There is a growing interplay between platforms and new trends. Platforms may not instigate a trend, but they can certainly accelerate and amplify it. Such is the case with the interplay between platforms and digital nomads. Platforms may not have created the phenomenon of the digital nomad, but they are making it easier to become one.
A recent report by MBO Partners defines digital nomads “as people who choose to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the Internet-connected world. Unlike regular remote workers, who tend to stay in one geographic area, digital nomads travel and explore while working.”1
While digital nomads have existed for some time, the population has surged as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Some estimates peg the number of American digital nomads at over 11 million and rising.2
Some countries are even beginning to see the value of offering special visas to attract digital nomads. For example, Estonia has launched a special visa called the Digital Nomad Visa.3 It allows remote workers to live in Estonia and legally work for their employer or their own company registered abroad.
Platforms are paying attention.
Platforms serving digital nomads
There are a growing number of platform companies serving the digital nomad population. These platforms can be usefully divided into four groups: Platforms that focus on arranging longer term places to stay; platform that find and manage flexible remote work arrangements; and platforms that connect nomads to out-of-the-box experiences and, fourth, platforms that develop and offer community.
Platforms are increasingly making it easier for digital nomads to find places to stay that fit their special needs. Among these needs are securing accommodations that are longer than a week but shorter than the full year rental agreements typically require.
An example is Selina a London-based platform started in 2015. It matches digital nomads with unique places to stay abroad. Selina has built a network of locations throughout Latin America, the USA, and Europe in more than 29 countries. Selina provides options ranging from luxury lofts to comfortable suites, micro-rooms, and even hammocks. Members can also earn tokens by volunteering with various Selina impact activities.
Landing is a US platform focused on flexible rentals. Based in San Francisco, the company launched in 2019 Landing it caters to professionals 25 to 40 that who want to be able to move around. Landing coordinates deals with 25 large corporate landlords. They bundle the leases on available one-bedroom and studio units then offer to members, effectively subleasing residential space. Landing handles all interactions with landlords. Landing members pay a $199 annual membership fee and monthly rent, which is typically 10 to 13 percent a month. The advantage is that members do not pay security deposits or the cost of buying or moving furniture. It frees professionals from being locked into the archaic conventions of the traditional real estate market.
Airbnb has also recognized the opportunity to support digital nomads with longer-term stays. For example, Airbnb started promoting in 2020 added new filters and other functionality to support both the demand for extended stays and the hosts seeking to serve this market.4 Airbnb now claims to have more than one million listings that offer monthly or longer stays, an increase of more than 30%.
Arranging remote work is another key need. There are a growing number of platform that fill this need. Upwork is among the largest marketplace where digital nomads can secure work that can be done remotely. Based in Silicon Valley and founded in 2015, it connects millions of businesses with independent talent around the globe. The platform completed transactions worth over $2.3 billion involving 10,000 skills, such as website & app development, creative & design, customer support, finance & accounting, consulting, and operations. The platform has signaled that it is paying more attention to digital nomads. On May 5, the company published a long blog post titled “How to Become a Digital Nomad in 2021: A Freelancer’s Guide.”5
Remote work has also become easier with the boom in cloud-based work productivity tools. These tools can be used to organize and manage projects and can be particularly helpful for those managing remote teams. Monday, Asana, and Trello are a few examples of these tools.6 They are best used via a web browser but can also be accessed via smartphones.
Finally, there are a growing number of platforms dedicated to offering discovery, matching, and payment mechanisms for workspaces. They can be used by digital nomads to find workspaces in practically any city in the world. One such workspace platform is Coworking Nomads. Based in Hull in Northeastern UK, the platform was launched in 2018. To find a workspace, all users have to do is enter their location and find the spaces closest to them or where they are going to be. Users can choose from a Pay-As-You-Go or 1, 2 or 3-day-a-week subscription plan. To book a date and time, they just tap “reserve”. The platform uses a QR code for check-in and check-out. The number of hours logged is subtracted from the subscription plan or charged on a Pay-As-You-Go basis. Other platforms that focus on matching nomads and others looking for flexible workspaces include Seats2Meet based in Utrecht, Netherlands; Smarten Spaces based in Singapore, WorkTech based in Hong Kong, and myHQ Workspaces based in Delhi, India.
