StartUp Pitch – Mobile hotel training platform Boost gets EHL funding

Boost, a startup providing a mobile learning platform for the hospitality industry, has announced that École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) has invested in the business.

In a statement, Rémi Walbaum, chief innovation officer at EHL, said: “Innovation is one of our core values, and today in 2018 we see technology as a key means of learning both in schools and universities, and in the workplace, that is why we have decided to invest in Boost.”

Meanwhile, here’s a StartUp Pitch with responses provided by Allan Taylor, managing director and chief commercial officer of Boost.

What problem does your business solve?

Boost improves employee service skills through mobile spoken language assessment, learning, upselling and vocational skills training; empowering employees to provide better service, resulting in happier more loyal guests.

With massive levels of consolidation across the hospitality industry coupled with rapid globalisation and rising competition hotels need to do more to differentiate themselves.

Asia-Pacific – excluding China – has a total construction pipeline of 1,673 projects with 349,081 guestrooms according to research  – this is a 12% increase in terms of projects and 17% by guestrooms since the same survey last year.

Furthermore, guest demands and expectations are increasing, and with the ubiquity of social media, poor service is noticed and communicated to a wider audience. New outbound tourism markets – such as China – places an emphasis on employee language skills. It is impossible to separate language from good service.

With pressures of increased competition, plus higher guest demands and a requirement to speak the guests’ language, means hotels need to invest in effective employee training to upskill their employees – or risk getting left behind.

However, traditional methods of skills training, guest engagement and language learning have remained largely ineffective, inflexible and costly. It is now time the hospitality industry to embrace a new yet proven approach that better suits today’s employees and delivers improved financial performance for hotels.

Boost focuses on the day-to-day topics of hospitality and service industry, and tailor-makes the products to cover all the service aspects that a guest-facing staff member encounters and makes learning-anytime-anywhere possible.

With Boost, the hospitality industry can leapfrog to the future of HR, where analytics, AI-enhancement, and world-class mobile assessment and training deliver the workforce you need more conveniently and efficiently, freeing up valuable time and resources on more specialised training.

Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?

Allan Taylor, managing director and chief commercial officer

Peter Ollerton, VP strategic sales and alliances

Boost has a total of 46 staff throughout the region, in roles ranging from business development, sales, development and administrative. Boost is looking to expand further in the next 12 months

Funding arrangements?

A significant investment into Boost has come from École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), the world’s first hospitality management school.

The investment will allow Boost to continue to build its presence across the world of hospitality, expanding its suit of mobile learning solutions as well as tap EHL’s expertise built over more than one hundred years

Revenue model?

Boost’s suite of mobile solutions are available to the hospitality industry via a subscription model, in which they purchase licenses per employee who use the solutions

Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?

Given the increased competition, added to growing guest demands, there is more pressure than ever before for hotels to differentiate themselves in order to stay competitive. One of the key ways of doing this is through superior service.

However, current methods of employee training are ineffective and expensive. traditional classroom-based learning required tutors, learning aids, classroom space and it is incredibly difficult to fit into the notoriously busy schedule of the hotel employee.

Added to that, young hotel employees are more used to learning and reading from a screen than they are from a book. Boost’s suite of mobile solutions overcome these challenges.

Firstly, employees can learn anytime, anywhere (on the bus on the way to work, during their lunch break or before bed). Boost’s curriculums have been designed by experienced professionals from the industry, and importantly, training managers are able to track learning and performance progress, with results tracked and retained in real time.

Boost does not just improve language, upselling, vocational and other hospitality skills. Boost Fit is a CEFR-aligned recruitment and screening package that allows HR teams to accurately screen the first line of applicants for suitability, identifying candidates who are then able to move on to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Additionally, Boost’s solutions can be scaled from one property to a thousand properties, resulting in high levels of vocational and language skills across an entire brand.

External validation? 

Boost are already working with a number of hotels in the region. One such hotel is the Continent Hotel Bangkok, which uses Boost Voice and Boost Upsell. Since they have started using these solutions, they have seen social media feedback on the quality of English improve after completing the training, and they have increased their upsell revenue by 5% this year (YOY) – according to its GM, Jay Jhingran.

Tnooz View:

One recurring theme in the conversations around “hotel IT” is the role of the employee – how tech is great but hotels need human beings to deliver and execute on what the hotel IT has promised the guest.

Training staff is important . The phrase “what happens if we train people and they leave/what happens if we don’t train people and they stay” is particularly apposite in hospitality where staff turnover can be quick.

Most hotel IT suppliers provide training as part of the set-up deal, but being able to negotiate a dashboard is different from front-of-house, people skills. This is where Boost comes in.

Language skills are important, but what leapt out from the above was the 5% increase in upsell revenues that Boost’s Bangkok client noted. This takes language learning from customer service into revenue generation, at which point finance directors start to take as keen an interest as the operations team.

It makes sense for language training to be done via mobile platforms because that is how many employees have learnt.

The backing from the LHE is also relevant because, as a training college for hotels, it knows a thing or two about the best way to educate people for a career in hospitality. The connection with EHL gives Boost credibility in the market as well as a capital injection. It will be interesting to see whether this can scale outside its APAC stronghold, but even if it stays local the addressable market is huge.


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