While the Big Data revolution has spread like wildfire in industries like finance, retail, marketing, advertising, healthcare and others, the same can't be said for the hotel industry, which has largely been left behind. For so many hotels, the biggest problem they face is accessing their data – it's stuck in silos, beyond the hotel's control, or else locked away in a customer relationship management system where the hotel's operators have no idea how to access it.
Hospitality-focused Big Data startup SnapShot GmbH has bolstered its ranks with a slice of Silicon Valley-style efficiency, snapping up former-Googler Dr. Stefan Tweraser as its new CEO. The Berlin based tech startup recently funded by China’s biggest hotel IT services provider, Shiji Networks, appears ready to crunch on some serious data.
Tweraser, who served as Google Germany’s sales chief and ambassador from 2007 to 2012, joins an ambitious startup that’s set its sights on revolutionizing the hotel industry by delivering usable analytics and accessible data at a time when it’s sorely lacking. I had the opportunity to speak with the former Google director just last week. The following is a breakdown of that discussion, along with insights into how SnapShot and other companies will soon boost hotels’ operational efficiency.
“Hotels have never had so much data, but they’re failing to use it effectively and completely,” Tweraser told me in an interview.
While the Big Data revolution has spread like wildfire in industries like finance, retail, marketing, advertising, healthcare and others, the same can’t be said for the hotel industry, which has largely been left behind. For so many hotels, the biggest problem they face is accessing their data – it’s stuck in silos, beyond the hotel’s control, or else locked away in a customer relationship management system where the hotel’s operators have no idea how to access it. SnapShot’s goal is to help hoteliers unlock this data for the first time, and deliver data-driven insights that have been unavailable in the industry until now
“The hotel tech industry is ripe for revolution,” Tweraser explained. “Nothing much has changed in too many years, things you would take for granted in other industries simply do not exist here.”
Tweraser told me that hotels could use that data for all kinds of purposes, for example to better predict and manage demand, to understand the costs of distribution, and to better leverage their resources. Hoteliers could use their data to make smarter and faster business decisions too, for example by using data to predict when they’re likely to see a spike in demand.
“Imagine being connected with an API from Blablacar (the ride-sharing app) and train companies, and being able to see how many people will be arriving and departing a city outside of flights and thus predicting surge or slow periods,” Tweraser said. Those are the kind of insights SnapShot will provide for hoteliers, and they “will have a huge impact on their bottom line and would improve the guest experience at the same time,” he added.
SnapShot still has some way to go before it can achieve these lofty ambitions however. The company has yet to launch its “Grid” analytics platform, although it does count some big name hotels who are currently testing it. The startup has also attracted some serious funding, in the shape of the aforementioned 25 million euro investment from China’s Shiji Networks, which provides IP solutions to more than 6,000 Chinese hotels.
This level of backing is one of the main things that tempted Tweraser to join SnapShot in the first place, he told me. “We have truly strategic investors who support our vision and help to bring it along. They provide much more than just money.”
Tweraser also cited SnapShot’s management team, which includes renowned hospitality industry experts like co-founders David Turnbull and Michael Heinze co-founder, as well as CMO Martin Soler, as another reason for getting onboard. And it is with this the Austrian company shows its ultimate differentiation. Dr. Tweraser, teaming up with some of the hotel industry’s best known “movers”, it’s a compelling combination of leadership backed by sufficient resources.
“The team is great,” he said. “The founders remain in the company, we have a super experienced board that’s truly supportive and a very talented team – both in commercial functions as well as in development.”
And although Tweraser might not have much experience in the hotel industry itself, he doesn’t see that as a problem given his past experiences at Google and his previous employers McKinsey and Telekom Austria. On the contrary, he said that those experiences have helped him to learn how to find his feet in new industries quickly. He also pointed to his own skills at structuring common goals, supporting problem solving and understanding commercial and technical issues as assets that should help SnapShot to achieve its mission.
“What I like about being a start-up CEO is the truly hands-on aspect and the need for extreme diversity,” he said. “We’re a startup, so things are different. In addition, we really need to deep-dive into the hospitality industry, and to understand the ins and outs in order to be able to provide value and help solve key problems. Also, my personal scope is very broad – product, clients, budget, code, hiring and more happen all day every day in my world – I love every second of it.”
Tweraser told me that SnapShot was already on a great trajectory even before he joined the company, and so he isn’t about to introduce any sweeping changes to the way the company is run, or its immediate plans. What he intends to do is focus more on the company’s speed of innovation, and look at expanding the scope of its offerings to try and broaden its geographical reach.
SnapShot already has sales, marketing, technology and educational teams spread about Europe doing the business of engaging the industry. As for Tweraser, his influence and experience in doing business for Google, and earlier Telekom, loops in big business tech interestingly. Just how the hoteliers convert this time, how fast old school mentalities can be transformed, will be interesting to watch. I’m told there’s no more steadfast resistance to digital transformation, than the hospitality niche. Tweraser left me with what seems the perfect startup motto: “As I said, I am part of a great team here at Snapshot, and we going to have fun while helping an entire industry to improve.”