Nomads can’t be expected to only work. They are also looking for wow experiences. There are now a growing number of experience platforms that serve this need. Headout is an on-demand marketplace that helps travelers discover and book the most memorable tours, activities, events, and local experiences. Headout’s mission is to connect high-quality experience providers with people looking to be entertained and inspired, including digital nomads. The platform works with thousands of small and medium experience providers, which on the demand-side is otherwise highly fragmented industry, difficult to find and transact. The platform solves this challenge by providing experience seekers an easy way to search, book and pay for experiences. Because experiences are perishable and Headout aggregates across thousands of providers, it can offer attractive last-minute deals to users and enhance occupancy levels, revenue, and profitability for local providers. The company has offices in New York, Bangalore, Berlin, London, Dubai & Hong Kong.
For digital nomads that want adventure in the great outdoors but also luxury there is a new offering called glamping. Glamping.com combines the best natural settings with modern luxury. As the platform’s website put’s it: “Some call it luxury camping. Some call it glamorous camping. Either way, Glamping.com is dedicated to inspiring and guiding those who are seeking a different kind of trip, the kind that encourages cultural immersion, a broadening of horizons, and a deeper engagement with one’s surroundings with enjoying this upscale approach to sleeping under the stars.” The Glamping.com platform provides a curated list of properties in our collection is hand-selected and must meet various standards to be listed by the platform. The goal is to build trust and positive network effects. If visitors can trust that every destination they discover is truly unique and results in an unforgettable travel experience then more users will join. The more users the more special locations they can attract.
Another experience attractive to digital nomads is offered by ClassPass. This platform is a membership program for fitness classes across multiple gyms and studios, making working out more accessible. Founded in 2011. ClassPass has built a global network of 30,000 studio, gym, and wellness partners across 28 countries. The platform facilitates discovery and matching using machine learning to surface the most relevant recommendations to its members from a catalog of more than 5 million classes a month. By using this platform, digital nomads can find fitness, yoga, cycling, Pilates, boxing, massage, acupuncture, and many more experiences. ClassPass also lists large-scale sports events including 5K, 10K and other races, triathlons, cycling, obstacle racing, swimming, and many others. Given all these options there is no reason for digital nomads not to stay physically fit.
Platforms have also formed to support the global digital nomad community. One of the largest is Nomad List. This platform originally started as a site for digital nomad travelers but shifted as remote work became more prevalent, to serve remote workers living all over in the world. It runs on a membership subscription model. Joining the platform requires a one-time fee of $150. The membership provides details on destinations, reviews of the best remote work tools, best travel apps, visa & residence permits. There is also a strong focus on community building via chat channels on Discord and Slack, meetups and even dating. In addition, the platform collects and displays data on thousands of cities around the world, from the cost of living, temperature to safety. The platform has grown to serve over 26,500 members.
A few platforms now seek to provide community as part of a bundle that combines co-living, co-working and community. One example is Outsite. The San Francisco-based platform was founded in 2015 and offers members a collection of unique work+play accommodations designed to cater specifically to the growing community of entrepreneurs, business travelers, and digital nomads. Outsite combines a place to stay with creative co-working spaces and a growing list of innovative “New Networking” activities, designed to spur meaningful and creative collaborations. Membership includes:
🏠 Access to Members-Only spaces worldwide
🛏️ All the comforts of home
💻 Designed for productivity
🤝 Connections, collaborators, friends
📛 Flexible Booking
💸 Monthly Deals
👀 Partner Perks
Locations in the US include Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Austin and New York. Internationally, locations include Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, Tulum, Mexico, Bali, Indonesia, and Ericeira, Portugal. A key focus of the platform is to offer members career building connections and build skills with other remote professionals, freelancers and creatives on the Outsite Member Hub.
As this overview and the table above show, a diverse set of platforms now serve digital nomads across the world. Some focus on living arrangements, while others focus on work and experiences. A few now bundle stay, work, experiences and community together in a fuller lifestyle offering. True to standard platform models, they focus on building cross-side network effects with some going a step further and also facilitating same-side matching and network effects.
As these platforms grow and mature, they are making it easier and easier to go nomad.