VC-backed Sonder beefs up executive suite

SF-based firm plans to add 700 employees in Montreal by 2025

National /
Jan.January 12, 2021 06:00 AM
From left: Sanjay Banker, Francis Davidson, Satyen Pandya and Christian Hempell (LinkedIn; Skift; Sonder)
From left: Sanjay Banker, Francis Davidson, Satyen Pandya and Christian Hempell (LinkedIn; Skift; Sonder)

Sonder, a VC-backed hospitality startup, is beefing up its C-suite as it looks to move past a volatile few months for the travel industry.

The San Francisco-based company, which leases apartments and turns them into furnished, short-term rentals, said CFO Sanjay Banker, who joined in 2019, would add “president” to his title to help oversee the company’s growth, including a major expansion in Montreal, where the company has roots.

In a blog post Tuesday, Sonder also said it hired Satyen Pandya — who previously worked at Flexport, a SoftBank-backed freight forwarding startup — as its first chief technology officer. Prior to Flexport, Pandya had stints at WeWork and Amazon.

Christian Hempell, an InterContinental Hotel Group alumnus, recently joined as Sonder’s vice president of market operations in North America.

Founded in 2012 by CEO Francis Davidson and Lucas Pellan, Sonder was valued at $1.3 billion after raising $170 million in June. The round was led by investors Fidelity, WestCap and Inovia Capital.

At the time, investors told The Real Deal the funding round was not a bailout. But Sonder did lay off or furlough one-third of its staff. Today, Sonder has around 5,000 units in 35 cities.

Rivals, including Lyric and Stay Alfred, didn’t fare as well and have since closed for good.

Now Sonder is plotting a major expansion in Montreal, where the company was founded. Last month, the company secured a $23 million loan agreement with the government of Québec to open a hub office in Montreal that will be overseen by co-founder Martin Picard. Sonder plans to add 700 employees over the next five years, up from 120.

To an extent, the travel industry has rebounded. Short-term rentals have performed better than hotels, according to STR, a hotel data firm owned by CoStar. And Airbnb’s IPO last year gave the sector a much-needed boost.






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