‘Those who do, do. And those who don’t, teach? I like to do both,” he says.

Currently he says he is still dedicating ten percent of his time to DreamIt but says he wants to focus most of his efforts on his new startup. We spoke with Barsh about Packlate’s future, how DreamIt can survive with preoccupied management and when we’ll be able to book a Jersey Shore vacation with Packlate.

As always, edited for length and clarity.

How long have you been working on Packlate? This seemed to come out of nowhere.

I’ve had rental property in Park City, Utah for about ten years and I’ve had this idea for Packlate for the last five. I’ve been kind of doing it on my own for my two condos and when I was doing DreamIt this summer, talking to all these entrepreneurs about de-risking, I was working on Packlate as kind of my “20 percent time.”

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A bunch of investors in the Philly area told me I cant de-risk it anymore without cash so they told me “Build it into a company and we’ll fund it.”

We started the company on September 1st. Within three months it was funded and within five months it was in the market. We went really fast… We just wanted to get it out there and see how people reacted.

How are people reacting?

Traffic is surging because we keep getting PR. We keep bringing more servers online, so it’s a good problem to have. I said at our first board meeting this week: “If anyone was wondering, we are at revenue.”

So we are getting bookings and generating money. Not a lot, but its a great signal. We’re really pleased.

It’s only for the Rockies now?

[Advisor and StubHub.com founder] Colin Evans hounded on me this summer and said “If you launch nationwide, you’re going to be 3,000 miles wide and a quarter of an inch deep.” You won’t be a marketplace. It would be like walking into the Barnes and Noble and seeing two books in the fiction section. Which means you don’t have a fiction section.

We’ll expand in the spring and summer for other markets.

So I can book the Jersey shore pretty soon?

I hope so. There are a lot of markets we want to open up in.

“We have an idea coming out in the next week that I hope will be completely crushing to the vacation rental industry.”-Steve Barsh

To switch gears, are you involved in this year’s DreamIt class?

I’m not focused exclusively on Packlate but I am focused extensively on Packlate. I usually teach part-time at Wharton, I’m not doing that this semester.

With DreamIt it will be a very light participation, I’ll do some mentoring, I’ll do a talk, but I won’t be full-time. I can’t do both. If I do both, I’ll do both poorly.

If Packlate takes off, do you see yourself pulling out of DreamIt?

I’ll always have ten percent of my time for DreamIt. To really do both of these things, you have to throw yourself at them.

What’s the next step for Packlate?

We’re refining in our current market and trying to get all of our metrics up and to the right. More booking, more people watching and driving more traffic. We have an idea coming out in the next week that I hope will be completely crushing to the vacation rental industry, which is fun.

Are you worried about the future of DreamIT? You have Packlate, Steve Welsh is running for congress and David Bookspan runs Monetate?

DreamIt is in great hands. They are moving at 100 miles per hour whether I’m involved or not. DreamIt is doing well and is well-backed and it will stay that way.

Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

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