With a round of seed funding announced today, Bizly is a startup that says it is gaining traction for its mobile platform, which allows for meeting rooms at hotels to be booked instantly. Bizly aims to appeal to companies that have remote, distributed, and mobile workforces or who lack impressive conference rooms to meet with potential business partners.
For enterprises and professionals, Bizly aims to solve the problem of instantly securing not only on-demand meeting space but also the associated food, beverage, amenities and service. It says it has booked meetings for Google, Mastercard, and JP Morgan, among others.
For hotels, it aspires to solve growth concerns, by optimizing their underutilized meeting rooms while providing a seamless backend infrastructure to centralize, visualize and manage the inventory. Bizly says it has signed deals with more than 30 of New York’s leading hotels, including Mandarin Oriental, Ace, Standard Hotels, Morgan’s Hotel Group, and Sixty Hotels flagged properties.
In theory, the market seems to be there: Cvent estimates the overall meetings and events market to be $565 billion. The startup estimates that small offsite meetings (under 40 people) is approximately 10% of the overall pie, at $50-60 billion globally.
But does Bizly know how to most efficiently capture the huge amount of latent demand out there? Will it be enough to develop a superior knowledge about the customers who need this solution by listening intently and iterating rapidly? Questions like these remain.
Some people compare Bizly to other startups trying to be the Airbnb of meeting space, like Breather or Liquidspace.
But Bizly says its product and approach is different in that it is focused on being an “experiences company” that goes beyond scheduling space with desks and chairs. It brings a customer service element focused on matching the right food and amenities and brand to a client's need.
Here's a brief Q&A with CEO Ron Shah:
What problem does your business solve?
Using Bizly eliminates the long, painful process of booking a small meeting room in a hotel. The typical process requires time-consuming searches, phone calls, negotiation and contracts and meeting rooms are generally unable to be booked the same day. Bizly minimizes the back and forth between hotel and client and allows for instant website and mobile bookings for a fraction of the cost.
Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
Our CEO, Ron Shah, is founder, and we are a staff of 10.
Shah spent the last 15 years as a venture capitalist, previously as the founder of Jina Ventures, where he backed and advised leading technology in the travel, hospitality and media industries and produced two IPOs, six strategic sales and over a dozen other exits.
Our founding team also includes Nancy Branka, previously the founder and managing editor of Executive Travel Magazine (Amex) for 15 years and Tor Miller, a software architect with previous experience building scheduling platforms at Campus Management.
We just closed our seed round of investment, led by Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.
We earn commission on bookings.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
With an increasingly mobile workforce, the ability to book a small meeting room instantly opens up a world of mobility and productivity for companies that are seeking flexible arrangements and lower fixed real estate costs.
We've discovered that many companies have outgrown co-working and don't have conference rooms that impress prospective clients. And corporations who have reduced their real estate footprint, have over-booked conference rooms.
We’ve signed more than 50 hotel brands in the last few months and have created a coast-to-coast presence in NY, SF and Chicago. We will be in 10 cities by year-end. We were accepted into the MetaProp tech accelerator.
We also won the pitch contest at District Co-Work. We are currently in a pilot program with Starwood and gaining traction as the corporate tool of choice for small meetings at a couple large financial institutions.
Our startup pivoted from its original concept of creating a content platform to find the best places to stay, meet and work. It is now focused on a few huge segments of high-frequency need amongst distributed teams, borderless organizations and other professionals that are inundated with small meeting requests. We will focus on delivering amazing “wow” experiences to as many of these meetings as possible.
In three years, 10% of all hotel guest rooms in major business cities will be converted to workspaces and meeting rooms and distributed via Bizly’s GDS.
We are stylistically like Uber and culturally like Tesla. Like Uber, we will fight tooth-and-nail to unlock the most efficient demand aggregation model in just 1-2 initial cities with a focus on quality inventory and enterprise end users.
We are culturally like Tesla in our focus on amazing customer experiences and we maintain similarly high standards for intellectual curiosity, hard work, team play and personal satisfaction.
Here's a one-minute video from founder Ron Shah explaining the theory and practice of Bizly:
Bizly appears to have found a compelling intersection in the Venn diagram of business travel opportunities. Small-scale meetings are on the rise as a result of changing workplace dynamics; hotels are looking to make the most of all their on-site assets; mobile platforms are the mainstream enabler of choice.
There isn't an issue with the the theory of what Bizly offers, and the same is also true of the practice. In simple supply and demand terms, it is already working. The supply partners include some big hotel names who are likely to be quite selective about who they share their assets with; the demand from blue-chip tech and financial giants proves their platform works with potentially demanding clients.
Meeting Market by Expedia operates in a similar sphere, albeit across Germany rather than in New York, confirming that the top table of online travel is looking at the monetization potential around tech-enabled small-scale meeting bookings. Bizly appears to have made a positive start.