Startup Pitch: Criton gives hotels the platform to develop apps for guestsNews / Distribution | Technology | OnlineBy Martin Cowen | March 29, 2018Share This article was originally published on Edinburgh-based Criton is tapping into the guest experience market by helping accommodation providers build their own branded app.It takes, as its starting point, the desire to replace the hard copy, teacup-stained, poorly-designed and not-that-useful-anyhow "guest directory" which is as anachronistic in today's hospitality world as the in-room telephone or trouser press.Providers use a Wordpress-like platform built by Criton to design, test and publish their apps.Guests can use the app on-property to source whatever information the property owner or GM has inputted into the app. It allows the guest to contact room service and reception where appropriate.But the app is also available through the app stores. Once a guest has booked, he or she can download the app which opens up to the property the world of pre-arrival communications, from revenue-driving upsells to service-oriented welcome messages. It also has post-stay functionalities which can be used to help drive repeat business.Its target market is the full spectrum of accommodations. In its own words, Criton "helps hotels, serviced apartment operators, Airbnb hosts and holiday home owners to digitise their guest information, enhance their guests’ experience and increase their revenue."Here's a 60-second elevator pitch from its founder, Julie Grieve.And here's the Q&A: What problem does your business solve? Criton allows hotels and property owners to convert the guest information book into a fully customisable, white labelled app for their guests to download onto their phones. With their own branded app, property owners can replace the old guest directory, which is expensive to produce and print and difficult to update.The app is very easy-to-update and the updates are published instantly. With their own branded app, hotels can provide useful information, anticipate guests' needs pre-arrival, send push notifications, upsell their services and receive guest feedback on valuable aspects of their experience.Guests can make requests, order room service, discover the best places to visit, make mobile bookings and much more. Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff? Julie Grieve - founder and CEO. Criton currently employs 19 with staff levels expected to rise to 24 by the end of May. Funding arrangements? Criton received a £5 million investment in November 2017. Revenue model? Subscription revenues from users. Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution? Criton aim is to offer easy-to-use, affordable technology and give independent hotels and property owners the same digital capabilities as the big travel players. Hotels can access Criton from £24 and vacation rentals from £8.99. We believe that building an app with Criton is cheaper than producing and printing as many information directories as the rooms that a property has. External validation? A Scottish Enterprise innovation grant supported the initial development of Criton.Criton received a £5 million investment boost in November 2017 to expand the company across the UK and overseas.Criton is a partner member of the following organisations: Association of Serviced Apartment Providers, HOSPA, Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Business Centre Association, Scottish Tourism Alliance and the Marketing Hotel Association.In 2018 Criton signed sponsorship deals with the Scottish Hotel Awards, Hotel & Spa Tech Live, Association of Serviced Apartment Providers, HOSPA, Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and International Hospitality Media – which includes sponsoring the Serviced Apartment Awards, Serviced Apartment Summit Americas, Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit, Serviced Apartment Summit Europe and the Serviced Apartment Summit MEA.Julie Grieve, founder and CEO, is an expert of the hospitality industry and has a strong network of connections within the sector.Tnooz view: The fact that Criton picked up £5 million in funding last November means that the due diligence has been done on our part. The anonymous investor must have seen something in Criton to pique his, her or its interest and let's face it, anyone with £5 million to invest in hotel tech must have had a lot of options so well done Criton for getting this particular nod.Giving accommodations the chance to develop their own branded app makes sense, and the ability to tailor the content so that it reflects the general profile of guests can help create the impression of personalisation. In the live-like-a-local world, helping guests to find the nearest Thai restaurant or discover what's on locally is expected by many travellers.The half-empty version is that most of the information a hotel inputs into its app could be available elsewhere, so there is a need for Criton's clients to be made to think about exclusive content.Another headwind is getting guests to download the app in the first place. As IdeaWorks pointed out last week in its paper on airline apps, the content is pretty meaningless if no-one downloads the app.These dynamics are not unique to Criton.Another bigger picture headwind, which could also be a tailwind, is the scale of the hospitality tech industry. Expedia Group and Booking Holdings - increasingly looking at offering B2B services for the hotels (and homes) they distribute - are not the only ten-ton gorillas in Criton's room.Having said that, hospitality tech is quite a big room, so maybe Criton can find a quiet corner and grow on its own terms, or maybe it could start to make friends with the gorillas.