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The 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019

by
Hotel Tech Report
7 months ago

Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business.  Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%).  A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team.  These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process.  Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables,  office snacks and vacation days are nice,  but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results.  The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development and succesful hospitality careers?  Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into?   Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech:       10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name.  Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years.  Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ.  New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!).  Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips.  Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease     9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together.  Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck.  Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one.  Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu     8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally.  As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit.  Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building.  This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments.  Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper       7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz.  The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here.  If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’.  Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again.  As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves.  This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness     6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing.  The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members.  This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product.  Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale.  Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months.  His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate     5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more.  The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list.  How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well.  All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime.  Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds       4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it.  The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth.  This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business.  Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M.  Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up.  If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid.     3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver.  The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider.  The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot     2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award.  While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list.  So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture.  One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need."  Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year.  Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause.  Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews     1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture.  ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers.  ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion.  ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally.  Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees.  Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class.  “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE   -- Looking for open roles at hotels and hotel groups? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to use Hcareers to find and land your next role.

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What are the 5 Kinds of Hotel Booking Software?

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

With an increasing number of guests choosing online booking - up to 80% of guests under the age of 30 - a well-informed hotelier should have a solid understanding of the hotel booking software landscape. The term “hotel booking software” can refer to a few different types of software, which can be confusing for hoteliers who might not work in the technology space on a regular basis. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the five main categories of booking software in the hotel industry: OTAs, Central Reservations Systems (CRS), booking engines, channel managers, and property management systems (PMS). By the end of this blog post, you’ll know the ins and outs of each so you can maximize your property’s online reach and make the right technology decisions for your hotel.   Property Management Systems A property management system is at the core of your hotel tech stack and automates most administrative tasks within the hotel. It houses all of your reservations, guest profiles, billing information, room statuses, and more. Nearly all hotel departments use the PMS on a daily basis: front desk agents check in guests, housekeeping teams learn which rooms need to be cleaned, finance teams manage billing, leadership teams look at reporting and trends.  Booking is just the first element of a PMS but functionality should also include capabilities for hotel operations and guest experience management. The top 3 rated PMS vendors on Hotel Tech Report at the time of writing include: Cloudbeds, Clock PMS+ and Mews. Without any booking engine or channel management capabilities, a PMS is only considered hotel booking software if we think about reservations booked manually by hotel staff. But most PMSs include modules for additional functions; some PMSs even include CRS, channel management, and booking engine functionality. If your hotel uses a PMS that connects directly to OTAs and has integrated an CRS, channel manager, and booking engine, that PMS might be the only system you need.  Sometimes when smaller properties like b&bs, inns, or hostels leverage an integrated PMS + Channel Manager + Booking Engine it's referred to as hotel management software (or hotel management system). Want to learn more about Hotel PMS? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Property Management Systems   Central Reservations System: Manage Online Bookings It’s a good rule of thumb to diversify your mix of reservation channels, so most hotels don’t rely solely on OTA bookings. Large hotels and chain hotels often use central reservation systems (CRSs) to manage bookings made through their own reservations teams. CRSs allow various reservations agents to view real-time pricing (rates) and availability and create, edit, or cancel reservations in one centralized system. The top 3 rated CRS vendors on Hotel Tech Report at the time of writing include: Pegasus, GuestCentric and Vertical Booking. A hotel wouldn’t use a central reservations system alone, though. The CRS would receive rates from a revenue management system, exchange availability data and reservation details with a property management system, and possibly also integrate with a channel manager to distribute inventory to third-party channels like OTAs or the GDS. CRSs deliver the most benefit to hotels with reservations teams or which are part of a brand or chain with off-site reservations offices. Want to learn more about Hotel Central Reservations Systems? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Central Reservation Systems   Booking Engine: Drive Direct Bookings from Your Hotel Website Besides booking through reservations staff, guests can also make reservations on hotels’ own websites - but in order for that to be possible, the hotel website needs a booking engine. Booking engines display real-time rates and availability, house the booking process and gathering of guest details, and integrate the confirmed reservations with the hotel’s property management system. The top 3 rated booking engine vendors on Hotel Tech Report at the time of writing include: SiteMinder, Cloudbeds, and Bookassist. Some property management systems include integrated booking engines, and some hotel-specific website builders also come with booking engine capability. But even if your existing tech stack includes a built-in booking engine, it’s worth doing some extra research to find the most user-friendly booking engine. Glitches or slow loading speeds can make guests change their mind about booking at your hotel, and, on the flip side, a great booking engine with upselling and customization capabilities can increase your conversion rate and your RevPAR. Want to learn more about Hotel Booking Engines? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Booking Engines   Channel Manager Direct reservations - whether through a reservations agent or your hotel’s website - usually don’t lead to a full house every night. A savvy hotelier leverages third-party channels to maximize online exposure and develop varied segments of guests. In order to work with third-party channels most efficiently, hotels use channel management software. The top 3 rated channel manager vendors on Hotel Tech Report at the time of writing include: SiteMinder, Cloudbeds and RateGain. Channel managers often support connections to hundreds of third-party sites that range from big OTAs (Booking.com and Expedia) to smaller niche sites (HostelWorld and Mr & Mrs Smith) and wholesalers (Hotelbeds). Manually updating rates and availability on hundreds of sites is impossible, so a channel manager makes it easy to keep all of your distribution channels accurate and up-to-date. Some property management systems include integrated channel management functionality; if not, be sure to choose a channel manager that supports integration with your PMS so reservations can sync seamlessly. Want to learn more about Hotel Channel Managers? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Channel Managers   Online Travel Agencies (OTA) Out of all those reservations booked online, many of them come through online travel agencies, or OTAs. You can think of these digital marketplaces as an Amazon for travel; travelers can use various criteria to search through available hotels, flights, rental cars, and more, then complete the booking process through that marketplace platform. Popular OTAs include: Expedia, Booking.com, C-Trip, and TripAdvisor. OTAs offer significant benefits to guests, such as loyalty programs, credibility, and the convenience of having all the available options at your fingertips. Guests complete their booking on the OTA and receive a confirmation from the OTA, at which point the OTA sends a notification to the hotel with the reservation details. Those reservation details integrate with the hotel’s property management system or travel to the property management system via a channel manager - more on that later! For hoteliers, OTAs also deliver plenty of benefits. OTAs give hotels visibility among massive audiences (Booking.com receives well over 200 million monthly visits, for example) and access to marketing channels that would be cost-prohibitive if the hotel tried to get similar reach independently. Many hotels also experience the “billboard effect,” in which travelers find a hotel they like on an OTA, and then they search for that hotel’s direct website to complete their booking. However, all this marketing exposure comes at a cost; most OTAs charge commissions between 15% and 20% on each confirmed reservation. ** What else would you like to learn about hotel booking software? Let us know!

