If you’re of African American descent, or perhaps simply a person of color and you’ve attempted to use AirBNB’s home sharing platform, perhaps you’ve got a horror story to tell. I know I do, and I can assure you that few things feel worse than attempting to book a vacation rental, or in my case a place to stay while working in another city, and being met with rejection at every pass. In my case, I had to travel to Naples Florida for work. It was Spring Break, and literally, every single hotel room in or near the city was sold out. So, I resorted to AirBNB hoping I wouldn’t have to sleep in my car or risk canceling the work trip which would have come with other consequences.
Every single homeowner that I contacted either didn’t respond at all or somehow magically came up with an excuse that rendered their home unavailable during all of the dates of my visit. Soon it got down to the point where even on AirBNB, there were only 3 available places left in Naples. I persisted and emailed explaining the situation, emphasizing the fact that I was visiting Naples for work hoping this would somehow allow the person on the other end to have a heart. At first, the gentlemen on the other end agreed to my dates. And then, came the excuses. “I won’t be back in time to give you the keys”. I got my client to shift my visit by a day and contacted the gentlemen to let him know that I would be able to come in a day later so that he’d be there to greet me with the keys. He suddenly had a work emergency, and wouldn’t be coming back into Naples until the following weekend.
I was crushed. Even though I couldn’t actually prove it was discrimination, I knew in the bottom of my heart that the reason no one had accepted my request was because of the color of my skin. I had many friends with similar stories, some who attempted to book a space for a certain block of dates only for the space to turn up magically unavailable, only to have a white friend successfully book the space for the same block of time. This sort of occurrence has even given birth to a popular hashtag to recount stories of discrimination vis a vis AirBNB, #airbnbwhileblack.
But in all reality, sharing a home with strangers, which is essentially the premise of AirBNB is inherently tricky. Would want people that I am not comfortable within my home and in my personal space? Probably not. As a renter, would I actually want to stay in a place where I am not welcome? Definitely not.
The answer to this all too common and hurtful dilemma is a home-sharing platform called Innclusive. Innclusive has a diversity guarantee which dictates that the people who rent their space on the platform, are completely okay renting their space to persons of color. Innclusive is not simply a carbon-copy of AirBNB, but rather a response to the subtle and systematic discrimination practices that occurred as a result of AirBNB.
As is the mark of many brave and committed entrepreneurs before them, Founders, Zakiyyah Myers, and Rohan Gilkes saw a problem and found a way to use technology to provide a solution. Rohan is a serial entrepreneur, who upon being repeatedly rejected by various AirBNB hosts when visiting Idaho, set out to create a platform free of discrimination and bias.
To ensure that the same sort or of horror stories for people of color don’t happen on the Innclusive platform, the app (and website) has embedded technology which prevents a host from denying a guest access to a space, and then making it available to another guest for the same block of time. The platform also hides a guest identify until the reservation is booked, making it nearly impossible to exercise discriminatory practices.
We salute Rohan and Zakiyyah for not simply complaining, but for being adamant in their resolve to actually do something about a problem that has negatively impacted so many people before them. Their resolve and determination is truly dope.