““My boss is asking me to fly again! Where can I find a hotel in such a short notice?!”
I am sure we frequently hear this from our peers. Last minute hotel booking is never pleasant and hotels will tend to charge higher price than usual. HotelQuickly aims to provide travellers a quick, affordable and hassle-less hotel booking experience. The free app is available for downloads in all major mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and BlackBerry
This month Entreprenuer’s insights, we spoke to Mr Tomas Laboutka, Co-Founder of HotelQuickly. He will share about his view on the technology landscape in South East Asia as well as his journey as a serial entrepreneur.
Technology has changed radically in Asia for the past decades. What trends do you see in the near future especially in South East Asian markets.
The rise of messaging apps in Asia is a main trend happening with the South East Asian markets. Chat apps are becoming bigger than Facebook and Twitter in some countries and most are aggressively seeking to gain a market share within the South East Asian market. We can expect more promotions and expansion of their services in the coming nears as they shift from merely being chat apps to messaging platforms that are relied on daily. Over the last couple of years, we have seen how social commerce have scaled new heights in Asia. We saw WeChat introducing a payment service and flash sales into the market. Even Alibaba launched their own Chat app. You will be seeing more brands and even HotelQuickly jumping aboard sales opportunities within these messaging apps.
We’ve also seen how technology have evolved from being online to mobile and now to “wearable technology”, particularly smart watches.
Tourism and hotel bookings are competitive market and they are pretty much dominated by large corporations. As a startup, how did you formulate strategies to beat the big boys in the market.
At HotelQuickly, we believe that competition helps nurture a business. Competition is healthy and makes for a more colourful market. Having a competitive advantage and clear means of differentiating ourself in the industry is key to our success. We have clearly differentiated ourself by being a mobile only app that allows users to book 3*-5* hotel rooms at the last minute through its well-curated list of discounted hotels. Furthermore, our prices are on average 28% cheaper than the cheapest online. We provide a guarantee that you won’t be able to find anything cheaper online and if you actually do, we’ll refund double the amount!
What are the challenges and opportunities for HotelQuickly in the next 3 years?
We are currently operating in 15 countries across the Asia-Pacific region. The markets are strongly interconnected but customer knowledge is an important key in all these markets. In order to offer a superior product, we need to fully understand our customers well and the different culture we operate in. What works in Hong Kong may not work in Singapore.
We have yet to venture into the bigger markets like China, India and Japan. There is a large share of last minute spontaneous travellers who are also smartphone holders in these markets and we hope to capture them when we enter the markets.
Unlike many of your competitors, HotelQuickly is very focused on mobile users. With increasing adoption of wearable devices, mobile phones makers are rolling out smart bands and watches to complement their devices. Expedia has developed apps for Apple Watch. What are your views on this?
We recently launched the HotelQuickly App on the Apple Watch. 40% of our customers use iPhones for their last-minute bookings. By launching the HotelQuickly app for Apple Watch, we are continuing to innovate the mobile travel segment in Asia Pacific and we are taking the hotel booking experience to the next level.
The new app offers a “handoff” feature that allows users to continue on their phone’s app where they left off on the Apple Watch. Other features includes simplifies navigation and check-in, alerts and the ability to manage booking reference efficiently. We have to continually innovate and adapt ourselves to the needs and wants of the users. The end-goal for HotelQuickly is ultimately to deliver a “superior user experience”.
Is HotelQuickly raising capital? If so, which funding stage is the company at right now?
In August 2013, HotelQuickly secured HKD 9m (USD 1.15m) in angel funding. Prominent investors included Koh Boon Hwee, former Chairman of Singtel and Chairman of Singapore Airlines and current board member of several private companies such as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
A USD 4.5m Series A-1 round was raised in Spring 2014, bringing the total funds raised to date to USD 5.65m. The second round was led by GREE Inc., a global mobile social company from Japan, and co-invested by William E. Heinecke, Chairman and CEO of Minor International.
As an entrepreneur yourself, what are the attributes you think that any entrepreneur should possess?
As an entrepreneur, courage is an important skill to have. When you have the courage, you are able to recognise certain risk and try to do what is possible to mitigate this risk while moving forward. It is important to overcome your fears and ensure that these fears do not keep you from reaching your highest potential. Being passionate about the business and having a clear vision of the end goals and working toward these goals are also important attributes to have.
A good entrepreneur should be able to sell ideas to the customers, investors and potential employees. You have to believe in your business and never waste time second guessing your idea. It is not worth the money and time on something that you can’t dedicate your whole heart to.
You are a seasoned entrepreneur. What advice will you give for our budding entrepreneurs or people who want to start a business?
To start a business, you need to be passionate about the industry and business you are operating in. You need to dedicate your whole heart to it because halfhearted attempts at starting a business will ultimately result in a business failure. You need to have clear vision and direction for the business. Businesses without constant direction can move from order to disorder if actions are not taken to push the business in the right direction.
It is rumored that every entrepreneur has their open set of checklist while evaluating a venture. As an entrepreneur, do you mind sharing yours with us?
As mobiles penetration is becoming more pervasive in APAC markets, HotelQuickly has attracted ventures who share a common vision of enhancing the way people live, work and travel, as well as their digital lifestyle. In return, we are looking for those who can accelerate our development, foster innovations in last-minute hotel booking and solving hoteliers’ unsold rooms.
Miss out previous Entrepreneur’s insights? Read Interview with Ralf Wenzel, foodpanda Co-founder here