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Former IHG Lead Strategist: Hotel Groups that Build Tech in House Are at Risk

by
Jordan Hollander
2 years ago

During my second week on the global partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the firm laid off a significant portion of the corporate office as it prepared for a sale. Adam Aron (interim CEO at the time) called all corporate employees to a town hall behind it's Stamford Connecticut headquarters to allay concerns about future layoffs and set a clear message about the changes happening at Starwood. One of the most critical messages from this meeting was the idea that "we are not a technology company". In the years leading up to this event, Starwood had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on proprietary technology such as SPG Keyless and Aron wanted to reduce that spend by finding strategic partners who would take on the R&D risk, innovate faster and add expertise without being on Starwood's payroll. In the age of digital transformation one of the key decisions that managers must weigh is whether to buy or build technology. When big brands choose to build proprietary tech in house it often comes at the cost of sub-par products, hemorrhaging cash and stifled innovation. As former head of global strategy for industry powerhouse InterContinental Hotels Group, Triptease's Alexandra Zubko is no stranger to this paradigm. Now a co-founder of one of the industry's fastest growing tech upstarts, Zubko has an undeniably unique perspective on the market. We sat down with Zubko to get her take on build vs. buy, why vendors misunderstand hoteliers, her favorite hotel in the world and more.   Tell us about your career in hotels Prior to Triptease, I was the Head of Global Strategy for IHG, responsible for strategy across all brands, verticals and regions. I had started in the EMEA region and was thrilled about working across markets near and far. I was originally attracted to hotels after having spent 10 years outside of them in finance, television and consulting. The global role piqued my interest as I'd lived as a little girl in Korea, Venezuela and Brazil. As a continuous learner, the industry was constantly challenging me. Delivering a global brand through diverse cultures and people is constantly inches beyond grasp. We weren't particularly tech-savvy in the strategy team. We worked in data and analysis, not systems and processes. With that in mind, on any given day, you'd find me in Think-Cell. 10 years later, that'd probably be Tableau or Looker. Since my first job as an investment banker, I've always been fascinated with telling stories through numbers and data. At its heart, Triptease is a data and analytics company. These insights recommend digital marketing strategies to hotels to drive profitable, incremental revenue. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? Honestly, I didn't. My obsession with new technology happened outside of, and in spite of, being a hotelier. It was a side obsession which began with teaching myself to code in the 90s, continued when I started a travel tech business in the mid 90s and then persisted through reading blogs and articles while at IHG.  As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? I couldn't stand the pitches from vendors who didn't understand my role or my business; the pitch was really all about them/their business and didn't understand my business challenges. Hoteliers are skeptical about adopting new technology, quite rightly. The onus is on the vendors, on the tech startups, on the entrepreneurs to reduce the friction and showcase the benefit as quickly as possible. We're lucky at Triptease because the benefits are obvious from day 1. We've reduced our integration to one day for hotels operating on one of our preferred partners. Because the skepticism exists and because tech can take long, hoteliers reach the wrong conclusion. They decide to build instead of buy. I have witnessed a transformation in travel tech. Increasingly, hotels are embracing the rules of comparative advantage and are embracing tech where they can move fast, learn fast and benefit quickly. Tell us about your journey from working at IHG in strategy to now running the Triptease business? I met Charlie Osmond when I was at IHG. I was moving back from London to New York and we connected. It was clear that the team (him and Alasdair Snow) wanted to solve big and challenging problems. It took about 6 months from the moment we first met to my first day in our London office. I had no idea what a whirlwind the experience would be, how much I would learn, how fast we would move and how much of an impact we would make for our hotelier clients. I had always worked for big brands, established companies with well-known reputations. What was it going to be like to risk everything I'd worked for? Risk wasn't something we had a lot of appetite for at IHG as a large, publicly-traded company. On top of that, I had two children under 5 and was pregnant with a third! It's not exactly the prime time in one's life that Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and many others would recommend starting a company! Give us the Triptease elevator pitch Hotels use Triptease's data and analytics to optimize their presence and compete successfully in the digital space. Through a joined-up platform across a hotels' tech stack, Triptease knows who your guests are, who is likely to book and delivers a personalized online guest experience on the hotel website and booking engine.   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be and what tech would you leverage? Consumers are conscious of the choices they make and the impact on communities, sustainability and, increasingly, their own brand and values. I'd build a hotel that has a positive impact on poorer communities in distant destinations. A hotel like Nihi on the island of Sumba in Indonesia is the best representation of this ambition. The hotel combines economic impact, training of indigenous people, ultra luxury and a sublime guest experience. Starting with the user in mind, I'd leverage the following technologies for my property: 1) Triptease direct booking platform 2) Mews Systems Property Management System to deliver the best guest experience 3) SiteMinder Channel Manager to maximize 3rd party channel performance 4) ALICE Hotel Operations Software to facilitate day to day operations What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Be confident you've learned enough. Be willing to take the leap and disregard titles and job roles. Join a company destined to solve big problems quickly with a set of people and values that inspire you. Put your hand up for anything and everything and suggest solutions. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? I'd recommend "Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman". It's a great way to learn what it's like to be a founder and what land mines to avoid. What is your favorite hotel in the world? Nihi Sumba in Indonesia which was voted #1 hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? Tableau. Data visualization that unleashes data locked away deep in an on-premise PMS  What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I obsess about learning and development - for my team, my company and my clients. Here are some examples of how we've brought this idea into the Triptease culture: 1. Radical Candor approach to developing people. We strive to provide continuous feedback. After every meeting or interaction. It’s a human need to know where you stand and how you’re doing. Annual performance feedback and reviews are antiquated in today’s world of immediate likes on social media, for example. 2. Development framework. So everyone knows where they stand at their level across 6 competencies. They know what they need to demonstrate to move to the next level. 3. Engineers do pairing so they’re constantly learning from one another as they code 4. We have firesides and sharing lunches where we learn from one another and the volunteer gets public speaking practice. Topics range from digital marketing to color blindness to ballroom dancing 5. Each employee has an annual obsessive learning budget so they can invest in themselves 6. In person offsites and training courses during the year

