ICYMI: The 7 Tech Innovators Participating in E20X at HITEC 2023

Entrepreneurs exhibited on the show floor and then took to the stage to demonstrate why their innovative technology deserved an award.
HITEC 2023 E20X awards

Every year, HFTP hosts Entrepreneur 20X - a technology startup pitch competition - during HITEC. The startups exhibit on the show floor and then are given the opportunity to pitch their concepts to attendees and a panel of judges (including hospitality CIOs, angel investors, serial entrepreneurs and industry insiders). Then two winners are chosen: one by the judges and one by the audience. 

At HITEC Toronto 2023, seven companies participated in the E20X competition: Aphy, Buk, eTip, Laasie, PassiveBolt, PricingService.ai, and WrkSpot.

Congratulations to PassiveBolt for winning the 2023 Judge’s Choice Award and to PricingService.ai for winning the 2023 People’s Choice Award!

If you didn’t have a chance to attend HITEC or just didn’t have a chance to chat with these great entrepreneurs, Hospitality Technology has you covered. We interviewed them all to get the lowdown on what they do and what makes them unique.


“Hoteliers - especially those who are in the back-of-house jobs - spend a lot of their time chained to their desk,” said Alex Lamotte-Hysbergue, managing director, Aphy. “For example, many individuals spend hours every day just copying and pasting numbers to create reports. But that’s not why they went to work in the hospitality industry. They want to connect with people. So, we’ve created a solution that can automate these mundane tasks.”

How it works:

  • It takes approximately 90 minutes to set up each automation task
  • Once set up, Aphy offers hoteliers a 15- minute call every two weeks to check-in on how the automations are running
  • The company does not require any type of integration with hotel systems for the automation process to work.
  • The company refuses to store any type of PII data in its system to prevent any concern over possible data breaches or leaks. 

Use Cases:

  • When processing no shows/cancellations, employees will try to run a payment and it will fail. When this happens the employee must make a note to remind themself to try again in a day or two. But employees still often forget. With automation, there is no forgetting. 
  • Many guests guarantee a booking with an invalid credit card. Automated systems can process a credit card check to make sure the card is valid and working. If it isn’t, the system will notify employees so that the room can be resold. 


“We are an ecosystem for the distribution of secondary market inventory and a marketplace for resellable hotel room bookings,” said Arul Prakash, co-founder, Buk. “Essentially, we’re a StubHub for hotel room bookings with one important caveat: Unlike Stubhub, on Buk, hotels get a commission for every transaction that happens with full visibility and control of pricing. Our company uses blockchain technology which brings transparency, visibility and control back to the hotels. This secondary market already exists on the black market with travel agents and tour operators trading on whatsapp and telegram. We’re now legitimizing it and pushing power back to the owners of this inventory - the hotels.”

How it works:

  • A consumer makes their booking on BukTrips.com
  • If they need to cancel their trip, they can choose to resell their reservation, instead of canceling.
  • If they choose to resell, the consumer is able to choose how much to resell their room nights for and based on what the hotel has deemed as the minimum amount the hotel room must sell for. 
  • Everytime a transaction happens, the hotel receives a commission.

Important Notes:

  • Gen Z wants to have flexibility in travel and not be bogged down by cancellation fees. They don’t like having to conform to rigid rules. This gives them flexibility and also prevents hotels from losing money.
  • The commission from this platform can act as a revenue stream on its own, improving RevPAR by 3-5%.
  • Hotels can use this marketplace to have better price discovery.


Founded in 2018, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of eTip’s digital tipping solution - especially among hospitality companies. 

“People are waking up to the importance of digital tipping for both attracting and retaining staff members,” said Robert Petteruti, co-founder, eTip. “Hospitality staff members are typically financially constrained hourly workers. We’re looking to help recover their loss of discretionary income among this workforce and empower employers to retain employees.”

Best Western recently announced that it was partnering with eTip for its housekeeping, concierge, front desk, and some of their F&B employees. 

“They’re using a mixture of pool and individual setups depending on the preferences of their GMs and their members and the tips are delivered directly to the employees, allowing them to have great visibility into how much they’re earning,” Petteruti adds.

How it works:

  • The company can allocate tips according to any custom defined split criteria meaning they can go directly to employees or they can go to the employer which can then distribute them to employees. 
  • Guests can leave a tip using a variety of digital or physical methods: QR code, NFC tag, text message, or via email.
  • Employees receive a text message every time they receive a tip.

Important Notes:

  • The company employs PCI Level One compliance to keep employee and guest data safe and secure. 
  • All payment data is erased once the payment transaction is completed. 
  • The company tests all payment transactions to ensure funds are available prior to delivering any money to either the employer or the employee.


A representative from each of the seven participants at E20X at HITEC 2023
Representatives from each of the seven tech companies participating in E20X at HITEC Toronto 2023


“We’re powering a new kind of loyalty through instant gratification,” said Jen Wong, CEO, Laasie. “There are no points, no tiers. Instead, we use AI to surface the most relevant instant rewards to every individual. This new way of thinking about loyalty means we can incentivize someone as they are browsing a hotel website to: book a room, enroll in a loyalty program, or transact with the property directly instead of using an OTA.”

