The Incubators

Ex-Huffington Poster Paul Berry Dishes on the Future of His Incubator, Soho TechLabs

The team is incubating CasaHop and RebelMouse, both social-focused services
paul berry 194x3001 Ex Huffington Poster Paul Berry Dishes on the Future of His Incubator, Soho TechLabs

The very busy Mr. Berry

Soho TechLabs, the new incubator backed by a cabal of ex-HuffPosters, announced yesterday that they’re hiring. But until today, the team has remained mysteriously mum about the projects they’re backing.

Hilarious tweeter and Soho TechLabs CTO Ben Regenspan let slip over DM yesterday that the “CTO Technical Cofounder” position listed on the Lerer Ventures page is in fact for CasaHop, a social travel site the team is planning to launch within the next month or so. CasaHop is described as a “social home exchange,” where you can “connect with people worldwide to trade homes for vacations and more. It’s simple — you stay in their house, they stay in yours.”

“When I was thinking about my next move,” Soho TechLabs CEO Paul Berry told Betabeat via phone, “it would’ve been easy to take another job as a CTO at another media company. But this is a much more fun and interesting challenge.”

No doubt the team he’s put together at Soho TechLabs, which includes HuffPo founders Jonah Peretti and Ken Lerer, and ex-HuffPo president Greg Coleman, is a force to be reckoned with. “We had a tremendous amount of fun building HuffPo together and we learned a lot from building it,” Mr. Berry said. “It’s an incredible fun time where we get to take a lot of the things we’ve proven and learned and apply them to different areas.”

They’ve also culled a pool of global talent–from countries including Sri Lanka, Chile, Serbia and the Philippines–to help kickstart projects.

The team sees a unique opportunity in the way things go viral, which is unsurprising considering Mr. Peretti is also the founder of BuzzFeed, a site that arguably made “viral” a household term. “There’s such a dramatic example in front of us right now with Draw Something,” Mr. Berry told us. ” The infrastructure of the web and the way we’re all hyperconnected now, stuff like Kony 2012, Draw Something, and Pinterest go live and go viral in a way that literally wasn’t possible a year ago. So we’re living in that sort of acceleration of history and I couldn’t be more excited about the team that we have to pull it off.”

The Soho TechLabs team is focused on a very specific set of criteria when it comes to which startups and ideas they want to back. For instance, at least one member–though preferably all–must feel intensely passionate about a project. “We don’t want to get into a broad group of stuff that we’re not passionate about,” said Mr. Berry.

Another notable criterion is a similar, easy to maneuver code structure. “We’re looking for things that we feel are very close to each other in terms of underlying code base and social mechanics,” he said.

RebelMouse and CasaHop, the two known Soho TechLabs ventures, both have overlying code architecture, making it easy to fix and scale. RebelMouse is a “social platform” that Mr. Berry said he needed “a month max” before he could discuss. CasaHop, on the other hand, is a project he was slightly less coy about.

“We have a very specific way to get into the social travel space,” said Mr. Berry. “[CasaHop] is also in the sharing economies space and it’s allowed us to have a very specific need there. It’s one of these pieces where we think that the people who have been going at social travel so far have had too vague of a notion about it and we have a very specific entrance into something that will become a very specific travel site.”

“We’re going to be launching the first version of [CasaHop] soon,” he promised. “We’ll probably have the first version [of CasaHop] in a month or so.”

As long as it’s not an Airbnb knockoff, we think we can get behind it.

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