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[PODCAST] Triptease Founder Charlie Osmond Tells All: How his tech startup got into 12k hotels, raised $20M in venture funding and beat a $65B company

by
Jordan Hollander
2 years ago

Download Hotel Tech Report's 2019 Direct Booking Platform Buyers Guide     Here's the unedited interview transcript: Jordan: Could you start by telling us a little about your journey into the world of hotel tech? Charlie: Hi, so yes, straight out of University started my first business and I did that then for another think 10 or 12 years. And so I was coming to the end of that and feeling thinking about what what is it? I want to do next which industry but I like to be in for the next decade and I guess that's worth pointing out. So I think a lot of people don't always. Realize how long it takes from startup to successful business, but in my mind definitely it's worth thinking about Decades of your career if you're doing a start-up so as all when I showed the place I'd really like to spend time is online travel. And the reason for that was that. It was the biggest Market on the internet, right? It's a huge market and I think as an entrepreneur you need to go after big markets if you want to create a large business and also because when I thought about my life and the thing the single thing that upset me most throughout the year the single biggest pain and frustration. It was always when I was booking our family holiday. I can never quite understand how you know one week holiday would take me seemingly 3 or 4 weekend's worth of effort in looking at assessing choosing then getting input from My Wife and before eventually booking the damn thing and it hurt me so much that experience that I just thought. How can it be that this this massive Market online is still so painful to navigate their just have to be opportunities here, too. To make a difference. So yeah, that was really that's what kick me off. I think that's something that really a lot of people can relate to it's incredible that with all the tools out there today. We're still not able to book travel seamlessly it could you give us the elevator pitch for tripped. He's tripped. He's today is a technology company that is focused on helping hotels Drive direct bookings and improve the guest experience on the website. So really everything we do is about optimizing. The current website the current booking engine hotel has and making it a better guest experience and increasing bookings a result. J: Yeah. I've seen the product and I'm a huge fan of what you guys are doing and it's incredible the impact you've been able to have on your hotel customers with such a simple and scalable product. I think one of the really interesting parts of your business is that you've created a really fun and engaging brand for something that's somewhat of a niche and Technical product. Could you tell us a little bit about what the Triptease brand means to you and how that's played into your success. C: It's a really really want so it's funny because we started the business as a sort of consumer-facing brand and Triptease was actually trying to get across. The way in which people could share their great travel experiences and tease others about their trips. So as a there was a very good reason for why the name is as it is and also the other reason why the name is striptease is because it's a little playful and I wanted something that would stick in people's minds the when we shifted to becoming focus on really the brand is targeting hoteliers and hoteliers are our customers. We did a one of our investors was actually quite Keen that we change the brand. But we stuck with it and I think the reason is because it is seen as playful and yeah, maybe maybe 1% of people really hated or really dislike it but I think it's far better that brand drives and motion. And if that means there's something don't like it, but others really do love it then then I'm all for it. I. I've there's a there's a great investor great VC in Silicon Valley who runs a firm called 500 startups and I think it's advice on branding is do crazy stuff because you're startups probably going to fail anyway, and I guess we see our name is just one little bit of a little bit fun we can have. J: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think a lot of times with the ups and downs of the startup roller coaster. It can be difficult to have fun. So it's great that you guys were able to find a way to bring that into your day-to-day speaking of those kind of that early period and that roller coaster in those pivots. Can you talk a little bit about your first 18 months and what that felt like? C: Yeah, I mean it was a it was a horrendous time our first 18 months horrendous, but also fabulous it was. To extreme emotions and the thing that surprised me the most was how many different times in one day it was possible to oscillate between disaster and success as excitement and misery and really that was it I would say is 18 months of a roller coaster ride, where one day you might think. Oh, we had this great new idea for a distribution or we've had this great result where we got someone who really is excited about what we're doing. And then later that same day or later that week something disastrous would happen and what you expected or he thaws already believed it turned out wasn't true or you found another competitor that was doing something or a tried the same thing and had failed which was actually worse than a competitive doing well in many ways. So yeah, it was just it was a roller coaster and then at the same time as the business, I guess fortunes and potential going up and down. You also would have the the finances of the company. So I mean from a personal point of view. We had to sell our house. We had to move the company into our basement in a place. We rented to save money on rent which meant my wife and kids coming back into the coming home in the afternoons and finding, you know computers and people strewn across the house doing their work. So there was some definitely stressful moments, but at the same time all of that stress was. So rewarding and so much fun and it's a great feeling when you're literally building a business on your dining room table. It's it just feels I guess it imbues the company with a special culture and having gone through some of those hardships together the core team who was there at the beginning I think, you know when we're connected for life really and so it was hard but it was also really rewarding that's really an incredible story and such an example. I bought a sad for entrepreneurs going through some of the trials and tribulations at this stage. J: I want to start talking a little bit more about some of those tribulations that you had in 2015 you woke up one day to a letter from booking.com alleging that you had been