Friday, July 12, 2024
HomeTravelSTARTUP STAGE: Welcome Compass provides personalized guest guidebooks at scale

STARTUP STAGE: Welcome Compass provides personalized guest guidebooks at scale

Welcome Compass

Welcome Compass

Welcome Compass wants to help vacation rental hosts give guests personal attention at scale through AI-generated customized guidebooks.

Welcome Compass’s personalized guides can include house rules, local recommendations, check-in/check-out instructions and more.

What is your 30-second pitch to investors?

We are an artificial intelligence-powered hospitality tech company enabling vacation rental hosts to elevate their guest experiences by providing customized guidebooks that feature tailored recommendations. Our product empowers hosts to give guests personalized attention at scale, resulting in higher guest satisfaction and improved host reviews and ratings.

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

We are a SaaS company seeking to improve the vacation/short-term rental experience for both guests and hosts. We understand the importance of personalization and the value it brings to the overall success of a property. Providing this kind of experience across multiple listings and bookings can be difficult and time consuming for hosts. Welcome Compass enables hosts to easily curate and customize guest experiences, allowing them to profit from the benefits of personalization without the cumbersome effort. Our guidebooks act as dedicated concierges for each guest – they provide practical information about the rental property as well as tailored recommendations of restaurants/activities in the surrounding area. All of the information is easily accessible.

Welcome Compass uses AI to generate tailored guidebooks. We use guest information obtained through a pre-arrival survey and booking data to generate a welcome message and personalized recommendations. In addition to customized recommendations, our guidebooks also contain practical information about the rental property such as Wi-Fi passwords, laundry, check-in information, etc. The guidebooks are intuitively organized, allowing users to browse easily. They can also utilize our chat Q&A feature to quickly and effortlessly access any information. Our guidebooks are web based, which allows for easy sharing with all members of a guest party and does not require downloading an app. Our host dashboard allows hosts to view all of their future, current and past bookings in one place and access all guest guidebooks.

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

Strengths: Our founding team has strong expertise in hospitality and technology. Our product provides an elevated unique level of personalization that we have not seen in any other competitor. The benefits gained by using our product can be felt by both host and guest.

Weaknesses: Although we provide a unique guidebook that is distinct from our competitors, the overall guidebook market has competition. Some of these guidebook options are native to property management systems, which lowers their barrier to entry.

Opportunities: More integrations with more property management systems will allow users to easily use Welcome Compass if they are already subscribed to those systems. We are also exploring collaboration and sponsorship opportunities from local restaurants/activities to be featured in our guidebooks.

Threats: Native guidebook tools for Airbnb, VRBO, etc. and property management systems.

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

We believe curated travel experiences elevate guest satisfaction and lead to higher reviews and ratings for hosts. A personalized guest experience benefits all involved. Previously, this kind of treatment was only available for large scale operations with concierge service available. With AI technology, we are able to digitize and automate some of those concierge services, which enables smaller operations to provide this elevated guest treatment at scale. As a pioneer in AI hospitality tech, Welcome Compass is expanding the reach of high quality guest experiences.

So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?

We are ramping up marketing efforts to find and attract new customers. Additionally, we are working on integrations with property management systems to enable hosts to use our guidebooks through their preferred system. We are also working with property managers overseeing multiple properties. We are confident these positive experiences will lead to organic referrals.

Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.

We conducted extensive research (interviews with hosts, internet research, etc.) on the STR markets in the United States – location of most properties, average occupancy rates, average host ROI, trends on amounts of available properties, etc. Our findings showed that vacation rental properties are in high demand and have consistently generated revenue for hosts in recent years. Our research also revealed a demand for direct bookings and repeat guests, presenting an opportunity for a solution to foster rapport between host and guest. In the technology space, we examined tools that hosts use to run their rental properties and found an opportunity for guidebooks that are personalized for guests. With all of this information, we put together a proof of concept and validated our hypotheses through host interviews and beta testing.

How and when will you make money?

Our pricing is tiered based on the number of properties that a host manages. We offer two pricing options for subscriptions – monthly or discounted annual. We have a number of customers currently using our services.

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

Derrick Showers (head of technology) has over a decade of tech expertise including experience at the Walt Disney Company, among others.

Andrew Lukas (head of product) has spent the last 15 years helping legacy companies including the Walt Disney Company and a number of Fortune 500 companies.

James Yick (head of business development) has a blended professional background in advertising, marketing and tech where he has held leadership roles in customer service, account management and product.

How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?

We strongly value diversity and inclusion and all three of us have been part of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at large companies. Being a small startup of only three people has not yet necessitated instating formalized practices, but we definitely plan to do so as we expand.

What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

Founding Welcome Compass has been a great learning experience for all of us. Some of the challenges that we have faced are building relationships and rapport with the short term rental community, bootstrapping the business with no outside funding and prioritizing feature development with regards to the demands of our user base.

Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?

We believe that we stand out from our competition because our product is unique. Other guidebooks mainly provide information that is specific to the property itself – door codes, Wi-Fi passwords, etc. Our guidebooks focus on the guests and provide a personalized touch that they are more likely to remember. Additionally, we harness the emerging and evolving power of AI technology, which we believe will have a large impact on the travel industry and beyond. We plan to grow with AI technology and continue to evolve our offerings as AI develops. 

A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?

We hope to have a steady customer base that continues to grow. We also hope to apply learnings from our experiences at large successful hospitality and tech companies to our business, showing the vacation/short term rental community the benefits of personalization at scale.

What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)

Going public, getting acquired and staying private are all options for the future. If we are fortunate enough to reach a point where we must decide on one, we will evaluate at that time. We definitely want to keep growing and see where Welcome Compass can go.

Phocuswright Innovation Platform

Phocuswright Innovation is a platform that fosters a vibrant and interconnected community of innovators, startups, investors and thought leaders contributing to the overall development of an innovation ecosystem in travel. Using this one link, startups can learn about all of the innovation-related events and programs from Phocuswright and PhocusWire.

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