Written by Andrew Seale

There’s something about Toronto that’s catching the attention of travellers from around the world. In 2017, the city shattered tourism records, drawing in 43.7 million visitors, more than a third of which (15.5 million visitors) opted to spend the night, according to figures from Tourism Toronto.

But there’s one habit travellers have yet to kick: we often just pay the price on offer. We’re “price takers”, says Anna Mosiyan, who alongside Julia Oniximova, co-founded of Tbird, a platform which allows travellers to find and negotiate for accommodations, transportation, and tours, with service providers. “With Tbird, we allow consumers to become price setters.”

Mosiyan came up with the idea during a trip to Europe. She reached out to a friend of a friend and offered them 30 euros to stay the night on the stranger’s couch. The friend of a friend came back with 40 euros and the pair decided to meet in the middle at 35 euros a night, a steal compared to what she would’ve otherwise paid through a traditional hotel, hostel, or even something like Airbnb.

“Negotiation has always been part of many cultures… we negotiate in North America all the time when we buy a house or when we buy a car,” says Mosiyan pointing to other platforms like buying on Kijiji or eBay. “It's just not an official process – so we actually built the platform for it.”

For one, it gives travellers an opportunity to set a budget and stick to it.

“They can post ‘coming on Toronto, I want to stay for two nights, $20 each’ – they have their profile with their rates and reviews as a traveller and the people who are hosting get a notification,” says Mosiyan. “Travellers could be receiving multiple offers from multiple service providers, therefore, getting the best possible price.”

On the service provider side, it gives people a chance to earn a little extra cash, and do so when they’re not booked through one of the more well-known services like Uber or Airbnb.

“We don't compete with them, we're complementary,” says Mosiyan. Plus, it’s also an alternative for someone who wants to use it as a one-time or two-time opportunity to make some cash off their extra room or car that’s just parked in the driveway.

Tbird was a finalist at the Schulich startup pitch night (Mosiyan’s MBA alma mater), and has received guidance from Chris Carder, entrepreneur-in-residence at the school and co-founder of Kinetic Commerce. “He’s a great help, the people he introduced me to… I wouldn't be where I am today without him or Schulich or Innovation York,” she says. “The fact I have such a strong support system here is so essential – that's how you grow a startup.”

After a beta run, Tbird was launched this past summer in time for travel season. In addition to piloting through schools like York University, the international appetite for Toronto makes it a perfect test-bed, says the entrepreneur. “It is the place to be.”

Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)