unlawfully using their data. Can you tell me what that felt? Like I can only imagine how I would feel in that situation. C: Yeah, well, I've described we went through a few ups and downs before we ever got there. So I guess the roller coaster of emotions. I was quite used to it was it was not a great day. I have to admit when a I think at the time 64 billion dollar business tells you that they want to take you out of business and they write to all your customers and tell you that they're going to sue you and sue your customers and so it was quite quite worrying but the same time I'm an eternal optimist and I look at every. Challenge as an opportunity and immediately. I was thinking this is good. We've been we've been starting to see other companies try to copy us this this threat is also going to be an issue for them. And when we resolve how to get through this it's going to be hard for the next people trying to follow us. So, you know every hurdle is an obstacle for your future copycat competitors, right? So so so there were worries and there were concerns but the same time it was like, okay, how can we turn this to our advantage? And we spent a fair bit of time. I got to say talking to lawyers that was important. And and we also you know, it's all about as you should always do in every situation. What are the. What are the opportunities you've got in Your Arsenal that you can kind of use and I guess in one sense the pr was one side of that. Actually, we would just kind of deciding about how do we talk about this and then somebody else leak? The letter leaked a letter to one of the hotels to the Press so it kind of Hit the Press before we had quite decided how we're going to respond. And then once it is done that we just thought well then which case we have to be we've got to be talking about this. It's it can be slightly harder as a large company in a dispute to give a clear opinion to every question from a journalist. But as a small company that one advantage we've got is. I'm making decisions and I can you know immediately give my opinion without having to confer with lots of other stakeholders internally. So we kind of felt this is this has got to be our opportunity. Then the issue has blown up in the Press. Let's make sure that we're open and available to talk about our Viewpoint, right? J: Yeah. I think I can completely understand booking trying to protect their lunch. But at the same time, I think it's. Such a testament to what you guys have done the really kind of Judo philosophy of using the weight of your opponent against them obviously really played out in your favor speaking of booking.com. I have seen a lot of OTAs moving into the service business and even heard an Expedia executive talk about seeing himself as a service business rather than a distribution play. You kind of see the investment into Alice from Expedia and. And Priceline into Boutique and hotel ninjas. Can you talk a little bit about what you're seeing in terms of OTAs moving into the direct booking space and services. C: Yeah, I think it's fascinating seeing the OTAs get more into dark bookings. I think that there were some important strategic Investments for The O'Jays to make because it's one way if for example consumer opinion or whatever was to shift dramatically towards booking directly. Then that could be a real challenge to Oda. So it's important that they sort of spread their bets and they get involved. I think also actually it's just it's a really smart move on the oth pause again so much of the value that's duty is to bring it to Market is tied up in their ability to analyze data on behavior. And so with Priceline owning booking sweets and therefore managing and running thousands of Hotel website. Again, that's just that's just more information more data that they're able to use. So I think they just they see it as a Naturals of extension of what they're doing. I think there is a there's again there's a definite risk, right the risk is that if you're a small hotelier and you got there for very very little power in the big scale of things and your website and your booking engine is. Provided to you by one of the OTAs and your central reservation system is provided to you by one of the OTAs their ability to then for example, get you to only display availability or to make sure they display more availability or always have laws from availability on their site goes up right there the power Dynamic shift even further in their favor. There are plenty of hotels all say. Booking.com is just one of the best run websites on the internet if those guys it also going to build my website and I'll be a fool to let anyone else do it because probably it will convert at a higher rate. I don't know that that's right, but that's certainly the other side of the aisle. Right. That's what anything there are trade-offs on both sides and really just kind of choosing what risk you're willing to accept as a hotelier is the main point here when you look at at the OTAs and Priceline Expedia, specifically you just see massive massive Market. But at the same time J: David Temple who is a member of Hotel Tech Insider and the founder of Hello Scout kind of points out that VC and the industry is really difficult. The industry doesn't have high enough margins to support a strong SAS business. What's your take on that? One of the things that the OTAs have done without question why particularly compare Car Hire or you can pair Airline fees the commission's that the OTAs are managing to command from hotels. All incredibly high and that's you know, that's why the margin the OTAs are getting is massive. So the idea that there isn't there isn't a big enough market if you're shifting people's direct. It's just it's just not an issue right price line is one of the biggest markets one of the biggest biggest biggest digital businesses globally full stop. And there they are that size and they'll that scale because of the margins that they have the commission's are charging. Right? So it makes sense that it really depends on where you play into the value chain and which part of the p&l you're going after with your product or service and where you want to move the needle whether it's increasing revenue or decreasing costs and really looking at that on a more granular level. I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And go to a question from euclides major who is the founder and CEO of guests. J: Our listener named Euclides Major who's the founder of Uguest is really curious about what your day-to-day looks like. I know since you've hired your brother your leadership philosophy is changed. Can you talk about kind of what you were doing as the business started and how that's changed today? C: I think I might have hesitated to talk about hiring my brother in the past. But actually it was one of the best things I ever did. So I'm quite