A Q&A with LoungeUp co-founder and CEO Mathieu Pollet. The Paris–based company was founded in September of 2011 and raised a Seed funding round earlier this month. Investors include Pole Capital and Angels.
SUB: Please describe what LoungeUp is, and the value proposition you bring to the hotel and travel business.
Pollet: LoungeUp is a platform that allows hotels to create a mobile service for their clients. Using LoungeUp, guests gain access to a variety of services proposed by the hotel. They can, for example, look at practical information in the hotel, reserve a table in the hotel restaurant or at another restaurant in the local area, and read newspapers in a host of different languages. Furthermore, LoungeUp proposes an innovative messaging service whereby guests can directly contact hotel staff and, more importantly, the hotel can distribute information to guests. Simple pop-up satisfaction questions are designed to quickly gauge the guest’s hotel experience, and resolve any issues during his stay. At the cutting edge of LoungeUp is the social network integration, by which connected guests meet other connected guests.
Overall, LoungeUp brings the guests convenience and a better overall experience during their stay. For hotels, LoungeUp makes customer satisfaction easy to manage, and helps to boost sales of extra services. It enables guests to get more out of the hotel, and enables hotels to deal with these requests effectively.
We believe that this is a practical solution to two key challenges for the hotelier of today. An unhappy guest can cost hotels dearly, as future guests depend increasingly on review sites such as TripAdvisor. Studies have demonstrated the correlation between bad reviews and low occupation rate, but have equally demonstrated that a positive review site can benefit hotels enormously. To this end, LoungeUp helps hotels manage issues internally before guests feel the need to resort to TripAdvisor. The second challenge is that, as online travel agencies take such large commissions on bookings, hotels must increasingly rely on their services for profitability. By channeling information through the guest’s own device, services are brought closer to the guest. Greater accessibility coupled with an aesthetic presentation ultimately increase sales.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Pollet: We are targeting three, four and five-star hotels and resorts, worldwide.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Pollet: We are in a very young market, which means our strongest competitor is actually no one at all. The main question we need to overcome is “why would I buy LoungeUp? I have been doing okay so far, why should I do something different?” Although this is our primary concern, there are also some local players and some companies who produce single-standing apps for individual hotels.
SUB: What differentiates LoungeUp from the competition?
Pollet: I would highlight two primary factors here that form a part of our fundamental business. The first is the look and feel of our product. Amongst companies proposing offers similar to ours, we noticed that while the technology was good, the user experience was often disappointing. We have invested heavily in the user interface and user experience side of the product, in order to give a product that reflects the quality of our client hotels. We strive to create a product that will make an impact on first use, and whose UI encourages users to keep using the service. When we say ‘services at guests’ fingertips,’ it needs to be that simple. Equally, we mustn’t forget the hoteliers. For the product to be dynamic and appealing to guests, it requires hotel managers to be able to add, edit and delete information in an instant. We have worked hard to produce a ‘backoffice’ that is simple and efficient for hotel staff.
Secondly, we need to remember that a hotel manager is skilled as a manager, not as an IT consultant. We need to be there to assist them every step of the way, so that they can concentrate on what they do best. Often we rely on our network of representatives to deliver this close-contact service, so that the service can be seamlessly integrated into the hotel’s running.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Pollet: Work began on the product in early 2011, and we formally established the company in September. Early test versions were released in January 2012 to a closed group of trial hotels.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for LoungeUp? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Pollet: Lionel (Tressens, co-founder and CTO) and I were always looking at mobile-based ideas. I was travelling a lot at the time for work, and I soon realized that hotels, regardless of location, class or price, were not interacting with me efficiently. Moreover, I noticed that most guests had something in common: they all had laptops, smartphones or tablets. After discussing this with several hotel managers, it became clear that some of them were looking to implement something for mobile, but were unsure as to how to go about starting such a project. The idea that developed was to create the service we have today, that has zero risk for the hotel manager.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Pollet: In discussions to develop third-party content, it has been clear that there is interest on both sides, but due to the corporate structure it takes time to get the final go-ahead. This is difficult for us as a startup, as we are looking to build our offer as quickly as possible.
Without a doubt, I have had some fantastic feedback and ideas from friends, partners, mentors—from the Paris startup accelerator Le Camping—and clients. It is therefore a challenge to keep my head in the right direction, and reasonably select those ideas that are feasible and can bring real value to the company.
SUB: You recently closed a Seed funding round—can you disclose the total amount? How do you plan to use the funds?
Pollet: Unfortunately we can’t disclose the amount. These funds are just enough for the commercialization of LoungeUp, in order to get the product to market across the world. The investors themselves are incredibly important to us too, and we will be making the most of their expertise in the travel industry to better our product and services.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding?
Pollet: Nothing is planned for at least nine months.
SUB: What are your goals for LoungeUp over the next year or so?
Pollet: We want to make our mark on the hotel industry globally by developing our network of global partners, who will drive the sales of the business and engage in close-contact relations with hotels. To achieve this network, our product has to be the best available. Once established in the industry, we can look at extending our reach to other industries such as cruises or hospitals.
LoungeUp – www.loungeup.com