Thanks to local tech powerhouse Booking.com, The Netherlands has become a hotbed for startups aiming to disrupt the travel industry. Hotelchamp is one of those Amsterdam-based scaleups operating in the still not very tech-savvy hotel industry. The young company, founded in April 2015, aims to boost direct bookings for hoteliers.
At Digital Waves, a new video talk show powered by Silicon Canals, Node1, and Ubideo, we got the chance to talk in depth with Kristian Valk, the founder, and CEO of the extremely ambitious Dutch startup Hotelchamp.
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Below, an excerpt from the interview, edited for clarity and length:
Silicon Canals (SC): Can you detail about Hotelchamp’s co-founder Kasper Middelkoop and his initial idea behind the company?
Kristian Valt (KV): Kasper and I met nearly ten years ago. He was a student back then working on his thesis about performance marketing. We had a great connection at the very beginning. He came up with this idea while he was on a holiday with his girlfriend. He was amazed at the fact that she was going back and forth from a hotel booking website to the hotel’s website, and vice versa.
SC: What’s your strategy for the imminent success of Hotelchamp?
KV: We have the ambition to build a hyper-growth company. We aim to disrupt this industry by bringing the power back to hoteliers and bringing hoteliers and hotel guests together. As there are millions of hotels all over the world, if we want to create a sustainable industry for the hoteliers, we can’t stick to a few hundred hotels alone.
We should do the same for thousands of hotels, to create a balance between direct bookings and bookings made via third parties like Booking.com and online travel agencies such as Expedia.
SC: Is Booking.com your direct rival and how do you expect to crush the competition?
KV: We at Hotelchamp are not competing against and or crushing Booking.com. Our aim is to help hoteliers, provide a better experience to hotel guests and ensure a fair balance between the revenue they generate without the commission and where they are closer to the guests. We are aimed to scale up fast and we need to grow in a hyper-fast pace. That’s all we are focused at right now.
SC: What do hotels like the most about your technology?
KV: Hoteliers are good at bringing hospitality to their property but they struggle to bring the same hospitality to the online space. This is due to the lack of knowledge to some extent and lack of means while making the right investments. They also miss the data in order to bring the right experience.
We can invest heavily in great technology that we are leveraging our knowledge, which we gained from the e-commerce space. We are using the data we have gathered from all the hotels we are working with. This ensures that we’re building state of the art technology, which understands the hotel’s guests, brings hospitality to their website, in the booking engine, and in the app, the same way the hoteliers provide service to their guests within the hotel. This will make them less vulnerable and less dependent on third parties.
SC: What’s your sales strategy to reach customers?
KV: At Hotelchamp, we have a SaaS solution (Software as a Service), which lets you browse from anywhere in the world. We are scaling fast as the product doesn’t require us to be in face to face contact with our customers either for the sales process or the service process.
SC: Do you prefer non-Dutch investors over Dutch investors?
KV: There isn’t a week or month that goes by where we don’t talk to investors. We are at events where investors are. The investors in the US are aggressive when it comes to the outbound strategies.
SC: When will you do you expect to get the next round of funding, and will it come from the US?
KV: We are trying to keep the options open and see what’s best for the company. For us, it’s all about scaling and scaling fast and there are funds who have seen this many times before.
SC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
KV: Well, we aim to make this company big and we know we are not in this for the short run. Given that it is a fast industry and we are a company that is really on the sweet spot, where there is a huge pain now, we are pretty ambitious.