proud of it and my brother who'd been running a another business very successfully, but she sold before this one. He had a very clear I guess view that what the business needed. Now as we were going through a new stage of growth was to hire a senior management team and that really all the decisions were going to be made by the senior management team not by me the chief tease. And he was pretty adamant about this and that was that really did lead to a shift of yeah hiring a more experience more Senior Team internally and. Me moving from try to be involved in every decision to not being able to be involved in, you know, even 5% of them because it's just so much going on now the team's expanded and I'm overseas when you see other people in the business going ahead and making decisions that I guess you wouldn't have and then you see that they were right and they were successful and great decisions. Then you think okay. This is so much better. The company is so much better for it. But I think now the answering the question of what I do day today, I'm often diving in and it's deciding. So the specific projects or specific things that are going on today or specific customers who needed help where it's appropriate and it's right for me to really dive in because. Yeah, now I think about my role as being what are the things that uniquely I can do and what are things I can do uniquely as the chief T's is I can shine a light very brightly on specific issues that I think exists within the company or that may exist. That's a great point. And I know Steve Jobs used to say that you hire smart people to do smart things and it seems like that's really working for you at striptease. And I know in the past we've talked about shining that Spotlight on company culture and. J: Estella Hale, who's the VP of product at SHR and also a Hotel Tech Insider wanted to know how you've been able to maintain the company culture as you've had such rapid growth when I think about small businesses and you know, our goal is to hire amazing people and keep them motivated and excited and within the business the there are so many things that big companies can do you know that we can't for example, we don't fly people in anything other than economy. C: And so I always think well, what are the things we can do? No business is harder for a big company and one of the things that we can be complete transparency because and also we're going to a great journey as a start-up we've been growing quite quickly. And so we kind of feel it's our duty to educate everyone on his everything. We're learning about how to grow a fast-moving business and hopefully those are things that will inspire them all to start their own companies in the future. Ray and that's definitely something that I think is lacking in a lot of corporate culture today. It's kind of hitting the top piece of Maslow's hierarchy and that self-actualization and really empowering employees and making them feel valued. So I think that's an incredible retention tool and a great way to really build that corporate culture. The next question comes from Shawn Carter Shawn is the director of operations at Bisley very successful New York based startup that helps. Hotels and other businesses rent out and meeting space via their online platform. So coming from a little bit outside of the industry Sean was curious as to how you tackled some of the scaling issues because as he points out hotels can be slow to adopt new technology and not wrongfully so it's more because new technology can disrupt existing processes. J: So what do you think was the key for you to drive such rapid adoption? C: Maybe some of the the smallest attract we've done to try and identify early adopters is actually look at the technology that you've got. So there are. It also tells on lots of different booking engines. For example, we believe there are some but they're a bit more that are a bit more sort of up-to-date and therefore we look for hotels with those booking engines because we know that if hotels working with this with this bit of software then that hotelier is probably a bit smarter about their business and they're more prepared to try new things. And so you can look for indicators like that that suggests that this is a dynamic organization that wants to try things first. Yeah. Sure. J: I think Charlie brings up a really. Interesting perspective here and that you might not want to think about your Target customer as a specific type of hotel by their rooms or their chain scale, but even going deeper than that and understanding the kind of Behavioral traits of the actual buyers and adopters of your product could be an interesting angle to. And so Charlie the last question before we head into the speed round comes from Erlanger Johnson, who is the CTO of Tour Desk? And he really wants to understand what your most effective Channel or tactic has been to scale your business today. C: It was always the most effective tool in my last business. I think the SaaS industry in general is one that has grown very quickly through inside sales. So that's people sitting inside the company as it were not not leaving their desks and phoning up prospects. That's been that's been our number one. J: What is the worst piece of advice you've received since founding Triptease? C: He's so I said, we would we built the digital post called products. We'd managed to get the investors to back us and give us a million pounds and a month later. We went back to my said thanks for the money. We've just decided we think that there's actually much better product called price check that we want to do and they versus said the rest said look we've just given you a million pounds, please use it to work on digital postcards because that's what we agreed. And so they said carry on with what we're doing and a month later. I went back and said I ignored you and we're going to build price check instead. It's going to be a lot better. It's incredible. I am sure that they're thankful. You did not regard their advice today. J: If you could form a partnership with any travel company, who would it be and why? C: Well, you just got to think big right so I mean Google is the is probably the single organization. That was most hotels Google analytics. I think is really fascinating because it's probably the one bit of code that's on more hotel websites than any other and yet I feel that at the moment because it's generic tool hotels get very little often get little value from it because I don't set it up properly. So I'd love to find a way to work with. J: And last one here Charlie, who is the single most interesting person you've met in this industry C: Steve Rubin at Dennihan. He is every time I meet him I learned a whole bunch of new things and I often have to get in to repeat them a couple of times because I'm not as fast enough to keep up with his brain.

