Matthew Stubbs, CEO and founder of BookingTek, tells us about his experience as a tech start-up working with Marriott Hotels and how others should approach collaboration with corporates…
You’re the founder of BookingTek – what is your business and how do you work with hotels?
We produce ground-breaking, real-time booking and payment systems and websites for large hotel groups. We focus on meetings and events, group bedrooms and restaurant reservations.
How did you start working with Marriott Hotels?
We approached Marriott Hotels EMEA sales and marketing executives when we launched our Meetings Maker product in 2015. Osama Hirzalla, VP of brand marketing and e-commerce, evaluated our company and the product. He recognised that it was the first real-time meeting system that could be used by large hotel groups because of its unique integration with Opera. Osama presented it to internal stakeholders, helped us move through vendor evaluation and on to the contract stage.
What's it like working with a global player in the travel hospitality market?
It’s so valuable for us to have an industry perspective from the opposite end of the size spectrum. Working with a global player like Marriott Hotels helps us to understand what large hotels groups need now and what they might need in the future. This allows us to draw a more relevant technology roadmap and enables us to develop our existing products more effectively and maximise their potential. We are particularly fortunate that Marriott Hotels takes such a collaborative approach to working with start-up businesses like ours.
What advice would you offer tech start-ups looking to get noticed and work with an industry giant, such as Marriott Hotels?
I think that tech start-ups should think about three key points for achieving success with large hotel groups:
- 1. Start by addressing niche product areas because it’s much easier for a large company to innovate and work with smaller vendors away from the crucial core business activity.
- 2. Keep early versions of your new product simple so that large hotels groups can easily envisage rolling out the product globally. Most large hotel groups won’t consider a new product, unless it can be used worldwide, and they won’t pilot a new product if it is too complex to roll out across thousands of properties.
- 3. Remain innovative, agile and super-responsive, but in the key area of security you must punch above your weight and incorporate corporate standard solutions.
How do you think hotels can better collaborate with start-ups?
Many start-ups find it difficult to get in front of hotel groups and present their products. Even if we go to the expense of exhibiting at major trade shows, our small booths often get lost amongst the huge trade stands of global suppliers. If hotels really want to see new innovative products and services, they would do well to help provide a forum for start-ups only to present their wares.
What is the biggest challenge facing start-ups in the travel tech?
There are probably two major challenges for tech start-ups. The first, I have already mentioned and it’s the need to build in very high levels of security to software and systems. Not just in relation to payments but also for personal data. A second challenge for tech start-ups is the need for most new software to integrate with existing software used by the hotels. Many of the dominant hospitality software providers are understandably reluctant to expose their mature, stable systems to new software from small start-ups via integrations.