The door has closed on Austin’s Kasita tiny-home company but another has opened on a new concept — tiny hotels. The reimagined company has ambitious plans to change the hospitality industry, beginning right here on South Congress Avenue.
Kasita, founded in 2015, recently stopped selling 350-square-foot tiny homes after generating considerable funding and great fanfare — including headline-grabbing promotions at SXSW. Jeff Wilson (an academic researcher known as “Professor Dumpster”) and Taylor Wilson, co-founders of the original Kasita, are not associated with the reincarnated version.
The rebooted company website explains that the tiny-house builder burst onto the scene “with an ambitious vision.”
“They created one of the most innovative and highly regarded tiny homes on the market,” the website says. “Unfortunately, there was not enough consumer demand to support their plan to manufacture and sell tiny homes directly to consumers.”
Patrick Courtney, chief operating officer and general counsel for the new Kasita, tells CultureMap the old Kasita shut down in late 2018. The new entity then bought the assets through a foreclosure proceeding, he says, and the hotel-focused Kasita emerged in early 2019.
The new company purchased those assets to capitalize on the old Kasita’s modular-construction infrastructure for tiny homes and pivot the business model to tiny hotels that appeal to “independent” travelers, according to Austin entrepreneur Richard Lent, co-owner of the new Kasita.
“We were lucky enough and blessed enough to be able to buy all of the assets and all of the IP [intellectual property] of the company,” Lent tells CultureMap. “What I like to say is they had an amazing solution without a problem. And we had a problem, and they provided the solution.”
Lent has teamed up with fellow entrepreneur Kenny Tomlin to shepherd the reborn Kasita. The two men co-own the Kimber Modern boutique hotel on South Congress Avenue.
Next year, Kasita plans to establish tiny hotels in Austin; San Antonio; Nashville, Tennessee; San Diego; Portland, Oregon; and Bentonville, Arkansas (the headquarters town of Walmart, where Tomlin once worked). The Austin location likely will be the first property to open, Courtney says. It too will be in the South Congress area.
Tomlin and Lent envision growing Kasita into a global hospitality brand.
Kasita says its concept combines the warmth and authenticity of short-term rentals (think Airbnb and Vrbo) with the consistent quality and service of a luxury hotel chain.
“If you’ve ever tried to plan a trip around a short-term rental, you could either be incredibly excited and get the best experience on Earth,” Lent says, “or it could ruin your entire trip because the images you see online don’t match the reality.”
By embracing modular construction, Kasita has seized on an emerging trend in the hospitality industry. For instance, the Marriott hotel chain said in April that it’s building the world’s tallest modular hotel in New York City. The 26-story, $65 million AC Hotel New York NoMad hotel will feature 168 prefabricated, pre-furnished modular guestrooms.
Each 360-square-foot Kasita hotel suite (roughly the size of a traditional hotel room) will be constructed in a factory, and every modular suite will look precisely the same. Most Kasita hotels will feature 20 to 25 suites, Courtney says.
Kasita says each suite “offers serene privacy, abundant natural light, a modern bathroom, a functional workspace, and an incredibly comfortable mattress with luxury linens.”
A guest will gain entry to the hotel and a reserved suite with a self-selected PIN — no key required. In the mold of a short-term rental, guests will communicate with Kasita hosts via app, text, email, or phone after they arrive.
“You can stream your music and movies from your own accounts and devices using our no-hassle entertainment system,” Kasita says. “You can set preferences like pillows and toiletries that become a part of your optional profile and show up when desired. Intelligent in-room systems learn, remember, and set all lighting, temperature, and sound settings to your preferences — automatically.”
Most Kasita hotels will employ an on-site host, Courtney says, but there won’t be a front desk or any check-in and checkout lines.
A Kasita project will take six to nine months to complete, compared with 12 to 14 months for a conventional hotel. That translates into dramatically lower development costs for construction.
Since Kasita hotel suites will be easy to move, they can be tucked into places like golf courses, distilleries, and wineries to “create a pop-up hospitality solution with minimal business disruption,” the company says. It adds that the suites meet building-code requirements and are considered permanent structures.