How it works:

  • When a potential guest visits a hotel’s website directly, Laasie begins tracking the guest’s IP address to learn important pieces of information such as: where are they located, what model phone are they using to access the hotel’s website, etc. This information then helps Laasie decide which instant reward will be most relevant to the guest.
  • After the guest chooses a reward, that information is then stored and used to match the guest with similar guest profiles, enabling hotels to market even more relevant offers to them as they get closer to their stay date or while they’re on property.

Important Notes:

  • Laasie’s loyalty program is “plug and play” and launches within two weeks.
  • It integrates with more than 20 major booking systems and all the major CRM systems. 

[For more information on Laasie, check out our recent interview with Jen Wong!]

2023 Judge’s Choice Award:  PassiveBolt

“Imagine having a single travel profile that contains all of your verified identity data and travel preferences, from the temperature of the room, to the size of the bed, to your favorite wine,” says Kabir Maiga, co-founder and CEO, PassiveBolt. “Now picture, being able to use that one profile to be able to instantly onboard or receive personalized services from travel apps, travel websites, and even physical spaces like hotels or rental car companies, without needing to register, log in or be issued key cards or pin codes or anything similar. That’s what we’re building at PassiveBolt.”

How it works:

  • Using a newer technology called Self-Sovereign Identity, PassiveBolt’s platform KeyShare is able to decentralize personal data storage so that every traveler is the custodian of all of their personal information.
  • Guests allow which hospitality service providers can access their travel profile, as a result hotels, restaurants, rental car agencies, etc. are able to provide a highly personalized service. 

Important Notes:

  • Hospitality companies are no longer on the hook to keep all of their guests' personally identifiable data in a giant data warehouse, which then becomes a target for cybercriminals. Instead, guest’s own and store their own personal data. 
  • PassiveBolt acts as a highway that connects guests with hospitality companies. It doesn’t store any data either. 
  • Because individuals are responsible for their own data, they’ll willingly update it. Hotels and other hospitality companies, therefore, will always have access to the most up-to-date data and preferences from their guests. 
  • Guests are typically hesitant to download an app with limited applicability, especially when it’s just for one stay. KeyShare appeals to guests preferring the convenience of a multi-purpose app and can thus drive adoption of cost saving self-services while still enabling hotels to own the guest relationships.

2023 People’s Choice Award:  PricingService.ai

“Revenue management is extremely complex. It uses complicated math and thousands of variables to create useful pricing strategies,” says Matt Schwartz, co-founder, PricingService.ai. “We didn’t think the world needed another revenue management system. There are plenty of good ones already out there. But more importantly, we’re not graduating a lot of revenue managers, probably because they’re looking at this field of work and thinking: ‘This is a mathematical field that will probably get displaced by AI at some point.’ So, we built a fully autonomous AI-based pricing service where we plug into your property management system, and we update pricing every few hours.”

How it works:

  • PricingService.ai is not an application that requires a login. Instead it operates as a monthly subscription service like Netflix. 
  • It integrates with a hotel’s PMS and updates hotel pricing behind the scenes without any human interaction required. 
  • It integrates with competitor pricing information (OTA Insight), NOAA (weather data), and event data sources. 

“We’ve found that many general managers are spending 10-15 hours a week on pricing, but that’s not the best use of their time. They could be focused on the guest experience. We’re offering a way to give them that time back while also ensuring pricing decisions are made both smarter and faster as market conditions change,” Schwartz adds.

Important Notes:

  • This technology works well for independent hotels who can’t afford an RMS or a revenue manager.
  • It could be the “secret sauce” for larger or branded hotels. For example, PricingService.ai would “love to be the ‘Intel Inside’ pricing intelligence inside of property management systems.”
  • The company would also love to work with outsourced revenue managers for hire who could leverage autonomous tools to service more hotels


WrkSpot is a back-of-house operations platform that combines workforce management, hotel operations, labor compliance and safety into a single software platform. It can handle everything from employee onboarding and training to budgeting and forecasting and more. One of the more interesting aspects of this technology is its use of geo-fencing. 

“When employees clock-in via the app, we use geo-fencing to target their location,” says Brent McMahan, Head of Strategy & Growth at WrkSpot. “This means they can only clock in when they're on premise. Then we track their location in real time, which not only helps managers see how long they’re spending cleaning a room, but also tells managers which employee is best able to answer a guest request. This tracking feature also helps to keep them safe. If a housekeeper runs into any danger, they can alert management via a panic device or via their phone. It will pick up their location in real time, and notify everyone else that's on premise. Management can then pull up a 3D smart hotel map to see where everyone is located on the property, where exactly the alert was triggered, and can listen to up to 20 seconds of live audio. The manager can then choose to dial out to 911 based on the severity of the panic.”

If a guest were ever to lodge a complaint or if the hotel’s insurance needed to know an employee’s location in the past, WrkSpot keeps that data handy and can refer to wherever that employee was - down to the minute - during their shift.

Important Notes:

  • WrkSpot works best when it integrates with the hotel’s PMS. It currently already integrates with a handful of property management systems and is adding new integrations regularly.
  • It offers all the tools that a hotel needs to run its back-of-house operations.
  • It digitizes all workflows for hotel operations. 
  • Everything is built in house and fully integrated. 
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