Expedia invests in Alice, the hotel mobile tech startup

New York startup Alice, the maker of a hotel operations platform, has received a “significant” — but unspecified — minority investment from Expedia Inc.

Prior funding for the startup included a seed round of $3 million in January 2015, plus a half-million round from family and friends, to get started.

Alexander Shashou, co-founder and president of the startup, told Tnooz by phone that the team, which currently has 25 members, has just begun advertising for 15 more positions (mostly technical and in New York).

Shashou said that, this year, the company doubled the number of properties it is working with to more than 50 hotel groups.

Media coverage, to date, has fixated on Alice’s consumer-style mobile app that guests download — which can let guests order services like room service and late check-outs via text-messaging style communication, among other things.

Yet it’s the back-end technology that enables a hotel to manage requests efficiently that has also excited Expedia Inc.

Alice’s cloud-based software interacts with a hotel’s existing computing systems — sitting on top of them, so to speak. It enables staff and guests to access relevant information quickly and to interact with each other via either an Alice-branded or a white-labeled hotel mobile app.

Alice’s software does custom reporting, letting hoteliers better understand and optimize their operations.

It takes all of the property management system touch points and siloed vendor software that a hotelier has and streamlines the workflow for the behind-the-scenes managers and the front-line staff — to receive, manage, and execute all guest and internal requests for every department.

Today Alice releases a new product, Alice Lite, a guest experience management module that’s aimed at new customers.

It lets a hotel receive requests from guests via an app or a standard SMS conversation, and it provides a back-end tool for the concierge and the overnight staff to track every request. Hotels can save the information into their property management system if they want.

This week Expedia is touting Alice’s services at its lodging partner conference in Las Vegas, which may help the startup sign up more clients, especially the boutique independent hotels that have been the most attracted to its services so far.

One striking thing about Alice is how much of its DNA comes from the financial technology sector.

Shashou was an analyst for a year at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank. The company’s technical team is led by Dmitry Koltunov, who previously built trading and analytics systems for investment management firms and a couple of his engineers have FinTech backgrounds.

Shashou says this is not an accident.

“We’ve effectively built a trading system. We’re not using billions of dollars in assets; we’re using towels and maintenance requests — but it’s quite analogous to a trading system. There’s a lot of rules and algorithms for the various components.

Our data engineers can measure the effectiveness of one property’s workflow against a sister property, similar to comparing financial asset behavior.”

Expedia hasn’t said if it would like to offer Alice’s services — or Alice-style ones, at any rate — to its hotels as a subscription-based, add-on supplier technology. Priceline Group has recently invested in several business-to-business services for hotels, primarily on the digital marketing side.

But Expedia’s investment in Alice signals that mobile devices have changed the game for on-property and in-market services for hotels. In a Tnooz interview a year ago, the company’s CEO said it was attracted by several startups in the space, such as CheckMate.

See Tnooz’s profile of Alice earlier this year

Alice’s 5 things hotels should be doing with SMS to guests [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.



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