From OpenGrounds to Rio De Janeiro

October 25, 2013
What started as an idea in Charlottesville has now become reality in Rio De Jeneiro. Eliot Rosenberg graduated last May from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce and traveled to Brazil to start a social enterprise that has, in a year, grown in size and garnered national press coverage.
During his time at the University of Virginia, Elliot Rosenberg was the President of SEED, an organization that allows students to gain first-hand experiences helping nonprofits do a better job serving their customers through consulting-style assignments.In his final year, Elliot used many of the resources that UVA offers to brainstorm and execute what became Favela Experience.OpenGrounds played a key role in the development of his enterprise, from pitching the concept at StudCo’s JET program, to providing a space for meetings with local mentors. In his words, OpenGrounds was a “constant source of support and a great meeting place” to work on Favela Experience.

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Favela Experience harnesses Airbnb’s platform to connect favela hosts and travelers. However, it is more than just a rental agent. According to a recent Forbes profile, the business offers immersive homestays and apartment rentals for guests in these vibrant communities. Additionally, the venture’s social impact is generating livelihoods for favela hosts and breaking negative stereotypes through cultural exchange.

Elliot posits the business model’s value is in how Favela Experience “markets a trusted brand and coordinates guest stays on behalf of hosts, better than hosts would be able to alone. Moreover, guests know they’ll have secure, comfortable, and centrally-located accommodation with friendly locals who are eager to share their culture.”

The business is quickly proving itself as guests’ reviews are overwhelmingly positive. After a recent stay, Lonely Planet Brazil author Kevin Raub raved that he had, “a truly joyous weekend as a favelado” in his blog for LAN Airlines.

Now, a little more than a year after the business was born, OpenGrounds is still helping Elliot and his company. A SEED team that meets at OpenGrounds every Wednesday is working on crafting a crowd-funding campaign to help the company expand and widen its reach in Rio and beyond.

With demand for the 2014 FIFA World Cup focusing on Rio, Favela Experience has a prime opportunity. The business’ affordable, authentic World Cup accommodation offer an authentic local experience that is a great alternative to other forms of lodging (hotels, hostels, etc..). In the future, the company aims to expand operations to other frontiers of travel in Asia and Africa.

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