Nico Barawid, Casai: Transforming the traveling experience for the next generation of digital nomads, Ep 147

In Mexico, the hospitality industry is the third-highest contributor to GDP. Therefore, when COVID-19 initially shut tourists out of the country and forced many hotels to close down, the Mexican economy was hit relatively hard. By the second half of 2020, travel to Mexico was picking up, and the hospitality industry is ready to make a comeback, with some Mexico destinations on pace for more travel than in 2019!

Casai, a luxury hospitality startup, aims to be the high-end Airbnb for digital nomads, high-end business travelers, and families. In this episode of Crossing Borders, I sat down with Casai’s founder and CEO Nico Barawid to learn more about his story.

Starting with his first job at a startup in San Francisco and his background in consulting, Nico explains how these experiences prepared him to run Casai efficiently. We also discuss the difficulties Casai faced during the pandemic and Nico explains the ways in which Casai managed to bounce back and the lessons learned along the way.

Learning on someone else’s dime

Nico explains that his most valuable learning experience came from working for a startup in San Francisco before starting Casai. As the third hire, Nico worked closely with the founders from the very beginning, allowing him to get the full founder experience without having to take founder risk.

To learn some more of Nico’s tips and lessons learned, listen to this episode of Crossing Borders.

Taking advantage of homegrown talent

As soon as Nico moved to Mexico, he noticed that many of the most intelligent and qualified people often left the country to seek opportunities abroad. That meant having to leave their families and their home behind. By building Casai in Mexico, he hopes to retain some of Mexico’s top talent at home in Mexico. This way, his team can build not only a company but also a country that they are proud of.

Hear more about how Nico thinks about building a team in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Bouncing back from COVID-19

The day the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Casai had more cancellations than confirmations. As the pandemic advanced, the cancellations kept coming. So, Nico began focusing on the data: who was still coming and why? Taking note of these trends, Casai was able to remain agile and make decisions on a day-to-day basis that ultimately saved the company during the pandemic.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about the trends Nico and his team discovered during the onset of COVID-19.

In this episode, Nico Barawid explains that, as an entrepreneur, the lows are never as low as you think they are, because every past mistake or tough situation will teach you something useful to prepare you for your next attempt. It is with this mindset that Nico has taken Casai to where it is today, transforming the traveling experience for the next generation of digital nomads.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:42]- Identifying the problem in the hospitality industry
  • [4:43]- Standardizing the variability of accommodations
  • [7:09]- Who is Nico Barawid?
  • [9:23]- What did your consulting and startup background teach you?
  • [11:39]- What is the best advice you have for someone starting a startup?
  • [13:26]- Picking your startup; what should you look for?
  • [15:53]- Why start Casai in Mexico?
  • [18:18]- Hiring local talent
  • [20:10]- Getting Casai off the ground
  • [22:43]- LatAm and US funds; how did you raise capital?
  • [26:30]- Growing from the first fund to pre-COVID-19
  • [28:40]- Surviving COVID-19 in the hospitality industry
  • [33:30]- What advice would you give your San Francisco self?
  • [38:14]- What is next for Casai?

Resources & people mentioned:

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