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[PODCAST] Freehand Creator and Angel Investor Roy Alpert on Using Technology to Create Revolutionary Hotel Brands

by
Jordan Hollander
2 years ago

Prior to joining The Sydell Group, Roy worked as a consultant for Edition Hotels/Ian Schrager, Thompson Hotels, and the One Group where his focus was on developing nightlife and entertainment concepts and initiatives. Roy’s work focused on the development of hotel positioning strategies to enhance brand equity objectives. Previously, Roy worked for Morgans Hotel Group as the Marketing Manager at the Shore Club Hotel’s SkyBar. At Sydell, Roy’s work is focused on the development of food and beverage concepts, branding and marketing strategies, and strategic partnerships that together create the unique brand culture of Freehand.

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OTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online Booking

by
Dan Lawrence
2 years ago

While OTAs and hotels seem at odds with each other, they both have one important thing in common: their dedication to the customer” or more specifically the guest. In regards to online booking, there are important and striking differences between how the two cater to the guest” which has resulted in OTAs seemingly dominated the online booking market. As shown, OTAs control approximately two-thirds of all online bookings, with an 0.8% increase from last year. On the other hand, hotels, controlling one-third, saw a 0.8% decrease in total share of online bookings since last year. Within the OTA market, the top brands include: Expedia, Booking.com, and Priceline” which control 28.09%, 19.13%, and 16.15% respectively. OTAs show no signs of slowing down, as it's predicted the Priceline group (which includes Booking.com) and Expedia will account for 94% of all online bookings by 2020. Within the hotel market, the top brands include: Marriott International, Hilton Hotels, and IHG” which control 26.21%, 17.25%, and 15.58% respectively. While overall hotels lost a small amount of market share, according to Skift, the number of occupied rooms in 2017 were more than those in 2016” meaning, the volume of bookings has increased. This skew towards OTA online booking can be attributed to multiple factors. Compared to OTAs, hotels have limited control over their main operational costs, which include: labour costs, debt services, franchise fees, utilities, real estate taxes and distribution costs. Even more, OTA's increasing market share has caused hotel distribution costs to steadily rise over the last 5 years. Inherently, hotels have less inventory than OTAs” 99% less. As explained by Skift, this not only gives greater power to OTAs in marketing and online hotel sales, but also increases their bargaining power. Hotels face a dilemma of complying with OTAs and losing market share, or not complying and losing even more. Lastly, OTAs invest significantly more in marketing initiatives than hotels. While OTAs typically invest 30-40% of their revenue in marketing, hotels spend around 6%. This significant difference can partly explain why the guest believes OTAs to have cheaper prices” that's simply what they're more exposed to. That being said, hoteliers have a few unused tricks up their sleeves. For starters, 50% of OTA users will visit the official hotel website before booking. Hotels can better capture the guest through improved user experience, user-driven design, and an emphasis on making booking as easy as possible. Within the hotel market, Wyndham saw the biggest market share gains, tripling its market share since last year. Their achievement can be attribute to their success in catching OTA users, and converting them before they leave. To do so, Wyndham improved their website by prioritizing guest experience, and improved their Rewards app's usability. The overwhelming majority of travellers (85%) believe price to be the most important factor when deciding where to book” and associate lower prices with OTAs. Hoteliers can combat some of their operational costs, and consequently have more flexibility with pricing, through investing in digital technology. Moreover, through increasing their marketing initiatives and offering additional non-monetary incentives, hoteliers can better compete with OTAs on travellers perceptions of price. Barry Goldstein, Wyndham Hotel Group's chief marketing officer, revealed one of the major factors of Wyndham's success was their shift to an "intense focus on technology". Wyndham also leveraged travellers price sensitivity through consistently offering discounts to guests who book direct, and through implementing a summer travel message that highlights price. Increasing numbers of occupied rooms have also opened the doors for hoteliers to increase their amount of direct bookings. Hoteliers should focus on capturing and targeting the guest through increased investments in marketing. Since last year, Wyndham has increased their marketing initiatives and placed within the top 10 largest hotel advertisers on US television, spending over $19 million. Considering the reach and traffic OTAs generate daily, hoteliers should strategically use OTA channels only during needed periods, such as offseason. Even more, hotels should track guests who book through OTAs and target them with special direct booking deals during their stay and after they check-out. It's finally time for the age-old battle between OTAs and hotels to end” and with a little refinement hoteliers may just come out on top.

