With 28 full-time employees and expansion to London, Criton is ambitious with its plan to give hotels the tools to create their own mobile applications.
The company was founded in the summer of 2016 by Julie Grieve, the former boss of a luxury serviced apartment facility in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup?
Criton is a technology company created for the hospitality industry. It is the UK’s first DIY app builder designed for the sector and works with accommodation providers to support how they communicate and engage with their guests.
Criton provides access to the same technology that big hotel groups already adopt and is constantly looking ahead to ensure itsproducts meet the future needs of its clients.
Criton’s solutionshelp itsclients enhance their guest experience, while driving revenue through repeat visits, reducing costs and upselling services.
It provides accommodation providers with a platform to digitise their guest information and wrap all of their guest-facing technology into a portal that guests can download onto their own phone.
Operators have complete content control over their app and with a free 30-day trial users can easily build their own fully-customised app with a simple "drag & drop" platform which was developed to ensure users didn’t need to have a technical background to benefit from the technology.
With Criton taking care of the technical side, accommodation providers are free to focus on their guests’ experience.
What inspired you to create this company?
Before founding Criton, I was CEO of a luxury serviced apartment complex in the heart of Edinburgh. Pre-launch, when finalising the guest information book, I became frustrated at the time and cost of producing such a guide.
Information quickly went out of date and a quote from a supplier for our own app (£8,500) was beyond the budget I had available. I looked for a self-build solution to create my own app, but there wasn’t anything in market that delivered what I needed for my business.
I took a leap of faith and joined the world of startups via Criton.
The company’s growth in the last nine months has been phenomenal. A £5 million investment in Q4 of 2017 has seen the company’s headcount rise from four to 28 staff, with offices now in Edinburgh and London.
Our goal is for Criton to be the leading global technology provider for independent hospitality.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company?
- Strengths: Run by an ambitious team with extensive experience in hospitality, Criton provides an easy-to-use and affordable platform with pre-built features that allow operators of all sizes to quickly digitise their guest directory, as well as plug-and-pay integrations that allow features such as guest-messaging, in-room ordering, location-based push notification and in the future further integrations, such as digital keys.
- Weaknesses: Being an innovative company that identified a gap in the market is a great opportunity, but it also means that a lot of work needs to be done to raise awareness of Criton’sproduct to ensure operators know that this technology is now available to them.
- Opportunities: Guest experiences are changing, and this is being driven by the penetration of mobile, which is predicted to reach 67.1 percent of the global population by 2019 . Guests now seek a personalised experience and want to interact with their accommodation digitally.
- Threats: It’s important for us to keep on top of the evolving technology sector. While apps might be the product of choice just now, what technologies will users adopt in the future?
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
Travelers are more tech-savvy than ever before, and they rely on their phone to find everything they need.
They want more flexibility, more immediacy of choice, more independence, more control and more independent experiences. Meanwhile, hotels want to embrace technology to improve efficiencies, but how do they inform their guests about all this technology.
Criton gives accommodation providers the tools to share their local knowledge with their guests and to give them personalised information pre, during and post stay, on their own phone.
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Guests can message at their convenience, order room service, find out more about the services on offer, discover the best restaurants and places to visit in the area, make mobile bookings and much more. Most importantly, it's all in one place – a place that they already understand, their phone.
With increasing pressure on the P&L, accommodation providers don’t have to spend time and money printing marketing collateral and updating guest information.
They can use Criton at any time with changes in content immediately live at the click of a button. The can drive more revenues by sending push notification to promote location-based offers.
Utilising Criton’s in-app omni-channel messenger feature, providers can quickly respond to guest queries from one single platform.
Problems can be immediately expedited to the Duty Manager so potential bad TripAdvisor reviews can be prevented.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
It’s been a busy year to date with the team attending events and exhibitions across the UK, Europe and the USA, and we are working closely with industry partners and membership organisations as we seek to quickly establish Criton as a leading brand in the UK.
An integrated marketing campaign has seen us maximising digital channels, as well as targeted print ads and Direct Mail to key decision makers.
Criton’s client base is steadily growing, and with a sales team in Edinburgh and London, meeting potential clients face-to-face for demos has been a key element of our strategy.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market?
While there are other app-builder businesses in market, there currently isn’t a company that has the content management system (CMS), the integrations plan, and the in-depth knowledge and understanding of the hospitality and travel industry that we do.
One of Criton’s core strengths is just that – we are hospitality-first.
The market opportunity is exciting, and our focus will be on this sector for at least the next eighteen months.
While our domestic market will always be at the heart of what we do, we are already exploring overseas territories, with North America offering a wealth of opportunities through its boutique hotel segment and its large-scale vacation rental market.
How and when will you make money?
Revenue goals are always at the heart of any business and Criton is no different. What allows us to deliver on our ambition and have an expedited route to market is our initial investment.
It’s enabled Critonto go from being a toddler, to becoming an adult, without those tricky teenage years! We’re working to a three-year plan to break even.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
Building a strong team with the right expertise has been the focus of much of this year. Having the right team is a fundamental part of building a successful business and we’re proud of the diverse range of individuals that make up Team Criton.
The team are ambitious, both individually and collectively, and are all bought in to the company vision. As a tech company,Criton is potentially going against the grain with an SMT, which is 60% female, and ensuring a diverse workforce will remain a priority as itcontinues to grow.
We seek to employ the very best team who have a strong technical background or an intrinsic knowledge of the hospitality and travel sector. Our SMT is made up of:
- Jo Wilson (Head of Sales) previously a Director of her own sales and marketing firm for 18 years and has worked with a variety of companies in the technology and hospitality sectors.
- Roz Hewitson (Product Manager) who has worked on a range of products from business transformation to large scale UX, design and technical builds.
- Cedric Clain (Head of Engineering) who joined Criton after completing his Masters in Artificial Intelligence.
- Susan Russell (Head of Marketing) who spent over fifteen years promoting Scotland and Edinburgh’s Festivals across international marketing campaigns.
- Innes Chalmers (PT CFO) who has experience working across various sectors including SAAS.
- Steven Sibbald (Head of Commercial) with vast experience in starting and growing companies in a tech environment
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
Quite simply, just having enough hours in a day. Ensuring I give enough time to recruiting and supporting new staff, refining processes, ensuring products are hitting pipeline targets and ensuring excellent customer service, is very much a juggling act.
However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
At Criton it’s not just about me (Julie Grieve, CEO and founder). The full team are driving the business and we all have the same ambition for Criton–for it to be recognised as the global leader in itsfield.
In an ever-evolving marketplace, we need to, and always will, ensure we’re constantly striving to deliver the very best products and customer service.
One area I’ve underestimated is the power that word-of-mouth has, as we’ve recently acquired new clients through their experience of a Criton-delivered app while they’ve been staying at a competitor property.
Our clients are quickly becoming ambassadors for Criton and, in the coming years, that will be a fantastic reflection of who we are, what we offer and how we’ve transformed our client’s businesses by delivering an excellent guest experience.
We believe Criton offers a service that independent hospitality needs and can benefit from. We’re lucky to do what we do and we’re extremely excited about the future.
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