The Story Behind Mint House: Pioneering a New Kind of Stay

with Christian Lee, CEO of Mint House

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I've been hearing about Mint House for a while now and wanted to learn the story behind what they are doing. Their board and investors include former chief executives from Four Seasons, Disney, Club Med, Starwood Hotels, and Travelocity. Their New York property is a TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice award winner with a perfect 5/5 rating and is ranked among the top hotels in New York City. They hosted me for a night recently, and when I visited, it was easy to see why - it's a tech-forward concept, but I was warmly greeted by two hosts and felt their hospitality through each step of the guest experience.

Today, we’re going behind the scenes on the brand, covering how they’ve built an all-star group of investors, board, and executive leadership team, what's unique about the Mint House model, and what trends they're tracking - and building solutions for.

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The Story Behind Mint House: Pioneering a New Kind of Stay

with Christian Lee, CEO of Mint House

Christian is a fascinating person with a global perspective shaped by growing up in North Dakota, going to high school in Pakistan, spending time in China during college, and then in Afghanistan during business school to help start an investment fund. Christian lived in China for three years overseeing Asia for WeWork before becoming CFO of a global supply chain technology company - and then taking the top job at Mint House.

Mint House combines the best elements of traditional hotels with Airbnb-sized spaces to offer guests a consistent but elevated experience. The company works with multifamily residential owners in urban markets, ensuring that each property reflects the local culture and meets the needs of guests. Here’s a video overview of the property I stayed at:

Lessons from WeWork

Earlier in his career, Christian led Asia operations for WeWork.

WeWork obviously wasn't traditional hospitality but we thought a lot about how do we bring a human element to something that hadn't had as much of a human element before: office space.

I asked Christian what his biggest learnings from that experience were.

It’s blending consistency with an authentic local experience. We built spaces so that they had a similar set of things. You knew you had meeting rooms, you knew you had breakout rooms, you knew you had your dedicated office. There was a community manager there who was going to make the experience great for you, there to help out if you have questions or problems.

But we also made [the spaces] of the city or of the country they were in. They all had local artists who were involved. They all had whatever the local needs were. Little things like tea in certain places versus coffee or different types of events that would be more relevant in different types of cities or countries, whatever it happened to be. It was all about that mix of how do you make something that's consistent, that has sort of a set of standards associated with it, but also is very local and authentic to the place that it is.

Learning from the Mint House board

The Mint House board is comprised of some very talented people, and I asked Christian what he’s learned working with them.

It's a really interesting mix because Mint House is a growth company that has venture investors in it, so there are venture investors on the board. At the same time, the board has been very intentional about bringing in people who have deep hospitality and operational expertise. The former CEO of Four Seasons is on our board. The former COO of Equinox is on our board. And then we have these people who have investment growth experience. How do you scale something? What are the lessons you can use to provide leverage to get scale as we grow the organization? The goal is to expand the brand, into more cities and across the country. At the same time, we have a deep set of operational expertise. We can learn this is what Four Seasons did. This is how we scale.

Just talking to all of them is so exciting because I get to bounce ideas off of them like where could we invest? How might we grow? At the same time, how do we think about what our brand should stand for? How do we think about how do we have consistency but still be local in the markets we're in?

Learning from Equinox

What Equinox did to gyms is something I’m fascinated by for hospitality, and Christian elaborated on this.

Equinox is such a great story of taking something that people used to pay $50/month for, and now they pay $300/month for it because It's an elevated experience. It's the same treadmill and the same weights, but it's everything around it that makes it so cool, makes it so welcoming.

It's the hospitality piece, bringing a kind of hospitality to a gym experience, which no one had really done at scale before Equinox.

The allure (and problem) with Airbnb

I was really fascinated by this idea of how do you take what's traditional residential hospitality, and mixing together a whole bunch of things. When I travel, I don't initially want to have just a traditional hotel room. I want access to a kitchen. I wanted to feel more like I'm living in the city than I'm just a tourist there. But with Airbnb comes a huge amount of inconsistency. As I always say, the best experience I've ever had staying somewhere is an Airbnb and the worst experience I've ever had is an Airbnb.

Once we were driving up to this home we had rented with the family and the host calls and said, sorry, I forgot to tell you, my son lives in the basement. And we were like, what are you talking about? I'm bringing my family. And we’re three hours into the drive. And so that's just difficult for people to deal with.

And so Mint House was like, well, let’s provide all of those things that are great and what people want, but make it a consistent experience. It's branded. There is someone there to take care of things when you need that. You know what you're getting.

The Mint House approach

What sets Mint House apart is the more spacious, residential feel of the accommodations. (Something I appreciated after staying at a few NYC hotels that felt impractical for stays of more than a night or two!)

They aim for premium, well-designed spaces that offer the practicalities of a home. They're not vying for the ultra-luxury segment but providing an upscale experience with amenities that allow guests to live like they would at home—whether it's making breakfast, doing laundry, or working from a desk in the room. This functionality, Christian says, makes Mint House not just a place to stay but a place to live - however long the stay is.

Today, the company is focused on partnering with multifamily residential owners in city centers. Unlike others who may be spreading their resources across various short-term rental markets, Mint House is sticking to urban residential properties, aiming for consistency in its offerings.

Scale is crucial for Mint House’s business model. According to Christian, to be effective, they need a significant presence either within a building or a city—typically around 20 to 30 units at a minimum.

For instance, at the property I stayed at - 70 Pine in NY - Mint House manages 165 dedicated units. The size allows them some flexibility in service; smaller setups might not have round-the-clock staff but will have someone on-call during the day and part-time cleaning staff, while larger operations can offer 24/7 service like a traditional hotel.

 Listen to our full conversation here now to hear Christian talk about all this and much more:

  • The customer they are solving problems for

  • The pitch to owners: Why turn an apartment building into a Mint House

  • Capabilities Christian is building in the Mint House team that will enable them to succeed in the future

  • The marketing they are focused on

  • Trends Christian is tracking now

  • …and much more

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