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The Legend of Triptease (and the unspoken costs of scaling hotel technology)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 year ago

It’s a commonly held (and true) belief that most travel startups fail. On the consumer side, it’s easy to see why. High acquisition costs, a crowded market and for the users who do engage with a product they rarely spend enough time to monetize because after all – they only use these products when they travel.  The reason for high failure rates in B2B travel startups is completely different and I’ll examine arguably one of the most successful hotel tech startups in the last decade to demonstrate why.  Today, Triptease (yeah, awesome name) is in 12,000 hotels and claims to have saved them more than $150M – but the business they’re in now is completely different than the one they founded in 2012. Prior to starting Triptease, Charlie Osmond started several ad agencies and even won Esquire’s prestigious entrepreneur of the year award. Charlie teamed up with product guru Alasdair Snow and most recently Alexandra Zubko – formerly head of strategy at Intercontinental. Alexandra joined in 2014 presumably when she saw Triptease really start to hit their stride and help take it to the next level with her connections and industry experience. The company has won numerous awards from Phocuswright and other industry organizations, so if you haven’t heard of them it might be time to get outside and smell the roses. Prior to Alexandra’s participation, Triptease began as Triptease Magazine with the ambition to disrupt TripAdvisor. I watched an old pitch of Charlie’s and it was actually a really cool product. I mean who wouldn’t agree that Trip Advisor has awful design? Unfortunately, beautiful design wasn’t enough so they pivoted to social referral postcards that helped hotels spread word of mouth and disseminate content across social media networks. Then, 2 years later, they found their sweet spot in a kernel of wisdom that took years to develop. The epiphany? It turns out consumers believe that prices are cheaper on OTAs (e.g. Expedia) vs. hotel websites. So simple and so obvious, but this is the hard work of starting up – seeking out simple truths that no one has exploited to make a better world. So Charlie and Alasdair thought that if only they could find a way to change that perception, they could theoretically shift guest spend onto hotel websites and save up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for even relatively small hotel properties. The price checker widget was born. Simple and scalable is a dangerous combination. Dangerous enough that Booking.com threatened a lawsuit to shut them down in 2015. That’s when you know you’re really onto something. And how could you not love a guy with the title Chief Tease telling the soulless corporate behemoth Priceline to stick it up their you know whats? Then in February of 2015, Notion Capital and Episode 1 poured $7M into Triptease’s Series A as a vote of confidence (and just this morning announced their $9M series B for Asian expansion, congrats to the team). Despite the Series A equity raise, the company followed on with another $1.2M of debt financing just 2 months later (according to Crunchbase). But why raise $9M ($18M as of today) for a price checker widget? Well, that’s a great question.   Triptease Go-to-Market Selling SaaS into hotels is really, really, really hard. Did I mention that it’s really hard? Triptease generally charges somewhere in the range of a $200/hotel monthly subscription with varied pricing based on number of rooms. I’m going to make significant assumptions based on external data and posit in no way that these are internal Triptease numbers. I’m using public information as a “best guess” case study to help further the understanding of what it takes to deploy technology into hotels at scale unless you’re an evil corporation (yeah, that’s you Oracle…don’t look so surprised). Okay, so let’s assume the average lifetime of a customer is 21 months (although it’s really still too early to tell). So we’ve got $200/month x 21 months = $4,200 (we need to discount this to present value but I won’t for simplicity). So what does it take to get each new customer on board? Well we have several key tactics we can employ to acquire new hotels: 1) Drive web traffic via search, press and advertising 2) Build a sales force 3) Attend conferences 4) Join industry groups Search is a weak option for companies like Triptease So right about now you’re probably thinking “hey Jordan we’ve got that thing called 'The Internet', it’s easy to get traffic to our website so customers can convert.” So how many people are actually searching for Triptease each month? Less than 1,000 worldwide! That’s including the drunk people who just misspelled “striptease.” Ok, but how many people search for terms like “price checker widget” or "price comparison widget"? It turns out even less.   According to data from Similar Web and SEM Rush, Triptease.com had approximately 38,000 visits in February (12k uniques) breaking down to about 70% direct 30% search. 75% of search came from the UK so we’re only looking at ~22% of traffic coming to the site from search outside of their domestic market. Ironically almost all of that search traffic went to a blog post titled “Bad day for hotels - Amoma announces Google partnership” with people searching for “amoma” and “amoma reviews.” In other words, the small number of people who came to triptease.com from search presumably weren’t even in the market for this product (or had authority to sign a deal). Those blog posts average 700-1,000 words so with a high quality copywriter that could run $200/week if they weren’t written in house. Webinars are far more expensive and time consuming but can often yield stronger results in absolute terms. This isn’t to take anything away from Triptease. These guys have an insanely beautiful site that is helpful, well indexed and fast loading. The problem isn’t Triptease, it’s just a tough market. It’s pretty damn easy to find people searching for “red shoes” or even “mermaid blankets” online but niche B2B products tend to be much trickier and require finesse. This leads nicely into the finale: so if no one is looking for you, what do you do? Simple, you do everything. Build a Sales Force You start by hiring a sales team. According to the most recent LinkedIn data, Triptease has 81 employees of which 25 are in sales and 7 are marketers. If we assume 80% are sales reps getting paid $50,000 average salary and 20% are senior managers at $125,000 average salary we’ve got (20 x $50k) + (5 x 125k) or $1.6M in salaries for the sales team alone. Let’s budget 7 marketers at $70,000 average salary and we’ve got $2.1M in sales and marketing salaries