Closing Time

Soho TechLabs Shuts Down Social Travel Site CasaHop

CEO Paul Berry wants to focus on RebelMouse.
(Photo: Mr. Berry)

(Photo: Mr. Berry)

Back in April 2012, the HuffPo cabal-backed Soho TechLabs launched a social travel site called CasaHop that allowed users to “connect with people worldwide to trade homes for vacations and more.” Now, Soho TechLab’s CEO Paul Berry told Betabeat that the incubator is shutting down CasaHop in order to focus more on RebelMouse, a tool for building social webpages that has seen explosive growth in recent months.

“CasaHop never gained the traction it needed,” Mr. Berry told Betabeat by phone. “The timing was off. Airbnb is really in a winner takes all situation in this area. I hope one day someone is going to break out and make this an enormous idea because I love home exchanges, but too few people feel comfortable with other people staying in their place while they’re away.”

Mr. Berry said that CasaHop only spent a third of its investment money. It will be returning the remaining two thirds to investors in cash, and the other third will be accounted for in RebelMouse stock. “Only Lerer Ventures and I will get diluted,” he added.

Despite this setback, Mr. Berry was eager to emphasize the success of RebelMouse, another Soho TechLabs venture, which aggregates users’ social posts onto one main homepage.

“We’re reaching 1.5 million uniques a month, so just six months out it’s this feeling of traction,” Mr. Berry said. “With hosts like GoDaddy, .01 percent of people actually like what’s on their domain name and RebelMouse has the opposite percentage. 98 percent of users with RebelMouse-powered domains are thrilled by it.” Mr. Berry added that everyone from influential journalists to big companies to small businesses have adopted RebelMouse as their homepage.

“RebelMouse is the chance to build a CMS from everything we’ve learned about what’s happened to social and to build it ancitipating what’s coming and make it so that the people that understand social are the ones that can power the website,” Mr. Berry said, adding, “It’s also a very direct reflection of who I am and what I’ve learned.”

Despite all this excitement for RebelMouse, Mr. Berry acknowledged that it is a “bummer” to close CasaHop. “I wish CasaHop was bigger than Airbnb, but I think you have to be able to realize when something’s not working,” he admitted.

Wise words.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com