A Day in My Life

Eine Art maß ge sch­nei­der te sA irbn bi st die Erfind­ung dieses irischen Un­ternehmers in Dublin. Von JOHN STAN­LEY

Spotlight - - CONTENTS -

Meet an Ir­ish­man who started a spe­cial sort of Airbnb

My name is Peter Man­gan, and I’m 47

years old. I’m the founder and CEO of The Free­bird Club, a new peer-to-peer so­cial travel and home-stay club for peo­ple over 50 years of age. While it’s of­ten com­pared to Airbnb, the club is ac­tu­ally a so­cial en­ter­prise — a way of fa­cil­i­tat­ing com­pan­ion­ship and in­ter­ac­tion be­tween older peo­ple.

Based in Dublin, this is a global ven­ture with about 3,500 mem­bers cur­rently spread over 72 coun­tries. In Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, we’ve about 120 mem­bers, mostly prospective trav­ellers. Ob­vi­ously, we’re keen to grow there and want to find more hosts in places like Ber­lin and Mu­nich. We’ve big am­bi­tions for the club, and al­though it is still at a very early stage, it is grow­ing nicely.

I re­ally wanted to start a move­ment, but I’ve found that to get a move­ment go­ing these days, you re­ally have to start a busi­ness. It all be­gan when I built a house in County Kerry — where I’m orig­i­nally from — and started let­ting out rooms. I was work­ing and liv­ing in Dublin, and my father, a wid­ower in his 70s, did most of the meet­ing and greet­ing of guests for me — and was clearly en­joy­ing it.

When guests of a sim­i­lar vin­tage to him started ar­riv­ing, things went to a whole new level, though. He rev­elled in the op­por­tu­nity to take them sight­see­ing, down to the pub, out to din­ner — or even to play a game of golf. That set me think­ing, and The Free­bird Club was the re­sult.

There are a lot of dif­fer­ent jobs to be done each day by the small team be­hind the pro­ject. I start around 8 o’clock by brows­ing the news­pa­pers to see what’s hap­pen­ing in the world. A lot of e-mails come in overnight, so I then spend an hour or two re­spond­ing to them. I do this at home to avoid the city’s rush-hour traf­fic be­fore go­ing in to our of­fices.

We have peo­ple in mar­ket­ing, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, tech­nol­ogy and cus­tomer ser­vice, and we all catch up with each other in the morn­ing. We have a for­mal staff meet­ing ev­ery cou­ple of days to go through par­tic­u­lar agen­das. There’s al­ways cus­tomer ser­vice to be done, and we all do a bit of that in the morn­ing. In the af­ter­noon, there are usu­ally meet­ings off-site for me. The way to make a start-up like this hap­pen is to make con­nec­tions, to de­velop po­ten­tial for col­lab­o­ra­tion or to seize new PR and mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

So Free­bird is not just about find­ing a nice place to stay. It’s about con­nect­ing with peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests and who are will­ing to in­vite you to stay in their homes. We do ba­sic se­cu­rity checks and pro­vide sup­port for mem­bers, al­low­ing them to en­gage with each other safely and con­fi­dently. That makes it par­tic­u­larly valu­able for peo­ple liv­ing alone, and it also gen­er­ates ex­tra in­come for host mem­bers who may be liv­ing on fixed in­comes and have a spare room avail­able. About 10 per cent of our mem­bers go on to be­come hosts.

Be­fore head­ing home, I’ll go for a swim in the lo­cal swim­ming pool or out for a run, al­though my dis­ci­pline isn’t as good now as it used to be in that re­gard. I don’t have a TV at home, and I’ll usu­ally do more work in the evening. We have quite a few in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tors and part­ners, so there’s of­ten a Skype call with some­one in a dif­fer­ent time zone. Of­ten, too, there are grant ap­pli­ca­tions to be pre­pared or an ar­ti­cle to be writ­ten for our mem­ber mag­a­zine, The Free­bird Times. Fi­nally, I’ll re­lax with a book for half an hour or so be­fore I go to bed.

Re­cently there’s been a lot of travel, and in­creas­ingly there are con­fer­ences to at­tend. So my days are quite var­ied at the mo­ment, but they’re al­ways full.

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