Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Rami Zeidan, founder and CEO of hospitality tech darling Life House, is a busy guy. With 60 independent hotels currently under management (and another 40 expected before year’s end), as well as five Life House-branded hotels welcoming guests (and another two slated to open in 2022), the company is harnessing travel’s triumphant return to drive its ambitious agenda.

I recently spoke with Zeidan to learn more about what makes Life House tick, and what the future holds for the company post-pandemic. His responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How would you explain Life House and its mission to someone who knows nothing about technology?

A: Life House’s mission is to make travel more accessible and reliable for all types of travelers. However, because hotels are pieces of commercial real estate owned by investors seeking a financial return, we focus on owner issues (i.e., profitability) rather than consumer issues (the guest experience). This essentially means being radically focused on the ROI of each operational component by using our proprietary software platform to automate the back-office components of hotel operations like finance, accounting, and revenue management, and enabling guest-facing staff to be great at their jobs without a lot of training or expertise. The result is a much more reliable, low-cost operation, with staff that can focus on the guest experience no matter the hotel brand.

Q: Your background is in hotels, but on the investment side. What prompted you to shift your focus to the technology side of the business?

A: During my time at investment firms including TPG Global and Sydell Group, I didn’t focus only on investing—we also owned or ran hotel operating companies. I spent a significant amount of time evaluating the technology systems that supported those hotel operations, which led to a few discoveries: 1) Hotels had a lot of people/costs in an operation that were not ROI-positive; 2) Existing software was insufficient and a bottleneck to improving these operational staffing models; and 3) The problem was complex and no one was incentivized to invest in fixing this (including hotel tech companies).

The only way to solve this complex problem was to invest ambitiously in a company that could develop enough scale to make that investment pay off. Venture capital firms are great at understanding these ambitious visions and backing teams to execute on them.

Q: First you launched a hotel brand, which you describe as tech-forward, and a disruptor for the sector. A lot of hotels have turned to technology during the pandemic to help with everything from the check-in process to room service. How are your hotels and your technological solutions different?

A: We developed the Life House hotel brand to solve a few different problems. The first was a great boutique hotel being too expensive–ours are at an accessible price point. Then, we developed a brand that was not too rigid and was responsive to real estate , especially historic buildings, such that we could scale faster without compromising the brand or the ROI of the renovation, and to ensure we can tell true, locally contextual stories. Finally, we created a brand to communicate to hotel owners around the world that we understand modern travelers—we’re not just a tech company—which has helped us earn their trust. The brand itself is differentiated to travelers as it offers the contextual authenticity and design to help people feel like they belong somewhere, all at an affordable price point.

In terms of our technological solutions, we have focused on back-office software. Meanwhile, our guest-facing software (including a mobile app) has been oriented around making guest experiences efficient and autonomous – so our hotels’ human interactions can be substantial versus transactional.

Q: What areas are you disrupting exactly? The guest experience, operations, marketing, booking engines? And how?

A: We’re predominantly focused on improving hotel operations for independent hotels. We operate many different types of properties—from ultra-luxury hotels to roadside motels—which requires that each has a different guest experience. So we’ve built software that makes all the repeatable components of an operation—finance, accounting, check-in, booking, revenue management, dynamic pricing, housekeeping management, etc.—automated or really easy.

The result is that the hotel staff can focus on what they’re great at, and what can’t be automated: making sure guests have a great experience, and that the hotel is clean and beautiful—regardless of what the hotel’s brand, architecture, or service level is. We’ve also partnered with Kayak to help us support independent hotels by getting more travelers to understand and book Kayak-branded hotels (and eventually any hotel in the Kayak marketplace), without the marketing machines or sophistication that the big brands have.

Q: Can you briefly describe your five-year plan for Life House?

A: In the next 24 months, we’re hoping to conquer the small independent hotel market in North America and scale our revenue management software solution herein. From there, we’ll look to expand to Europe, where independent hotels are even more plentiful than in the U.S., and need even more help.

All the while, we’ll be continually investing in our software platform to make it even more intelligent, automatic, and helpful. We believe that in a few years’ time, we’ll be mature enough as a company to power the largest hotels in the world for the most sophisticated hotel owners.

Additionally, on the brand side, we are launching a new 3-star brand—called “Life Inn”—this year. The goal is to make select service hotels appealing, reliable, and contextual enough that even if you just want a place to crash, you’ll still want to share about it on social media.

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