By Doreen Hemlock
After her job in Seattle was moved away, Rachel Azaroff decided to leisurely drive across the country and into town on the US East Coast to find a new home base. She spent countless hours researching: looking for places to stay, eat and visit; reading blogs and specialized websites; find companies to help with storage and necessary services; and also, ask your friends and contacts for advice.
Now based in Miami, Azaroff is building an online platform to centralize that information and create a community for remote worker colleagues and others looking to live three to 12 months away from home — a business she calls “312 Society”. It not only develops blogs and chats, but also a marketplace where travelers can sell itineraries and other content, and where businesses can offer services such as camping reservations.
“A lot of people are interested in being more nomadic, but it gets too overwhelming, so they stop the process,” she says. Its goal: to tackle issues from visas to insurance, from electric scooter rentals to pets, and to connect people with common interests “to make dreams of extended travel come true”.
Azaroff, 37, has skills to complement his passion. In addition to an MBA and BA in Journalism and English, she has more than 15 years of technology experience, including working at two public companies: tax compliance platform Avalara and management software Apptio computer. It plans to showcase technology on its platform that will quiz users about their interests — say, three months exploring Southeast Asia — and then match each user with resources for their trip.
The platform taps into a growing market for what some call “mid-term travel,” not weekend or two-week trips, or long-term moves. The market includes millions of people working remotely, boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This also includes people placing a higher priority on health and choosing to work independently, take sabbaticals or choose more flexible hours. Plus, it covers empty nesters and retirees who are also less attached because they can stay in touch with loved ones through technology like free video chats.
Azaroff launched the pilot version of the 312 Society platform in June 2021, using mostly his own funds. She is now raising a $1 million pre-seed round. She expects the company to earn revenue from both partner sales on the platform and subscriptions, which are slated to launch later this year.
She is particularly interested in employers of telecommuters who offer memberships as a company benefit: “It benefits the employer because 312 Society offers significant time savings for employees who want to enjoy working from anywhere. And living their bucket list away from home increases worker happiness and reduces burnout.
So far, more than 300 people have signed up for Society 312, mostly women between the ages of 25 and 45 working remotely, but others as well. Dylan Rhoads, a 47-year-old employed by a Japanese tech company, recently consulted with 312 Society’s concierge service to possibly schedule his work from Spain or Portugal. He majored in Japanese and Computer Science in college, lived in Japan, and loves how living abroad broadens your perspective on cultures. Rhoads says, “I want to explore the possibility of working from anywhere that I love.”
Companies already partnered with 312 Society include Shyft, which provides moving and storage services; Trusted Housesitters for Home and Pet Sitting Services; Beyond for the rental of electric scooters and bicycles; and Campspot for booking campsites in North America.
Azaroff never expected to make Miami his base. Still, she found the city ticked all of her boxes: access to nature, smart, engaging people; the diversity; good healthcare, art and museums; a major airport; a vibrant Jewish community and closeness to family on the East Coast of the United States.
In Miami, she participated in Babson College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Growth Lab Fall 2021 cohort, learning tools to grow her business and meeting mentors and peers. Now, in addition to growing her business, she’s starting to plan her next three-month trip – a summer trip to the west coast of the United States and possibly Banff National Park in Canada.