The archaic process of hotel service and management is obsolete and is incrementally being improved by apps fixing one or at most, two of the many issues present. ALICE, has just raised a $9.5M, with travel titan Expedia serving as the lead in the round, to consolidate hotel operations into a user friendly platform that can be managed with a phone.
Coming off a new round of funding Alex Shashou tells AlleyWatch how ALICE is mobilizing your hotel experience and making it easier for you and the hotels.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a $9.5 million Series A, led by Expedia.
Tell us about your product or service.
In an industry that utilizes fragmented technology, ALICE provides hotels a single platform for all Front of House, Back of House and Guest operations. This approach to technology in hotels has enabled our hotels to consistently deliver exceptional service, while saving money and man hours.
The operational detail with which we have developed a single platform to connect concierge, front desk, housekeeping and maintenance, while also giving the end consumer an entirely new way to engage with their hotel through mobile means (apps and SMS), is a real breakthrough in the industry.
What inspired you to start the company?
Our own guest frustrations when hotels, both luxury and low end, failed to achieve our expectations. In diving deeper into understanding this problem, we found the technology that the staff were using to manage their workflow was extremely outdated by today’s standards. We realized there was a very good opportunity to help hotels build a new digital standard while keeping everything you love about the service intact.
How is it different?
Hotel operations rely on teams working together. Until ALICE, all hotel software has been built specifically to solve the needs of one department or a small set of departments. ALICE has built a platform that serves all three stakeholders in a hospitality business: Front Office (Concierge, Front Desk, Night Shift), Back Office (Maintenance, Housekeeping, Room Service) and Guests / Consumers (Apps, Web, SMS). This allows our businesses to pay one vendor, communicate across their entire team and look at data across the entire guest/consumer journey. It means ALICE can serve verticals outside of hotels such as Shared Workspaces and Residential, saving time for staffs.
Let’s take a concierge as an example. When they make a restaurant reservation for a guest, their work has only just begun. They then need to record that booking in their concierge system, as well as record that guest’s preference in the property management system. Lastly, they need to write up an email about this action to pass onto the night shift. This simple action should not have taken more than three more steps. Our approach to hotel wide system solves this common pain point.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
New York, San Francisco and Miami are our top three target markets. However, we already have clients across the United States and around the world.
Also, while hotels are our primary market, the ALICE platform can be similarly transformative to operations within workspaces and luxury residential buildings, where we have enjoyed much success.
What’s your business model?
ALICE charges a monthly fee for the software as part of a subscription model and a setup cost for professional services.
What are some of the problems that hotel operators faced that they were unaware of until they implemented your platform?
Some things hotel operators were unaware of are how much guests appreciate using textbased communications tools to communicate with hotel staff, how much staff like the accountability and traceability of request management with ALICE, and how well designed technology can be a blessing and not a burden. They don’t miss the constant sound of the radio!
Mostly, they were unaware of what their guests were doing while they are on property, and more importantly, how long it takes to complete a task. Hotels put so much digital emphasis on pre-arrival and booking, and then completely lose that digital touch with the guest and with their staff upon arrival.
What was the funding process like?
Our original plan was to close a Series A around February/March 2016 and we closed our round in November 2015 with one of the most impressive companies in the entire industry. We couldn’t be happier and more thankful. Less than 1% of startups cross this threshold.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Like any big initiative, it’s a process and the challenge was to execute it without losing focus on building the business. Since we have a large team, we were able to continue hitting our business and product goals despite the distraction of the fundraise.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Here’s why one of our investors, Expedia decided to invest in ALICE:
The team at ALICE is obsessed with every operational detail associated with running a hotel. Their software solves major hotelier operational pain points and it’s easy to see how they are able to save hoteliers money and man-hours. ALICE puts the entire hotel operating system into the palm of consumers’ hands through their own devices. I believe every hotel that engages with them will be ecstatic.” – John Kim, chief product officer, Brand Expedia Group at Expedia Inc.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We want to fill the team with the most talented individuals possible. We have 15+ open positions we’re looking to hire for, especially in Sales and New York based Product and Development. Culture is incredibly important to us, so it will take us a while to find brilliant people that fit our culture to help us continue our growth.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Keep going. It’s hard and there are so many tough times, but it’s so worth it. I would do this 100 times over to get to where we are today. Don’t give up. Be smart, work hard, be honest and be transparent with your team. They are in this as much as you are.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We have a real opportunity to grow our network. To help more hotels and build a community for our hotels to learn from one another.
Right now we are in a position where we can offer hotels the opportunity to try our product with no risk. We are confident that once they are using ALICE they will become a valued long term partner.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
L’Entrecote Le Relais de Venice on 52nd and Lexington. It has the best steak frites, and their secret sauce is addicting.