Max Gaudin came up with the idea for Airpnp–basically Airbnb for toilets–during last year’s Mardi Gras festival, in New Orleans. But he didn’t start building the app until very recently. And, even then, it was more in the sense of “to hell with it, let’s put something up” than a calculated roll-out.
Since then, Airpnp has shall we say exploded. Gaudin did an interview recently with Canada’s leading TV network (while sitting on his toilet). His partner Travis Laurendine has been recognized by the White House (for “civic hacking”). And there are now plenty of listings beyond Lake Pontchartrain, with more than 300 toilets in all. Should you find yourself short a toilet in Tehran, for example, you know where to go (“come and Pee! Western style toilet with toilet papers!”).
“People are tweeting and adding restrooms in languages we don’t understand. The French really seem to dig it,” Gaudin says (there are eight listings in Paris already). “We are constantly getting feature requests from people. A couple of them have been to note places that are LGBT friendly and available for baby changing.”
As with Airbnb, people set a listing, preferably with a photo, and charge a fee–usually something in the dollar-per-visit range. There are now offerings for hi-tech toilets in Japan, as well as for foul places that might be best avoided. Some people charge nothing, others want a pretty penny. One listing is priced at $6 for 15 minutes, with another $8 for every five minutes on top of that, which seems like a lot.
Gaudin says he’s working on something for the South by Southwest festival, another packed urban setting with limited pee-stops. The founders may add advertising to make back some money. Or not. Everything’s up in the air at the moment, which is how things have been since the beginning.