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Innovation + Job News

Adestinn books 71 employers, 1.7M employees for vacation benefit service

The financial meltdown grounded his last venture, but serial entrepreneur David-Elias Rachie is back on the runway with a new startup, Adestinn, which will launch its services in June.

Adestinn is an employee vacation savings match program. It works similar to some retirement benefits programs, in which employers match a portion of their employee's contributions. Only in this case, employees are saving money for hotels, resorts, or vacation rentals for their next getaway.

Two years ago, Rachie was working on a modular, green building system that would allow hotel chains to quickly and efficiently construct medium-sized, limited-service hotels. Ten contracts were in place when the financial markets crashed, and suddenly no one was building or financing new hotels.

"It would have been a slam dunk at any other point in history up until that point," says Rachie.

Rachie knew the hospitality space well by this point, but he also knew his hotel construction startup would have to wait. So he started brainstorming and pitching ideas to an investor.

The question became: "How do you fill rooms?" says Rachie. "If you can do that without being a Priceline or Hotwire [discount websites known for squeezing lower and lower rates out of hotels], then hotels will love you."

The Adestinn idea piqued the interest of local investor Rob Furst, who has since funded the company. His $1 million investment in Adestinn is among those to qualify under Minnesota's new angel investor tax credit program.

Employees who participate can spend the funds at approved destinations in 30 different markets. In addition to major chains, Adestinn was seeking to add popular independent hotels with an online contest through its Facebook page.

Employers have to match at least 50 cents on the dollar in order to offer the benefit. Rachie says the cost is relatively small compared to what employers already spend on paid vacation time.

So far: 71 companies with 1.7 million employees are on board with the program. Rachie expects the number of employees offered the benefit in 2012 will be at least 5 million. Adestinn has 10 full-time employees in downtown Minneapolis and is preparing to open a call center, likely in the Fargo area.

"I almost didn't start this, because I had everybody saying you'll never get employers to do that in this environment, with 10 percent unemployment," says Rachie. "But I'm an entrepreneur, and you have to ignore a lot. What I've learned is that the biggest objections are the ones you should probably ignore the most."

Source: David-Elias Rachie, Adestinn
Writer: Dan Haugen
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