5 MIN­UTES WITH… THE CO-FOUNDER OF ACCOMABLE

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Ge­net­ics stu­dent turned cor­po­rate lawyer Srin Madi­palli has started an Airbnb-style ser­vice for trav­ellers who have a dis­abil­ity.

WHAT IN­SPIRED THE IDEA FOR ACCOMABLE?

I’ve al­ways loved to travel. A few years ago I took six months off work from my city law job to go trav­el­ling, and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I have spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy and use a mo­torised wheel­chair but was still able to go scuba div­ing in Bali, wheel­chair trekking in Cal­i­for­nia, and even learnt how to fly a plane!

I did find the lo­gis­tics of plan­ning a trip with a wheel­chair in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult at times, es­pe­cially when you ar­rive at ac­com­mo­da­tion that is ad­ver­tised as ac­ces­si­ble only to find steps up to the front door – and that didn’t just hap­pen once! It was in­cred­i­bly time-con­sum­ing and sucked a lot of the joy out of such an ex­cit­ing trip.

WHAT MAKES YOUR STARTUP DIF­FER­ENT FROM OTHER HOL­I­DAY RENTAL PLAT­FORMS?

We guar­an­tee that all of our prop­er­ties are ac­ces­si­ble. For other hol­i­day rental plat­forms ‘dis­abled ac­cess’ is just a tick box and it’s not some­thing the plat­form ver­i­fies. At Accomable ev­ery prop­erty has to back up an ac­cess claim with pic­tures. So if you say you have grab rails in the bath­room, you need to pro­vide an im­age. In the early days, many of the prop­er­ties were places I had stayed at or vis­ited, or [that] a mem­ber of our team had rec­om­mended. We also have a closed Face­book group where we dis­cuss help­ful ad­vice to plan a fun trip – such as the best prop­er­ties with ac­ces­si­ble hot tubs!

YOU’VE JUST CLOSED A SEED ROUND WORTH £300,000. WHAT’S BE­HIND THE EN­THU­SI­AS­TIC IN­VEST­MENT?

The ac­ces­si­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion mar­ket has been mas­sively un­der­served, and I think in­vestors are just be­gin­ning to re­alise this. I think it’s of­ten sur­pris­ing how many peo­ple have a mo­bil­ity is­sue – more than 10 per cent in the UK and 18 per cent in the US – yet ho­tel book­ing sites of­ten give bad in­for­ma­tion when it comes to ac­ces­si­bil­ity, and can be dif­fi­cult to trust, which in turn has made many peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity very ner­vous to travel. We found that the dis­abled travel mar­ket was val­ued at around US$18 bil­lion, which poses a huge op­por­tu­nity for in­no­va­tion. Trav­ellers who have dis­abil­i­ties con­trib­ute US$17.3 bil­lion to the travel in­dus­try ev­ery year, and that’s not even count­ing their com­pan­ions.

ARE THERE ANY UNIQUE CHAL­LENGES YOU FACE AS A START-UP FOUNDER?

One of the things I love about the start-up world is that it’s pretty much open to any­one. I taught my­self how to code so I could build the pro­to­type for Accomable from scratch on a tight bud­get. As a dis­abled per­son, I have never been will­ing to be left be­hind on any­thing. This es­pe­cially ap­plies to any cool ad­vance­ments in tech and the bril­liant ben­e­fits of the shar­ing econ­omy. That be­ing said, I spent much of last year work­ing long hours, seven days a week, while feel­ing paral­ysed with a kid­ney stone. But that could hap­pen to any founder!

WHEN DID YOU KNOW ACCOMABLE HAD MADE AN IM­PACT?

I was par­tic­u­larly chuffed when we reached the mile­stone of of­fer­ing more than 1000 ac­ces­si­ble stays in over 60 coun­tries world­wide, some­thing we weren’t even sure was pos­si­ble in the early days. I also had the chance to go to the Rio Par­a­lympics to speak at an in­clu­sion sum­mit about ac­ces­si­ble travel. I’ve also ad­vo­cated for bet­ter han­dling for wheel­chairs by air­lines. But, it’s feed­back from users that matters most – peo­ple who’ve been on their first ever hol­i­day be­cause of us.

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