Technology has proven to solve a lot of problems. Small technologies have, especially, repeatedly proven to solve big problems. From next generation robotics, smart wearables, to distributed manufacturing and undoing climate change, technology is making leaps. One industry where technology is making meaningful change is the hospitality industry.
During the pandemic, the hospitality industry was disproportionately affected with hotels and restaurants having to shut down or furlough employees. This need to mitigate the cash and working capital issues also showed the data inefficiency of the industry.
Dutch scaleup Omniboost helps the hospitality industry overcome this challenge with its data automation technology. The Terneuzen and New York based company seamlessly integrates POS, PMS, Accounting data and more to enable automatic synchronisation of financial data. Its journey shows how technology can solve known problems effortlessly.
A omnichannel solution
Omniboost was founded by Kees Zorge in 2017 as a technology-based innovation and automation company. Back then, the idea was simply to offer a solution that did 100 per cent of the work as opposed to the readily available tools that provided at maximum 90 per cent of the solution to the data automation challenge.
In fact, the solution initially designed was for the retail industry, says Mike Baecke, COO and CFO of Omniboost. He says there was little traction for Omniboost’s technology at the time and when an opportunity came to deploy this solution within the hospitality industry, they were able to solve the problem within a couple of days.
Technology solutions are supposed to be adaptable and this instance showed that Omniboost had a product originally designed for the retail industry that can also be deployed in the hospitality industry. “Currently, Omniboost is fully focused on the hospitality industry but it’s not to say that the technology cannot be applied to other industries,” says Baecke.
However, the data automation solution offered by the company is not just restricted to hotels. Baecke shares an example of an integration they have done for a hotel with a parking garage located close to it. Baecke says, “We can facilitate an integration between a technology the garage uses in order to connect to a property management system to combine with the car space.”
In a nutshell, Omniboost has branched out to offer its technologies that are not necessarily dedicated to the hospitality industry. It is an omnichannel solution that was originally designed for the retail industry but through its robustness was easily deployed in the hospitality industry, but adaptable for multiple different use cases.
US expansion back on track
Hospitality was one the worst-affected industries by the pandemic and as a company serving that industry, Omniboost also had its work cut out. Baecke says unlike other tech companies, they didn’t see any accelerated demand for their product during the pandemic.
He, however, is happy that Omniboost did not see an accelerated churn either which he says, “accentuates the value of their products.”
The pandemic did force Omniboost to make major changes to its business plan. Omniboost is incorporated in the US and had major plans for expansion in the same year. However, they had to halt those expansion plans due to the global pandemic and picked up on the expansion only last year.
As a scaleup, Omniboost has a total of 25 employees and they are looking to double that number by the end of 2023. Among these 25 employees, Baecke says most are based in the Netherlands while some operate remotely as well within Europe. They also have some employees in the US but the product development will continue to take place in the Netherlands.
“The sales and business development roles will be expanded internationally along with customer support functions,” adds Baecke.
A subscription-based business model
Like many other software and system integration tech companies, also operates with a subscription-based model. The customers get an option to cancel anytime during a month, like Netflix, but Baecke says they have a churn of less than 0.5 per cent and it was the same during COVID as well.
In order to get to this strong subscription business model, Omniboost relied on a three-phase approach. The first phase involved building on its network and creating a powerful network of partnerships within the hospitality industry.
They partnered with companies building property management systems (PMS), point of sale systems, accounting systems and more. Baecke adds that this approach meant that their growth was in conjunction with that of their partners. “A lot of the subscriptions have originated in our customers’ marketplaces,” he says.
As part of this phase, Omniboost also proved that its product is market-fit, has proven scalability, and created a brand name for itself. It has also created a tech stack that supports as many technologies as possible. This meant that Omniboost could switch attention to phase two of its model, creating an enterprise business by offering its tech stack to small and medium-sized chains and management companies for both restaurants and hotels. The last phase, according to Baecke, is still under wraps and is yet to be revealed.
The really interesting thing though is the fact that Omniboost has scaled its product with users in over 70 countries across the world, with millions of dollars of transactions being processed and reconciled through its integrations on a daily basis.
Rise is all about sharing ideas, knowledge and experience
Zorge and Baecke from Omniboost joined nine other Dutch fintech scaleups at batch #9 of Techleap.nl’s Rise programme. Baecke called it “an honour to be selected as a participant” of the Rise programme and their motivation to join was driven by “access to peers and industry experts for sharing knowledge, experiences, and ideas.”
Baecke, who previously worked in the airline industry, says the Rise programme was particularly helpful for his first venture in the startup world. “It’s interesting to learn that there are more companies who’ve got similar problems that we’re facing,” he says.
After multiple sessions as part of the Rise programme, and on a few occasions being given tough love, Baecke says they have now started refreshing their pitch deck. He says their current pitch deck served the purpose and are now reviewing the mission and vision to better tell their story.
Both Zorge and Baecke believe that the sessions have been insightful and provided them with excellent knowledge from experts who have gone “through the scaleup process before.”
One of the learnings, Baecke says, was to go after bigger enterprise deals while continuing to cater to smaller, independent businesses in the hospitality sector. “We’re busy negotiation our first large enterprise deals as well,” he says with a smile.
Ending the data silos
If data is indeed the new oil, then Omniboost helps its hospitality clients to put that oil in the right tank. While data being stored in silos has been a challenge, Baecke says that challenge has only “gotten worse in the past couple of years.”
He cites this creation of data silos on availability of many technology and cloud-based systems in the hospitality sector. “So there’s more data silos between the system now and the problem that we solve is also twofold,” he says.
The first problem being solved by Omniboost is integration with its staple product called automation of accounting. Omniboost calls it the standard for accounting across the board and various regions. Since it is completely source agnostic, it is also able to create a powerful ETL that can work anywhere.
For hospitality chains with different brands operating with different systems, Baecke says Omniboost’s ETL can standardise the information extracted from these systems to create one common language across the company. He says this allows the “management to see the performance overall without having to do manual extraction of excel sheets and trying to stick them together.”
The second problem that Omniboost is solving is supporting legacy systems used in the hospitality industry. By providing the same services to its customers whether they use an on-premise solution or a cloud-based solution, Omniboost is able to maintain synergy and support transition for its customers.
The success of Omniboost essentially demonstrates the success of technology to solve a major data challenge in the hospitality industry. The path they took to reach there is one of resilience and belief in building a product that would actually solve a complete problem and not 40, 60 or even 90 per cent of it.
Baecke says entrepreneurs should have a clear business model of what they want to achieve in a specific number of years and a clear strategy to not only delight their customers but also achieve enterprise success.