Keycafe: Key Exchange Simplified

keycafe logoKeycafe is a simple way to exchange keys, allowing homeowners to remotely manage access to their home. The idea came to Co-Founder Clayton Brown while he was renting out his house as an Airbnb host in Vancouver. He found the process of exchanging keys difficult and time-consuming, having to go out of his way to let in a guest or cleaner and having to cater his schedule around them. He found that many other hosts had the same issues and were actively looking for a solution. Keycafe addresses many of these pain points, making key exchange quick, simple and secure.

Keycafe was started a year and a half ago in Vancouver. Following the success of their first city, they then expanded to New York City, then San Francisco and now Seattle. There are currently 170 cafes in the network, facilitating tens of thousands of key exchanges to date. Most recently, Keycafe was one of nine companies showcased at Airbnb Open, Airbnb’s first conference for top hosts from around the world.

How it Works

The homeowner goes to the closest cafe in Keycafe’s network and drops off their keys. A fob is added to the keys which is tagged to an account and stored in a lockbox. The homeowner can manage multiple keys and assign access to specific people. When guests pick up or drop off keys, a text message is sent to the homeowner to notify them of the exchange. Homeowners pay $8.95 per key per month for unlimited pickups, storage and 24/7 support.


There are other companies in this space, like Proprly and Pillow (previously Air Envy), who hire people to greet the guests and facilitate the exchange. Digital locks are another alternative, however they may be difficult and expensive to install plus many hosts living in apartments are unable to install them. Keycafe is the only company that leverages the use of existing cafes to allow homeowners to manage the key exchange process.


Keycafe is a relatively young company; however there are large opportunities for expansion, as any dense urban city with many Airbnb hosts can benefit from this type of service. Co-Founder Jason Crabb has also found that local cafes are fairly keen to join in the system, as they benefit from increased traffic and awareness, with tourists from around the world being directed to their cafe. In San Francisco especially, where Airbnb and other sharing economy companies are very prevalent, the cafes understood Keycafe’s value right away and were eager to sign on.

While there are a lot of Airbnb hosts using the service, Keycafe also caters to platforms like Handy, Homejoy and other cleaning and household companies. It is a complementary service to many peer to peer platforms, benefiting from their success and scale while addressing any gaps that these platforms may have missed.

6 thoughts on “Keycafe: Key Exchange Simplified

  1. Keycafe just expanded to London. Pretty cool!

  2. Keycafe is a great service for Airbnb hosts. They just entered the European market (London) too.

  3. Valerio, that’s a really awesome use case, I’m curious to know if any of the p2p carsharing companies use this.

  4. For key exchange, I dont think u need to pay a service like what is mentioned here. You can take a look at RockLock makes smart lockbox to provide a key exchange solution for airbnb hosts.

  5. My friends and I had an awful weekend and experience because of this company. The keys to my apartment were left inside of a cafe that was confirmed by Keycafe and the owner to be open on the day of my arrival. They offered me $200 to cover over $600 in hotels. Not only did they do nothing to try and contact the owner to get the keys out they provided terrible service. There was never a manager available and the representatives were unreliable and incompetent. My pet was locked in an apartment with no food or water for two days and my friends and I spent an hour crying on the streets of NYC because we could not afford a hotel and had nowhere to stay for two nights.

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