From a hotel without a desk to rapidly scaling: MEWS’ CEO on his thriving SaaS for hotels

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A hotel in Prague without a check-in desk, where guests would automatically register their stay without any hassle, was the initial goal. But Matthijs Welle and Richard Valtr found that to be too much of a challenge, as existing software would not support their idea. So they founded MEWS and built the software they felt was sorely lacking in hospitality. 

From Hilton to software

Fast forward to 2021, and MEWS is a vast SaaS solution offering anything a hotelier ever wanted. MEWS’ software can take care of anything, from check-in to check-out and beyond that. It serves as a control centre for front and back-office staff, guides guests through their journey with self-service kiosks and virtual concierge, offers advanced analytics to improve service and handles the payments.

Software for hotels is nothing new, but Richard Valtr’s vision for a reception-less hotel was too far fetched at the time. Richard and Matthijs found nothing was catering to their specific needs in 2012. Welle was Director of Sales at Hilton, which meant he had a deep understanding of what such a system needed to do. The most widely used choice, Oracle Hospitality, was hard to adapt to their use case. 

“If you understand the problem, it’s a lot easier to build something”, says Welle. “We were lucky we found two students that wanted to help us make the software. One of them is now our CTO.”

Everything a hotel needs

Since then, MEWS has been built out to a comprehensive platform. Hotels have many systems in place, from check-ins to cleaning schedules, restaurant reservations and keycard management. And they want to offer their guest tours, room service and quick service without having to wait in line at the reception.

MEWS offers all that, but according to Welle, the unique part is its openness. “We’ve made our API available on our website. That was a breakthrough in hospitality. It meant the whole world could integrate their services with MEWS. We now have over 500 integrations running, and we didn’t have to build them. By making the API available, third party developers were able to build towards us, instead of the other way around.”

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SaaS and fintech

MEWS also added a payment product to their software. Good news for their customers, who could now handle the payments within their hotel software. Even better news for MEWS, says Welle. “As a business, it means we now have a payments model next to our SaaS-model. It allows us to scale faster.”

MEWS currently has over 2000 hotels using their service. Those range from small independents to large chains. Welle says they recently onboarded Westcord and Amrath. A large French chain, whose name shall remain under wraps for a bit, is currently also making the switch to MEWS. 

COVID putting a stop to travel

In other words, business is booming for Welle and his company. That is extra remarkable considering travel, and overnight stays were hardly an option for the past year. MEWS felt the COVID-crisis at first and had to let go of some of their personnel. “The SaaS-portion of our business was relatively stable. But the part of the payments completely stopped.” They did notice many hotels taking time off to update their software. Welle says they hit all their sales targets for the year.

Despite the slump in hospitality, MEWS reported a 45 per cent YoY growth without doing any marketing. And now that the world is re-opening, travel-hungry tourists are boosting MEWS’ payment service as well. Welle: “People can’t wait to travel again. Occupancy of hotel rooms takes time to build up. But payments come before that.” The day the United Kingdom announced the end of their lockdown, Welle noticed a spike in payments on their platform.

Switching to Salesforce

With rapid growth like that, MEWS needs to find the right software partners. “We always aimed to do everything with small, innovative startups”, says Welle. “So we had a couple of different CRM partners. They usually worked fine until, at some point, they didn’t. They could grow with us up until a certain point; then, something would break.”

Richard Valtr, Matthijs Welle, MEWS
Richard Valtr and Matthijs Welle, founders of MEWS (image: MEWS)

So during the lockdowns, MEWS decided to switch systems. Instead of using five different systems, they opted for Salesforce. “We moved our sales, support and customer success there.” Because of Salesforce’s platform, MEWS is now completely scalable, future proof and ready to take on the next phase of growth. ”We always had a bit of resistance against using Salesforce. But now I’m glad we made the switch. I wished we’d have done it years earlier.”

Project Spacetime

It paves the way for MEWS to keep growing unabated. And that is exactly what Welle is planning to do. The hospitality business is already huge, and MEWS is working on a plan to take an even more significant chunk with their upcoming project Spacetime. “Right now, we’re selling rooms per night. But we can become more flexible and rent our properties for a smaller time limit. It opens doors to other businesses, like co-working spaces or parking. Maybe someday, you can even book your hairdresser through our platform or rent a bike.” It’s where Salesforce’s flexibility will prove to be crucial, always being able to adapt to new revenue streams, additional teams,  and fresh ideas over time. 

It’s the ambitious mindset that brought Welle and his company far away from that reception-less hotel in Prague. “Running a hotel is very romantic. But it is also hard work. So is running a SaaS startup, but this is scalable. At MEWS, I’ve never had the feeling that I’m doing the same all the time. Every day is different, and we always want to get bigger.”

MEWS uses Salesforce CRM. Want to find out what CRM can do for your business? Read their handbook that explains how to make a success of your first steps with CRM. You’ll find all the information you need on how to build your CRM strategy, how to maximize your ROI and how to improve your sales and productivity.

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Dennis de Vries

Writes about technology for as long as anyone remembers. Hangs out with Apple, Samsung and Sony, but is just as interested in the Google-killer you're currently building in your parents' garage. You can reach him via [email protected]

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