Tech, The World, Now + Beyond

Meet Attia Nasar of Muzbnb, the disruptive startup solving the problems of Muslim travelers

We need more companies that understand the problems marginalized communities face.

9 years ago, Airbnb started from scratch; today, they’re worth more than $25.5 billion USD. They disrupted the market in a way that few could have predicted, by catering to the needs of travelers. The problem is, we don’t just need solutions, we need solutions in context to the problems we’re facing today. A lot of major companies have failed marginalized communities.

At a time where discrimination is at an all-time peak, we need more companies who understand the problems marginalized communities are facing. When major corporations don’t step up and fix the problem, people take things into their own hands to fix the problem. We’ve seen a rise in startups focused on certain groups and communities; Innclusive and Noirbnb focus on the Black community, Wimbify focuses on LGBT travelers, and Muzbnb focuses on Muslim travelers.

Muzbnb, promises to disrupt the industry by focusing on a very neglected segment of the market, from a grassroot level. They’ve joined the startup environment at a very critical time, seeing as Islamophobia is on an all-time rise.

There’s a niche in the market in terms of startups and, tech startups, to be more specific, that cater to the Muslim community’s needs; however, Muzbnb has hit the nail on the head, because they’re absolutely necessary. There’s finally a company that’s focusing on Muslims and working to eliminate the discrimination Muslims face when traveling.

We’re not statistics that you need to raise because you’ve got diversity problems. And we’re not an “issue” you need to solve, because racism got you bad PR.

The Tempest had a conversation with Attia Nassar, the Director of Communications at Muzbnb, to talk about the company and where it’s headed.

The Tempest: Tell us a little about Muzbnb.

Attia Nasar: Muzbnb is a faith-based homestay network started by a group of entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C.  Our goal is simple: to encourage travel, adventure, and the building of a global community where Muslims feel comfortable and accepted while traveling. Muzbnb allows Muslims the ability to host and book homes that are accommodating to their Islamic needs for leisure or business travel anywhere in the world.

On a more personal note, what attracted you to Muzbnb? What made you join a startup, and this one to be more specific?

The Muzbnb team reached out to me initially to blog and the conversation very quickly veered to communications, which is where my area professional background. I was immediately attracted to the model and jumped at the opportunity to join their growing team.

What attracted me specifically to Muzbnb was the idea of creating sanctuary homes for Muslims globally. As a Muslim, I have long known about the beautiful culture of hospitality in Islam. Muzbnb allows Muslims to showcase this hospitality with the world around us.  

Have you personally ever faced discrimination or heard of instances where Muslims faced discrimination with Airbnb?

I’ve heard stories from my Muslim brothers and sisters of discrimination and difficulty they have faced when traveling…where hosts wouldn’t rent to someone based on her name because it made them uncomfortable. I’ve also seen instances of people saying “there will be no Muslims renting this house.” One veiled woman removed her picture from her profile because no one would rent to her.

Another Muslim friend who wears a headscarf once told me she thought she was renting an apartment to herself, but it turned out there were multiple men and women renting rooms in that apartment. We hope Muzbnb can help alleviate some of those issues when traveling.

When did the founders originally think of it? How long did it take to get it from a concept to a ready-to-roll platform?

The founders came up with the idea in Fall of 2016 and did a soft-launch in December 2016. We hope to launch by June 2017!

Why is Muzbnb so important?

Muzbnb is important right now because Muslims have particular things to consider when traveling, like where to pray, where to find halal food, finding religiously acceptable events/activities, and locating Muslim-friendly lodging.

This platform is something that we hope will alleviate the undue discrimination Muslims have faced when traveling, and also allow Muslims to travel and explore freely.

What reaction were you expecting when Muzbnb was launched? How has the feedback been so far?

We were expecting a positive reaction and the support has been incredible! We receive daily messages from people all over the world eagerly awaiting our launch.

There aren’t a lot of tech platforms so focused on Muslims; you’re venturing into new territories, and making things a lot easier for Muslims, at possibly one of the most testing times in the U.S. Which demographic/group has been most positively receptive to Muzbnb? (Who you have you gotten the most positive feedback from?)

Muslims have been extremely supportive of this idea and as I mentioned in the previous question, are eagerly waiting for us to officially launch!

What are Muzbnb’s plans for the future? Thoughts on scaling more geographically?

We will completely launch by summer, globally; Muzbnb will not be limited to any one geographic location.

What has been your greatest challenge so far and how are you tackling it?

The biggest challenge right now is finding time to do everything we need to! We are definitely in start-up mode, that means late nights and long hours. Most of us have other day jobs, so there is not enough time in the day to do everything we want to do!

What about a phone app for Muzbnb? Is that the next step?

We will absolutely move to a phone app once we have further developed and launched.

What are your personal goals for the future?

My goal (and our goal) is to encourage travel, adventure, and the building of a global community where Muslims feel comfortable and accepted while traveling. I want to be a part of creating a global movement centered around the experiences and culture of the diverse community we represent.

I truly believe that this can be a sanctuary for all faiths to be welcomed as they explore and travel the world.