Startup Lets Airbnb Hosts and Property Managers Store Keys at Coffee Shops

Keycafe has partnered with Waves Coffee House and several independent cafes throughout British Columbia and Alberta.

The Vancouver-based startup’s service now reaches 40 locations in 12 cities. Keycafe, which began with the idea of letting a café be the hotel lobby to Airbnb in its neighbourhood, is a service that lets customers put their existing keys on standby, allowing them to manage access to their home or rental property.

The Canadian company explains that, as homeowners increasingly turn to home sharing sites such as Airbnb and Homeaway to rent out their living spaces, a major pain point they encounter is getting their guests through the front door when they’re away. “This can be especially difficult for hosts living in multi-unit apartment buildings requiring building key or fob access,” notes the startup. Keycafe solves the home access issue by letting homeowners store their keys at their nearby café for pickup by their guests.

Here’s how it works:

Homeowners attach an RFID key fob to their keys and digitally “check in” their keys at their nearby Keycafe location. The keys are then stored in a lockbox and are anonymous to everyone but the homeowner. The homeowner then assigns access to a guest who is able to “check out” the keys at their convenience using a secret PIN and while experiencing the friendly hospitality of the local cafe staff as one would in a hotel.

“The idea for Keycafe came about from a personal need as an Airbnb host,” says Clayton Brown, who cofounded the company in 2012 alongside Jason Crabb. “I was out of town one night and had a situation where the guest missed the key handover time with the housekeeper due to a late flight. I had to then cab the guest to the suburbs to pickup keys, then cab them back to the apartment in the city. Guest experience is everything with Airbnb, and I thought, there must be a better way.”

“Keys will be around for a while, and we’ve seen a lot of creative uses of Keycafe,” adds Brown. “We are excited to see how people use Keycafe in the future to make their life a little easier.”