Luca Del Bono, co-founder of the global private concierge club, Quintessentially, has a new app and online platform ONDA, which gives members access to hundreds of private members’ clubs, co-working spaces, and stunning properties around the world.
However, that is not why people are joining.
Launched in March – but officially launched in the Apple store in October – it costs US$120 a month to become a member of ONDA, or US$94 a month if you are under 30, on a monthly or annual basis.
If accepted, members are offered six visits a year to each of the private members’ clubs on the platform (such as London’s Groucho Club, The XX Lounge on New York, or NeueHouse in Los Angeles) and three visits to each co-working space and health club.
Members also have the opportunity to sign up for events such as paddle boarding in Malibu with surf legend Laird Hamilton, a guided meditation in London with actress Goldie Hawn, or yoga classes, dinners, lectures and gallery visits, held in cities such as Paris, New York and Singapore.
Years of experience launching and managing private members' clubs around the world led Del Bono, who was born in Italy but grew up in London, to the concept.
In 2000, Del Bono co-founded Quintessentially with Aaron Simpson – a company that has called itself a “wish-fulfilment empire”.
He then went on to develop physical clubs, including the South Kensington Club, which was voted the 2017 Members Club of the Year, before he decided to make the move to the United States.
“I went to New York and there was so much happening there, but I wanted to be by the ocean,” he told Business Insider when it spoke to him in August, before ONDA’s app launch.
He tried Miami, which was “too fashionable” for him, before settling in LA.
“It’s such an interesting location ... in terms of conscious living, people connecting with nature, wanting to give,” he said.
He had plans to open another physical club, but a friend who had convinced him to get into the private members’ club industry in the first place pointed out that there were already too many.
Del Bono said London alone currently had more than 1,000 members’ clubs and co-working space under development.
“There’s not just a surge but an oversupply,” he said. “The same goes for New York ... Every other tech guy wants to have his own members’ club.”
However, he said that the surge showed that people wanted to connect and “be in an environment where they feel protected, which they can use as a base camp for whatever it might be”.
With ONDA, which means “wave”, he was inspired to give people “the opportunity of being able to travel the world, connect with people that are like-minded and they can share something with, and then enjoy whatever their interest/passion is”.
Contributing to the ONDA community
ONDA vets and connects its members – or “patrons” as they’re called – as well as all places and experiences available through the app and website.
“Nowadays people have lost trust in so many platforms out there,” Del Bono said.
“You don’t know what to believe any more. When you feel like you can trust the people, money can’t buy that.”
When people submit an application, they also have to answer why they want to join, rating a number of different factors – such as access to clubs, travel and discover, involvement in sustainability programmes, or being part of a trusted community – from one to five.
“Funnily enough, access to the clubs is not the driving reason,” Del Bono said.
“What they really want is to be part of a trusted community – that's the prime reason people do it.
“They’re looking for a sense of belonging.”
ONDA considers this during the review process, which involves an interview or inviting someone along to an event.
It also has a “no a**hole policy”, Del Bono said.
“You can have all the money in the world, but you ain’t getting in,” he said.
Another major part of the platform is sharing, so part of the application process is talking about what people can contribute to the community if they are accepted.
“When we do the interview, you have a deed to contribute something … We ask you to share that with fellow patrons within six months of joining,” he said.
“One tech guy wants to do yoga/meditation sessions, another guy wants to do a book club.
“It’s about having the right intentions – you can tell if people are there for their own reasons.”
The company also has plans to launch “ONDA Exchange”, where people can add possessions they are willing to share or lend to others – such as a handbag, watch, home, car, or boat — “knowing it’s not some freak, but it’s a value-based platform”, he said.
“If I’m going to New York tomorrow, and I don’t have my tuxedo, but I don’t want to go to a second-hand store, I might be able to rent it from another patron. The patron gets US$200, but it probably cost him US$2,000 to have the tuxedo made and he uses it once every couple of years, so he starts generating a yield on the tuxedo.”
By the end of the year, he said the company also planned to introduce a “merits” programme, where the more you contribute to the community, the more “points” you will earn.
These merits will allow members to stay in properties from the network all over the world.
“It’s incredible if you give people a private space how much more they’re willing to share,” Del Bono said.
“What ONDA does is broaden the horizon of what opportunities are out there, even if you don’t have the financial means to do it.”
Choosing the right clubs
The clubs on the app are currently located in 32 cities across 20 countries and six continents.
On the app, members can browse the clubs from drop-downs ...
... or via a map view.
They can then make reservations for a certain day and time.
Del Bono said every club – from Toronto's East Room to The Clubhouse in Buenos Aires (pictured below) and Ulu Cliffhouse in Bali – was carefully vetted in the same way as ONDA’s members.
“I’m not interested in anything pretentious or ostentatious,” he said.
“The places are relaxed, creative, where you can put your feet up and do whatever you like without rules or ‘you have to come in a jacket and tie, you can’t use your mobile phone, you can’t use your laptop’. We’re in the 21st century. That’s the attitude we have.”
He added that once members have exhausted their six visits in each place, some clubs were also happy for ONDA members to pay as they go, or join as official members without paying a joining fee.
“The clubs don’t pay, we don’t pay the clubs, it’s purely based on trust,” Del Bono said.
“Many platforms out there have been trying to get access to these places, and they just can’t. They offer them hundreds of thousands, but the answer is no.
“I’m a membership specialist, that’s what I’ve been for 20 years.
The relationships I've built over the years, I've had my own clubs, they know I’m not going to mess with their reputation.
“I respect these people and they’re happy to welcome interesting, inspiring people who have something to share and contribute.”
Investment from ‘captains of industry’
While Del Bono said he funded the business himself initially, he said in August that ONDA had recently secured US$10 million in seed investment from eight influential investors – people he described as “captains of industry”, including Equinox clubs founder Lavinia Errico, Stateside founder Moise Emquies and the co-founder of Westfield Corp, Peter Lowy.
It also has an advisory board featuring the likes of actor-environmentalist and UN Ambassador Adrian Grenier, the star of the television series, Entourage, and Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Lastminute.com.
“These are people who are self-made, which is a proof of our model,” he said.
“It’s a healthy financial model — it’s a subscription business at the end of the day.”
Del Bono said ONDA now had about 500 patrons, with small operations in London, New York, and LA, where it has its headquarters.
Its next steps are to build on the app to allow patrons to book experiences and events as well as clubs, connect with one another through a messaging feature, and read a journal of blog posts — of all which they can already do on the ONDA website, which shows the profile of every user.
“It’s not just access to places but access to people,” he said.
“It’s mitigating the online and offline. So many people these days meet each other online, but don’t get to meet.”
ONDA also plans to team up with charities and support non-profit projects of its members, providing them with funding – something Del Bono himself has always been passionate about through work with organisations such as Slow Food and The Prince’s Trust, and as co-founder of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund alongside environmentalist Ben Goldsmith.
He also has plans to launch the ONDA Fund, which will see part of the company’s proceeds go to once it “breaks even”.
“It will be quite a substantial fund,” Del Bono told Business Insider.
“I’m looking to get it to US$10 million in five years.”
As for Del Bono himself, he has simplified his life in to make all of this happen.
“For the first time in my life, I’ve resigned from everything, even the South Kensington Club,” he said.
“I gave up my apartment, my possessions, and had a reset.”
He splits his time between LA, New York, and London, staying at friends’ houses or the houses of ONDA patrons.
“People are happy to share and give – they suddenly realise that there’s more into giving than taking in life,” he said.
“I’m feeling free. It’s a good feeling.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider .