lives to help hotels shout about their environmental initiatives in a factual way based around a C02 calculator.
It is the brainchild of Ville Valorinta who, while working in the hotel distribution business, noticed that nothing much was happening in the hotel world when it came to emission calculators.
The service, which launched first in Finland, is now also available in the UK.
Founder and CEO Valorinta is joined by Matti Korhonen, co-founder and environmental expert, Heidi Haikala, CTO and Denise Otero, director of sales.
The startup was initially funded by foounders and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. And, late last year Ecompter secured funds from Vision+
, an investment firm run by Tero Ojanpera, Nokia's ex-chief strategy and technology officer.
The company is going after hotels worldwide but on a country-by-country basis. It also sees potential for the service to be extended to other accommodation providers such as hostels.
The startup sees competition not so much in the form of rival companies as people's attitudes.
"Sustainability is after all quite a new topic and for many it is safer not to do anything, than to make decisions and go ahead. So Ecompter is also a change agent introducing sustainability as a part of the business operations and guest experience of the hotels."
The hope is that revenue can be gleaned by charging hotels an annual fee of Euro 890 per property and profitability achieved as the business scales up.
Before we launch into the Q&A, here's a few facts provided by Ecompter:
- An average nights hotel stay in a mid range hotel produces 5kg-20kg of Co2 per room
- There are over 500,000 hotels globally – by a rough estimation that equals over 50 mega tons of Co2 produced per year
- Guests are responsible for up to 30% of a hotel’s overall carbon footprint
- Even a 1% reduction in a hotel’s carbon emission would make a global difference
Q&A with founder and CEO Ville ValorintaDescribe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?
Ecompter is a sustainability service for hotels. Every hotel already does something in the area of sustainability, sometimes without even realising it (from recycling, to reducing laundry etc). Furthermore, in most cases hotels do not get the credit for the environmental work they do and often do not communicate it to customers.
Ecompter enables and encourages every hotel to communicate its sustainability, whatever it is, no matter how big or small. Ecompter is an interactive service and makes environmental communication gratifying instead of being dead boring.
Finally, like in all management and communication the facts have to be right. The name Ecompter comes from the French word ‘compter’ meaning ‘to count’. This summarises our business idea, the core of our service is a CO2 calculator designed for hotels, which gives exact and unbiased information both to management and customers.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Without factual evidence, truths cannot be told, achievements cannot be proved and changes cannot be applied. With the Ecompter service hotels can effectively calculate CO2 emissions and communicate sustainability initiatives to customers thus getting positive PR and offering a competitive edge over other hotels. Furthermore, the service enables staff and guests to pay attention to the consumption at the hotel, which in turn means lower carbon footprint and lower costs.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Ecompter creates partnerships with intermediaries i.e. hotel booking systems can embed the Ecompter content in their services. This provides their customers the possibility to have unbiased and comparable CO2 and environmental info available when choosing an hotel. This in turn will drive the hotels to pay attention to their performance in order to remain competitive, and this means a system level change in hotel and customer behaviour.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
Initially Ecompter was about providing hotel CO2 info to the booking systems. Then we started developing an online CO2 calculator that the hotels could offer directly to guests on the hotel website. Eventually the calculator expanded to a service covering not only the CO2 info but generally all aspects of the sustainability work of the hotel.
As a plan B we could always go into a “consulting” mode i.e. offer hotels consulting and ad hoc CO2 calculation services.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
We aim to be a leading expert and hub for measuring, managing and distributing hotels’ environmental content. We hope to have been able to convince the hotel industry that communicating sustainability is important yet it is imperative that it is done in a fact-based, creditable and gratifying way.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The level and quality of environmental communication is not yet very high within the industry. Many hotels do a lot, many have even eco certificates etc. but not that many are able to communicate their performance effectively. Also, much of the environmental work is still based on 'common sense' or assumptions, yet the old cliché of 'What you can measure, you can change' summarises the Ecompter value proposition of providing exact CO2 information to be used as the basis of all the environmental work and communication at the hotels.
Furthermore, independent hotels and smaller chains especially, simply do not have the know-how and resources to calculate their carbon footprint and communicate that and their environmental work in an effective and modern way. Ecompter offers a cost-effective solution for doing that.
This is a worthy initiative although you've got to wonder how ready hotels are to listen to the environmental impact debate when world economies remain in a state of flux.
Then there are consumers themselves who want to see laundry reduction and light-saving initiatives but it's hard to assess how far it goes in affecting their hotel buying decision.
Back in 2011, Travelocity produced this infographic on eco-friendly travellers with 65% saying a green rating influences their decision when prices are the same, only 11% say it has an impact when prices are not the same. So, whether the PR message works or not and whether it gives hotels a competitive advantage is debatable.
Ecompter doesn't mention existing, more established, green hotel schemes such as Green Globe and the certification they provide as potential rivals. How widely consumers recognise some of these schemes is also questionable.
So, where does that leave this newbie. The consultancy avenue could well work especially with proven success in Finland. Also, the idea of highlighting carbon credentials in a fun yet factual way might get some people sit up, take notice and perhaps spread the word.
The price point also seems about right, not prohibitive which should encourage properties which have been considering some kind of initiative to take the plunge.
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