This NYC Startup Just Put the Venture Back in Adventure



Meeting fellow travelers or hikers can often give a trip an added flare. Whether it’s that guy who is hiking with no shoes or an older globetrotter who gives you his 3 rules of travelling, these tend to be the individuals you never forget. While these encounters usually happen spontaneously, there is now an app that can make these interactions an everyday occurrence…while you are traveling that is. CheckedIn, the social traveling app lets you connect with other people through the activities you love doing as well as working as your concierge link to wherever you are staying the night. Checkedin ensures that you don’t have a bland trip again.

AlleyWatch spoke with cofounders Zach Messenger and Evan O’Connor about the company and why the app is a must for any traveller.

Tell us about the product or service.

CheckedIn is the modern traveler’s mobile application. By connecting people through common interests (e.g. health nut, beer snob, foodie) and activities (e.g. be active, shop, drink, eat), the platform encourages travelers to interact, network, develop friendships, and explore the world around them – outside the four walls of their room.

CheckedIn is also a guest experience management platform for property managers. Property managers can use our web portal to do everything from monitoring guest behaviors and preference trends, to communicating with them via push notifications, live newsfeeds, and direct messaging.

How is it different?

Put simply, no one else offers both a social connectivity / messaging app for travelers and a mobile concierge capability for property managers in one platform. We do.

Today’s hotel apps lack the social connectivity component.

CheckedIn gives guests connectivity to other travelers as well as their hotels, hostels or peer-to-peer (“P2P”) lodging hosts. In doing so, we will help hosts enhance traveler experiences, increase mobile app adoption – something hotels have struggled with – and harness guest data. So, for example, if a hotel knows they have 10 foodies staying with them, they can bring in a local, acclaimed chef to lead a cooking class and private dinner.

Ultimately, these capabilities will drive increased personalization and customer loyalty.

On the traveler side, CheckedIn aims to change how the social side of travel really works. That means drawing a direct link between going online to connect with real people and going offline to experience the world with them.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

Geographically, CheckedIn is a global concept. We will initially focus on the US market, which represents daily hotel guests of approximately 4.8 million. And that isn’t even taking into account the rapidly-growing peer-to-peer (“P2P”) market. Airbnb’s estimated valuation stood at approximately $25.5 billion at the close of its most recent funding round (December 2015). Compare that to a market cap of about $30.99 billion for Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, and you begin to see why this is an enormous market opportunity.

In terms of user demographics, the Millennial traveler is a particularly important one for us because they want highly personalized experiences and high levels of connectivity – both with technology and with other people – wherever they go. That is what we offer.

According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau, there are 83.1 million Millennials in the US alone. Destination Analysts estimates this age group has set aside approximately $249 billion[1] for travel in their budgets – and other reports suggest they are three times more likely to remain loyal to a given brand than non-Millennials. That’s a huge opportunity, no matter how you slice it.

What is the business model?

CheckedIn’s main revenue model is subscription-based partnerships with hotels, hostels and P2P lodging companies. Partners get access to CheckedIn’s web portal, gaining granular, real-time information on guests – but also the ability to communicate with them directly.

In addition to the monthly subscription fee for the web portal, we are offering potential licensing arrangements to white-label the CheckedIn app and web portal, and monetization opportunities around reservations (e.g. room bookings, spa, restaurants, excursions) and advertisements (i.e. hotels, local businesses, events).

What inspired the business?

After completing individual month-long trips to various destinations around the world, we realized we shared a similar frustration. In each city we visited, we were looking for things to do and people to hang out with, yet there was nothing out there that allowed us to connect with other like-minded travelers nearby. Thus, the initial concept of CheckedIn was born.

We also knew property managers had a need that would fit seamlessly into our model. So we expanded the initial concept (connecting travelers) to serve properties too. This will help them meet the demands of a changing guest demographic, which craves increased personalization and connected experiences.

Do you have any interesting stories that you can share that arose from travelers meeting on your platform?

We’ve just launched and our main focus is growing our user base to a critical mass. Already the response to the CheckedIn concept has been overwhelmingly positive – we are hearing lots of stories about situations in which travelers wished they had a platform like this:

A thirty-something career woman who is an avid traveler loves the platform because it gives her the opportunity to meet new people without having to compromise on lodging options – or having to “date her way to friendships” (her words).

A young married couple dedicated to traveling the world before they have children is eager to find an easier way to meet like-minded couples to hike and dine with.

A family of four is looking for opportunities to set up playdates for their toddlers – and parents’ nights out for themselves – while they are away on extended vacation this summer.

We can’t wait to hear how CheckedIn makes a difference in our users’ experiences.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

We will be closing our first round of financing with the right partners within the next three months. We are also focused on signing up the right hotels, hostels and P2P lodging companies to the CheckedIn web portal – and are in active talks with multiple brands in our initial target markets (New York, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco). Finally, we will be formally launching digital marketing campaigns and partnerships to grow the CheckedIn traveler user base. So look out for that in the weeks and months ahead.

What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?

When it comes to advice, you can learn a ton from peoples’ experiences, but it’s critical to remember that, ultimately, it’s your business. So strike a balance between taking on outside counsel and going with your gut.

If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?

Tough call, but it has to be Barry Sternlicht. He is a visionary who built Starwood Hotels & Resorts (which was just sold to Marriott), he brought the boutique hotel to the masses with the W brand, and he has revolutionized same-day booking as one of the initial investors in Hotel Tonight. Today, his vision behind building the  Hotel Brand as the first high-end, completely eco-friendly hotel is something we have watched closely. You can’t put a price tag on tapping someone like Sternlicht’s insight, passion, and deep expertise in the hospitality industry as we continue to grow our business.

Why did you launch in New York?

New York is the ideal market for CheckedIn. The city commands the highest average daily room rate and has an average occupancy level of about 87%, meaning that every hotel on any given night is nearly full. This doesn’t even include all the P2P lodging opportunities here. The city is home to many boutique brands, has 57+ million visitors a year and has a high acceptance rate for new technologies. It’s also the city that never sleeps. Every day and every hour, something exciting is happening. There are always new people to meet and experiences to share here. To us, that spells success.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?

EVAN – Marta. There’s nothing better than simple, authentic Italian pizza and fancy cocktails. It’s easy, it’s quick, the price is right, and you always leave satisfied. Coincidentally, it’s located in the Martha Washington Hotel.

ZACH –Sinigual. I’m there weekly for fantastic Mexican food with the best margaritas, all at a reasonable price.

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About the author: AlleyWatch

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