GETTING STARTED: HolidayHero wants to help hotels and rentals digitize the guest experience

HolidayHero

Amsterdam-based HolidayHero provides property rental hosts and hotels with software to save time on guest management, increase revenue and improve the guest experience.

HolidayHero recently raised €500,000 in seed funding to expand its guest experience platform for rental hosts and hotels.

What’s your 30-second pitch to investors?

When customer expectations are met, a customer will be satisfied. If you exceed guest expectations, they’ll refer your friends and family, give five-star reviews, rebook, and spread the word for you. To stand out and generate recurring business, customer interactions must be personalized, transparent and proactive. However, this could become time-consuming and expensive.

With HolidayHero’s Guest Experience Platform, vacation rental hosts and hotels have the tools they need to save time on guest management, improve overall guest experience, and increase revenue. Based on our research, we expect to generate thousands of dollars in additional revenue per month on top of short term rental (STR) revenue.

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Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup

HolidayHero is a guest experience platform and ecosystem that enables vacation rental hosts and hotels to manage and improve the overall guest experience. Our business is about exceeding guest expectations and giving vacation rentals and hotels the tools to do so. The HolidayHero software platform has two main components:

  • The Operator Tool (facing the host) – The Operator Tool is managed by vacation rental hosts and hotels. They can create or import listings, scan the house manual, create local recommendations, in-home upsells (early check-in, extra cleaning), connect guests to out-of-home experiences (boat tours, museums), connect to property management systems, smart devices and other relevant tools.
  • The Guest App (Guest Facing) – With the HolidayHero Guest App, they can digitize and automate all guest interactions beyond booking. The app accompanies guests during their stay and strives to exceed their expectations by sending them proactive and personalized in-home and out-of-home offers.

Give us your SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of the company

  • Strength: our team’s in-depth knowledge of SaaS cloud software development, markets, ecosystems and comprehensive growth strategies for start-ups.
  • Weakness: Starting in a relatively small country, with a relatively small round. Need to localize software for all European markets that will influence MVP to go to market strategies.
  • Opportunities: This is one of the fastest growing verticals within the rental and vacation industry. Global competitors have only been in the market for three years, with Western Europe having no direct competitor.
  • Threats: OTAs and PMS are increasingly moving into the customer experience technology space.

What travel pain points are you trying to alleviate from both a customer and industry perspective?

There are many travel software providers, but most of them focus on property management. They don’t focus so much on how hosts can improve their guest experience – which is crucial for guest retention. Customer experience platforms are the solution to this problem. Customer experience platforms can improve the overall customer journey, reduce time spent on customer management, and increase revenue.

So you have the product, now how are you going to get a lot of customers?

The current state of the market offers attractive growth opportunities. Without saying too much, here is what we can say:

  • Most software vendors offer a high-friction model. This means prospects should request a free demo or trial. It is something that we see as an opportunity. Knowing this, we will focus on a product-driven growth strategy.
  • Customer experience software is a relatively new type of software. This means that demand creation tactics will play a central role in product awareness and customer generation.
  • In Europe, local approaches are important for success. We would focus on establishing the right partnerships that will support local growth.

Tell us what process you followed to establish a real need for your business and the size of the addressable market

Travelers today have many options, with more than 5.6 million listings on Airbnb and 28 million on Booking.com alone. However, as traveler expectations are higher than ever, hosts and hoteliers need to work harder to win customers and drive loyalty.

Basic housing needs can no longer be met so easily. The founding group personally understands what it takes to meet and even exceed the expectations of today’s visitors, especially since they have owned rental units themselves.

While the majority of hotels and short-term rentals generate revenue from bookings, many miss the opportunity to increase that revenue by providing guests with a tailored experience from pre-arrival to departure. Every aspect of that experience, from proactive service to personalized interactions and connected experiences, to understanding each customer’s needs – and exceeding their expectations – is crucial to staying ahead of the competition.

How and when will you earn money?

HolidayHero offers two monetization models:

  • A subscription model (SaaS) – For the use of the platform, we will charge a monthly fee.
  • A Transaction Model – Hosts can offer internal upsells and transactions will occur through the HolidayHero platform.

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?

We were lucky that the co-founders had already worked together on various large-scale projects and ventures.

Investors and co-founders Ruud Stelder and Dennis Cuijpers built an e-commerce software platform, which they then sold to Lightspeed. Hjalte Niehorster, an investor and co-founder, owned an e-commerce store and created apps for the SEOshop platform. Later, he sold his app to Lightspeed and started working there as a product manager. After leaving Lightspeed, Ruud and Dennis started Orderchamp, a wholesale retail marketplace. Sjeel Koster, CEO and Co-Founder, has worked globally in senior business leadership roles for Lightspeed and EVbox.

What has been the hardest part of building the company so far?

With the recent investment we have secured and the knowledge that customer experience software has a proven track record, we have the freedom and time to research the market thoroughly, build a unique value proposition, and put the product to market standards.

Typically, travel startups struggle to make an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?

Customer experience platforms are a relatively new concept. The few players that exist have only been around since 2019, which means there’s still a lot to develop to get to “the ultimate customer experience.” We believe that exceeding guest expectations is essential to the success of vacation rentals and hotels. The customer journey must be seamless, connected, proactive and personalized to be ready for the next generation of travelers and able to stay ahead of the competition. But having an impact goes beyond the guest experience during the stay.

Travelers choose a destination before choosing a hotel or vacation rental. The role that hosts and hotels play in influencing their customers on how to experience a certain destination is underestimated. Guest experience technology exists to bridge the gap between experience providers, hosts and its guests.

In one year, what state do you think your startup will be in?

We will have a good base of satisfied customers who use our product. We will have at least two vacation destinations that have adopted HolidayHero as their primary customer experience platform. Last but not least, we will be in the process of/or closing a funding round.

What’s your endgame? (Go public, acquisition, grow and stay private, etc.)

We want to become the market leader, build a durable product and a well-known brand for both B2B and B2C. We will remain private, we do not anticipate any acquisitions or being acquired. Our team is focused on building a sustainable platform for future growth. We plan to be one of the top employers with global reach in the near future.

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About Michael B. Billingsley

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