TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based hotel digital marketing system Buuteeq.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Buuteeq is a Seattle, Washington-based startup that makes a cloud-based digital marketing system (DMS) for independent hotels.
The DMS helps hotels create and manage high-performing websites, mobile and social channels, promotions and reservations, all from one place.
The company was founded by former Microsoft executives Forest Key, Adam Brownstein and Brian Saab.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- CEO and Co-founder Adam Brownstein was most recently Director of Business Development in the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division and helped launch Microsoft Surface in 20 global regions across the hospitality market.
- CMO/CPO and Co-founder Forest Key was most recently GM of Business Development for Asia for the Microsoft Server and Tools Division based in Beijing, China.
- COO and Co-founder Brian Saab led the worldwide marketing team for the Microsoft Expression family of design tools.
Buuteeq has raised $1.4 million via founders, angel investors and Equitas since incorporating in February of 2010.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Independent hotels suffer from low occupancy rates and low profit margins. Buuteeq lives to enable independent hotels to centralize all of their digital marketing (web, social media and mobile) and online reservations via a single, easy-to-use and cost-effective Web based interface.
Describe the business, core products and services?
The Buuteeq Digital Marketing System (DMS) is an integrated system designed specifically to address the ways guests search for hotels online. It includes four main components:
A content management system, digital distribution, online reservations, and business intelligence.
Independent hotels simply upload photos, videos, maps and other assets; enter room, location, seasonal promotions and other data through an easy-to-use web-based ‘Back Office’ and can choose to populate a variety of marketing channels - web, Facebook, mobile applications, booking engines and more, with that data using proven-effective formats.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Buuteeq is launching with 40 customers from around the globe including the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif, the LiAn Lodge in Guanxi Province in China, the Cirilo Armstrong in Valparaiso, Chile and many more.
Customer videos and case studies are available here. We're adding exciting new customers daily.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes. We have a passion for developing software, and put a lot of effort into developing software tailored to the needs of hotels that delivers a user friendly interface and ultimately high performing websites and digital marketing online, on mobile devices and in social media.
One of the first steps we took after incorporating buuteeq was seeking out early adopters to try our solution. We had a vision, and they helped us to refine it. I think that makes good sense, and our investors concurred.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Buuteeq is available as a subscription service. Fixed annual subscriptions run from a "Starter" Facebook solution, up through comprehensive packages for $3,000 to $15,000 USD per year depending on features.
Conceiving, designing and building an amazing DMS has a cost to us, of course. Fortunately, there are a LOT of hotels out there who need help, and they see our offer as an extraordinary value. Like many other SaaS-based businesses we have a break even number of properties in our plan.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
I'll get the tough stuff out of the way first; some people wonder about the distributed team structure of Buuteeq.
We have sales and marketing in Seattle, core engineering in Palo Alto, a development team in China and operations in Austin, TX.
We also have global sales and operations members in Santiago. Skype, Join.me and Salesforce allow us to enjoy a "water cooler" effect being despite our geographical distances.
It actually all works remarkably well, and we benefit in the end with a 24-hour global workforce.
Threats? Well, we feel great about our strategy and our IP. However a big gorilla could try to come along and attack the space we're in today. Our entire management team has worked for behemoth companies in the past, and I feel that we can operate more nimbly, flexibly and provide a more personalized level of customer service.
Our strengths lie in product. It takes great people to build and sell great software and to care for customers. Those are the pillars of our strategy. What brings it all together is the value proposition we deliver through our product.
There are wonderful opportunities in the hospitality space for Buuteeq. I can say up front that Asia is incredible; inbound tourism is growing at 14% there. There are many other opportunities, and we'll share them in the future as we unfold more of our DMS story.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
When I demo'd one of our early prototypes for a close family member, who had a career as a successful venture capitalist, he didn't quite get it.
But he was a finance person, without much exposure to the hospitality industry. The enthusiasm and encouragement from several heavyweights in the hospitality industry convince us to press on, and that's paying off for us already.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We have hard metrics around number of customers and markets and anticipate substantial growth in our first years around the globe, with a focus on Asia, North America and South America.
We also have goals around net promoter and customer satisfaction. In subscription businesses, happy customers are your best sales people.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.