expenses. I’d venture to say these numbers might even be conservative. Starting to see why they might have wanted to add $1.2M as a follow on to the Series A? Triptease is by no means alone, when I ran the data on 50-75 top hotel tech providers I saw companies with up to 45% of their team comprised of sales and most hovering in the 20-30% range. There aren't effective advertising options either This is my personal favorite. So if companies like Triptease want to reach hoteliers with display ads, where do they go? Maybe they want to advertise on HotelBusiness.com with 65,000 visits (only 2x their own site) for $2,000-$5,000/month. They’re given no performance metrics or click guarantees (proof below) – this is some old school stuff here. Even worse they can advertise on the Nevistas network (runs hotelnewsresource pictured below - ads are outlined in red). Nevistas’ mystery is only exceeded by its sketchiness. It’s a secretive company based out of Mexico that makes companies pay to launch press releases – so it’s no wonder the entire site is filled with press releases, advertisements and click bait like “7 Ways to Make Your Hotel More Awesome Than AirBnB.”So let’s say they concede - they buy 5 spots on these various sites for an average of $2,000/month. They’re looking at $120,000 in advertising expenses on extremely inefficient channels. Conferences There’s ITB Berlin, HITEC, Phocuswright, Skift Global Forum, HT-Next…the list goes on and on and on. Let’s say we want to attend 5 conferences and send 3 presenters to each. These can range from $3,500/ticket at the cheap seats to $25,000+ for a booth (before materials and setup). Add in a $600 budget for each teammate and assume $7,500 per conference - and each event costs more than $10,000 (plus the opportunity cost of having those employees working on other things). Triptease even went on to create their own successful company branded conference, The Direct Booking Summit, which presumably they could breakeven on via ticket sales and sponsorships. This is also likely more about retention than acquisition with an attendee base of existing customers. Industry Groups Industry groups provide another legitimate channel to exploit – there’s HTNG, HFTP, HSMAI, HEDNA – pretty much any acronym you can think of, there’s a hotel association for it. HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) runs $8,250 for a supplier like Triptease and the benefits include: discounted event tickets, “overall greater exposure through logo placement on website” (web traffic = 11,000 pages visited and 90% are hotel tech vendors) and “Recognized support of the industry.”  Industry groups can be great for networking but let’s see it for what it is: pay to play. Joining four groups at $5,000/group will run you $20k and that’s just to get your seat at the table - no sponsorships, no event tickets, nothing. I have nothing against these organizations and even met CEO of HTNG once over coffee in suburban Illinois; he’s a really great (and smart) guy with a strong hospitality IT leadership background and an incredible resume. There are no malevolent players here, just an industry ripe for disruption. Partnerships are the sweet spot In April of 2015 Triptease launched a major campaign to partner with popular booking engines. Partnerships enable parties to gain huge exposure and onboard very quickly. Triptease partnered with 6 players to tap 10,000 potential hotels before landing the big fish – Synxis in May 2015. Partnerships can come in many forms: strategic investment, bundling, cross selling, co-branded webinars, distribution deals, etc. Partnerships are low cost and all they require is a little creativity, trust and execution. Ok, having worked on the Global Partnerships team at Starwood I know that sounds way easier than it actually is. Conclusion So when we look at Charlie’s 12,000 hotel install base and assume 25% of customers still get the product free as early adopters, we’ve still got around $1.8M monthly recurring revenue (MRR), assuming $200 average monthly subscription. Charlie’s been quoted with a goal of hitting 30,000 hotels in the next few years ($6M MRR) and I’m a believer. That’s a pretty incredible business and even at the aggressive target it’s less than 17% penetration of the current hotel market (which will grow materially by then). Triptease has already derisked the business in a major way (although there are always risks). The probability of getting to where they are today is probably .0001% (for a new startup). And if you think that’s you, you’d better have the grit and tenacity demonstrated by Charlie and Alasdair during their 2-year journey to product market fit. As Charlie and Alastair learned in Triptease’s formative years, it’s still a pay to play industry. Buyers (hotel teams) haven’t evolved competencies to understand the benefits of many SaaS products and their organizational structures for the most part haven’t evolved either (hence the title VP of Sales & Marketing). The fact that the hotel industry is highly fragmented and has a convoluted ownership/management/franchise structure certainly doesn’t help. Hospitality still relies on industry groups like those whose importance faded decades ago for many other industries. Suppliers are stuck buying ads in print magazines with artificial circulation and on sketchy link farms from Mexico (Nevistas, I’m looking at you). Charlie, Alasdair and the Triptease team (also shout out to Marketing Director Ian Macleod) have done an incredible job at creating a first class product (and brand) then deploying the product with near perfect execution. They discovered a simple and scalable truth then used it to grow at an astonishing rate – I’d argue unheard of for suppliers of hotel tech. I truly believe that if hotel technology suppliers could work together more efficiently without the confines of archaic hospitality rituals - hotels could make more money and would be better equipped to compete with the likes of the home sharing economy and OTAs. No I’m not talking about robot butlers and drone Champagne delivery – I’m talking about real innovation. Although, the old head of PR at Starwood told me this stunt took the spotlight from SPG Keyless in the media for 2 weeks so congrats to the team at Casa Madrona for a hilariously awesome stunt. "Hotel technology suppliers are creating killer products every day - the problem is that the market hasn’t caught up." By working together through strategic partnerships and sharing best practices, hotel suppliers can increase chances of success and lower costs to deployment. Hospitality isn't zero sum and working together can raise all ships. For those interested, we've started a LinkedIn group called Hotel Tech Insider to do just that, so join many of the industries top executives and apply today.