Drew Patterson was a director at Starwood in its golden days, when the W and Westin's Heavenly Bed were born. He was with metasearch website Kayak before its billion-dollar initial public offering.
Next he ran Jetsetter, right when the wave in flash sale deals was cresting. Then he became CEO of Room 77, and helped facilitate a licensing deal with Google for its mobile search technology.
Patterson's latest project -- a Room 77 acquisition -- is Checkmate, a mobile tool for hotels to digitize and monetize the process of guests checking in.
The product's ascent coincides with investors' expanding interest in mobile platforms for travel and hotel tech business-to-business services.
To explain the product, Patterson asks a rhetorical question:
"As consumer, when was last time a hotel invited you check in ahead of arrival via mobile device? The answer is, 'hardly ever'.
Checkmate is trying to change that, and make mobile check-in as commonplace for hotel stays as it is for flights."
Hotels can use Checkmate's technology to prompt a guest to check in early. An alert is sent 24 hours in advance of the stay -- by e-mail, smartphone push message, or a Google Now card.
Out of beta
Checkmate is running pilot tests with 100 hotels, including brands such as Rydges Hotels, Pod Hotels, Denihan, Joie de Vivre, Okura'sNikko Hotels, and Woodside Hotels.
It also cites partnerships with management companies such as Thayer, Hostmark, Hersha Hospitality, Metwest Terra Group, Pacific Hospitality, and Westmont.
The startup is making headway on the hotel ownership side. It says it is in "advanced talks" with major hotel management companies about applying its technology to their different brands.
As of April, Checkmate can embed its functionality in a hotel's own branded app for iPhone or Android, as demonstrated with Acme Hotel Company in Chicago, which has integrated the startup's tech in its Acme Chicago iOS app.
Otherwise, guests receive an email from the hotel prompting them to check in via a white-labeled website that has responsive design, meaning the content displays legibly on phone, tablet, or desktop.
The hotel tasks a manager to react to guest responses via an extranet. Ideally, the hotel will use the tool to assign a room number and let a guest know at what time their room will be ready, based on the guest's arrival time.
"What’s been a pleasant surprise to us is how the mobile check-in moment is a powerful one for cross-selling and merchandising and driving other forms of commerce.
Messages like, "Do you want to upgrade to a bigger room?" have performed well. There has been a strong consumer appetite for upsells like valet parking.
It's about pitching offers at the moment a consumer is turning their full attention to their arrival the next day.
We probably should have seen this in advance, given that airlines say they sell a lot of ancillaries exclusively through their mobile apps, which are mainly used for check-ins for flights."
CheckMate says it only pulls inventory reports out of a hotel's property management system (PMS). It pulls guest records from that data, to only show inventory that’s truly available.
It also promotes the most relevant upsells to make sure class of inventory is better than what the customer already has.
Up until now, hotels have had no way to benchmark the effectiveness of the check-in process.
Patterson recalls his time as a director of pricing at Starwood. He would hear that the company had a benchmark of checking in a guest within 30 seconds of arrival. But in practicality a decade ago, the company -- like all hotels -- had little practical way to hold employees accountable to that metric.
Mobile check-in is different: It leaves a trail of data. Applying the logic of "If you can measure it, you can improve it," companies can chart patterns to see how it can improve at least the mobile check-in aspect.
To gauge effectiveness, CheckMate sends a white-labeled survey form to the guest sometime between a half-hour and the morning after check-in.
This review process gives CheckMate feedback while the guest is still at the property to handle any problem right away and ward off a guest posting a nasty review on, say, TripAdvisor after they've left and it's too late.
But CheckMate also aggregates the performance data, and presents it to the hotel in an easy-to-read format.
A chain's manager can use the analytics to detect patterns, such as if a particular property tends to receive above-average complaints from guests on, say, Monday afternoons. A manager could then suggest training or staff changes to fix the bad performance.
Out of beta
On the distribution front, CheckMate hasn't announced any partners.
But Patterson says it is live with a leading online travel agencies (OTAs) and has a signed agreement with a second global OTA, and will be launching soon, plus deals with a number of smaller OTAs and offline agencies.
He says his company is "also working with a leading travel content aggregator" and that some smaller brands, like Points.com are already using it.
Tnooz has already noticed FarePortal'sCheapOair using the solution.
Facing "vendor fatigue" at the property level
A hotel in a major city may have 75 platforms, one for digital marketing, one for uploading inventory to a mobile app, and another channel for loading of rates and inventory to a global distribution system.
Patterson says that, despite being yet another extranet that hotel managers have to deal with, Checkmate isn't a difficult sell.
"We're not duplicative. There's no other company offering something for this aspect of the guest journey.
We also help the hotels in an obvious and immediate way. We let hotels do time-shifting with their work.
Rather than face a queue of five people trying to check in at the front desk, they can stagger the check-in process by responding to each mobile query in sequence."
Social verification of the customer
Checkmate is also in early stages of offering hotel front desk staff an opportunity to obtain social profile data on a guest before they arrive — without the guest necessarily knowing this data has been gathered.
In its product demos, the startup shows how a hotel can see information about a prospective guest.
An image of the guest is pulled from social networks, based on algorithms making a best guess search based off information the guest supplied, such as his or her email and physical address.
In a product demo (screenshot, below), co-founder Anthony Maggio is used as an example.
Checkmate also says it flags which guests are active members at TripAdvisor. Patterson says about 10% of users generate a large bulk of the TripAdvisor's reviews.
Alerting a hotel that they have a guest who is likely to post a review and whose reviews may be favored by TripAdvisor’s algorithms can give a hotel reason to take extra care with him or her.
Patterson says his company is able able to identify a Tripadvisor profile more broadly than using a consumer’s given name and email address, so that a consumer doesn't have to know what data has been parsed about them.
EARLIER, FROM TNOOZRoom 77′s CEO Drew Patterson: Google to license our software
Room 77 taps Drew Patterson to be CEO, acquires Checkmate
NB: Chessboard image courtesy of Omer Unlu/Flickr/Creative Commons