#leweb12 – hoteltonight: “smartphones are where the market is going”

The Silicon entrepreneur explained that there are 2 main groups of hotel bookers. One is for people who have the time to book in advance, be it for business or leisure, whereas the other group is impulse bookers. These are the ones that Hoteltonight is catering for: “they are presented with last minute deals. Having an app in your pockets truly changes the way you think about hotels” Shank added.

[note: this is a guest post I did yesterday on behalf of the live.orange.com blog]

[Sam Shank, chain start-up entrepreneur and founder of Hoteltonight]

In the US there are a lot of chains but a lot less in the UK. “The ownership is very fragmented, and this is the bread and butter because people can choose and pick up new places that are nice” Shank said.

not just a High end service?

One could be tempted to think that this is a very exclusive service for the rich and wealthy, but Sam Shank disagrees strongly with that statement: “we want to be something for everyone. It goes from luxury hotels to more basic hotels and even business hotels” he said. The application delivers 3 deals from a selection of 20 hotels each night. Hotels are competing amongst themselves and “nothing can be predicted” Shank said. This emphasises the lastminute effect in so far as you can’t choose what hotel to stay in in advance.

the market?

Admittedly, there are “many vendors in the same space” and some are multi-million companies such as Expedia for instance. “The main way hoteltonight competes is from singular focus and mobile, content and merchandising, customer support and online marketing” Shank said. The start-up’s singular focus on mobile, and their advantage on competition is that they have no legacy systems. Most businessmen are using their smartphones on the move but “it is still a challenge when teaching people that they should use only mobiles” Shank added.

In essence, Hoteltonght is focussing only on last minute deals and mobiles are well suited for this. Besides, it’s a marketing channel for hotels because 90% of buyers have never stayed in the selected hotel before.

Shank’s third start-up

Hoteltonight is Sam’s third start-up: “all have been successful but I know that lack of focus is reason number one for failure” Sam Shank explained, and this is why they focus on smart phones, also because “this is where the market is going” he concluded.

Horowitz recognises Google+ is late to market but announces growth

Where is Google+ at nowadays. Barely a year after its launch in Summer 2011, Bradley Horowitz, President product management at Google gave us an overview of where they are at and where they are heading … and evaded a few questions too ! [this post was originally written live from Le Web 12 in London on behalf of the live.orange blog]

“Google search had a very short-lived memory and Google+ has been introduced to change that. Google+ is helping us understand our users betters and provide better services to them” Horowitz said as an introduction. As a proof of how Google wants to improve the user experience of its social media platform, he pointed out that Google Local has been made a part of Google+ for a couple of weeks. “The idea is for Google to improve existing services by enhancing them with the power of sharing”.

“We recognise being late to market”

When pressed with questions by Loic Lemeur, he replied: “We recognise being late to market but this offers opportunities to do things differently and enable users to have different kinds of discussions with different kinds of users”.

[Google’s Bradley Horowitz live on stage at Le Web 12 in London]

The strategy is not to have people wishing happy birthday”. What we have is hangouts. “Every kind of user, from music artists to politicians are using hangouts” he said. This is a differentiator and we are only getting started. A very effective demonstration of a live hangout was delivered introducing participants in a multicast presentation from all around the world (Canada, US, UK and France) and remote users were able to ask questions to Bradley Horowitz who answered them. In essence, this isn’t very different from traditional Web conferencing as it has existed for over 10 years, but the fact that it is linked to a social platform should “change the world for users to interact in the same way that Youtube did” Horowitz added

[a live demo of a Google+ hangout at Le Web 12 in London]

numbers?

“170 million users have upgraded their accounts, have updated their profiles. Getting 200 million users in just eleven month is a real challenge and we will be announcing new numbers soon and they are really good”, Horowitz said. “our best days are ahead of us”. One example of the good things they have introduced are the mobile clients which were launched on IOS and Android, more graphical and much more emotional. This has led to a dramatic increase in mobile usage (but no precise numbers were given despite Loic Lemeur’s insistance). Similarly, the number of actual users wasn’t unveiled by the Google exec.

“We have tried to compress a decade of social networking into 11 months! and now I am “happy to announce that Google is opening to another partner “Flipboard” and it will be opened as soon as it is safe for our users and is debugged” the Google exec added. But “we are admittedly moving cautiously” he added, before taking this to the next level.

Sonia Carter from Kraft Foods explained how they are using Google+: Chocolate is the main subject, but also sponsorships that the brand is involved in, because they realised “that people were already talking about this”. Bonin Bough who runs advertising for Kraft foods explained that the introduction of social media wasn’t about the shifting of budgets but the shifting of mindset.