Akia, a customer experience automation platform, announced a $6 million Series A funding round.
Since launching in 2019, Akia has consistently achieved 3x year-over-year growth, operating primarily in hospitality. The current market conditions, ongoing labor shortage, and post-pandemic impact have increased demand for Akia's automated customer engagement framework. Akia has helped thousands of businesses eliminate monotonous paperwork, automate processes and drive engagement to better serve consumers and increase efficiency.
According to industry estimates, 75% of app downloads are not used more than once. Akia’s Mini Apps are mobile experiences that don’t require download or login. From the business perspective, where native apps fall short - costs, maintenance, and engagement challenges - Mini Apps fill these gaps with better accessibility and usability. Companies using Akia’s platform produce more results by leveraging Mini Apps to automate and expedite day-to-day processes like identity verification, security deposit collection, or even contactless hotel check-in.
The shift towards a contactless first approach and the ongoing staff shortages have created a prime opportunity for Akia to make a splash in the market. Akia is well-positioned to take advantage of these favorable conditions and will continue to expand its reach and impact.
Beaconstac, a QR code customer engagement platform, announced $25 million in Series A funding led by Telescope Partners, with participation from existing investor, Accel. The funding underscores the strong market demand from businesses for Beaconstac’s SaaS platform resulting in profitable revenue growth of 200% over the course of 2022.
Over the past 12 months, Beaconstac has helped businesses of all sizes create and track 1.8 million QR codes that were scanned over 150 million times by consumers. These numbers will continue to accelerate as the number of unique US smartphone users scanning a QR code is poised to reach 99.5 million by 2025.
This new funding will enable Beaconstac to further develop its platform, build a world class team, and ultimately enable new and existing customers to adopt QR codes as a means to create personal connections with a wide audience at scale, and bridge physical world customer experiences to digital.
Beaconstac is trusted by large enterprises such as Marriott, and is a leading QR code platform on G2 reaching 20,000 customers in September 2022.
Hospitality Has a New Labor Resource with Debut of shiftNOW
shiftNOW announced the launch of its software solution designed to connect hospitality's finest brands to quality talent.
Founded in 2022, shiftNOW provides a flexible solution to one of the hospitality industry's greatest challenges - talent. The industry is plagued by a labor shortage that is causing a ripple effect on businesses' operating hours, revenue, and overall success. According to the National Restaurant Association, 72% of operators ranked recruitment and retention of their workforce as their top challenge. Fractures in the industry's workforce have only been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and compounded by other macroeconomic factors, like inflation and the "Great Resignation".
With shiftNOW, hospitality businesses can remove the hassle from hiring by streamlining open shifts and controlling how their business is resourced. The easy-to-use platform enables businesses to post open shifts and select the best candidate from a network of qualified, vetted talent. Every verified candidate undergoes a thorough, one-on-one vetting process led by the shiftNOW recruitment team.
"Hourly workers are increasingly seeking autonomy over when, where, and how they work, making it challenging for businesses to find consistent, quality employees," said shiftNOW founder and CEO, David Wise. "shiftNOW is fulfilling a critical need in the hospitality industry - qualified talent that's available and ready to work. We're making shiftNOW synonymous with quality – we want our clients to have the best workforce and our users to have the best experience."
Exclusive hourly opportunities with competitive pay are now available to qualified individuals through shiftNOW's mobile app. Individuals seeking hourly opportunities can browse the Shifter by shiftNOW app for available shifts in their area and get matched based on their experience.
With a focus on serving restaurants and bars, hospitality groups, event venues, golf courses, and country clubs, shiftNOW is dedicated to bringing high-quality talent to premier establishments.
shiftNOW is currently operating in Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina with plans to expand throughout the Southeast and beyond.
Marriott International and Groups360 announced the launch of Instant Booking for Marriott’s portfolio of hotels in the United States and Canada. Marriott International is the first brand to have a direct integration with Groups360 to offer the “Instant Book” functionality for both guest rooms and meeting space at scale on GroupSync Marketplace, providing planners with a streamlined booking process at the click of a button.
As the meetings and events landscape becomes more dynamic, many planners are currently challenged by the lengthy sourcing and contracting process, especially for smaller events. The need to book meeting space separately from guest rooms only adds complexity. GroupSync’s direct integration with Marriott now offers planners access to real-time best available group rates and inventory at over 1,500 Marriott properties across the United States and Canada, with additional growth expected throughout 2023. Once the instant booking is completed on GroupSync, hotels receive instant notification for faster handling and execution of small meetings.* This new capability significantly reduces planning time and directly addresses the needs of Marriott’s group customers.
In addition, planners now have the benefit of viewing inventory availability before submitting an RFP for more complex events at all Marriott hotels globally. The combination of these new capabilities turns the “sourcing” process into the “shopping” or “buying” process, simplifying the way planners book meetings.
“Through our collaboration with Groups360, we can now deliver real-time instant booking through GroupSync Marketplace at hotels in the U.S. and Canada,” said Drew Pinto, Global Officer, Global Sales, Distribution and Revenue Management, Marriott International. “This offers our group customers what they have told us they are looking for, which is a much more seamless and efficient booking experience. Our industry-leading integration with Groups360 will also allow all Marriott hotels globally to receive and respond to RFPs quickly and efficiently through a two-way response process. This will be a win-win for both planners and hotels.”
“We are thrilled to have Marriott International join GroupSync Marketplace. Event organizers benefit not only from instant booking for rooms and space but from à la carte catering and equipment ordering, too,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360. “Their involvement is a testament to the commitment to reduce friction in group travel planning and help hoteliers, like Marriott, enhance their customer relationships. With the addition of Marriott International, we anticipate that over 20,000 leading hotel properties will be equipped to offer online group booking in the months ahead.”
Marriott is celebrating the GroupSync Marketplace launch by giving away 1 million Marriott Bonvoy® points with the Plan to Win Giveaway. To enter the giveaway, instantly book your small event for the chance to win 30,000 points, or book a larger event using GroupSync's streamlined RFP process at one of Marriott’s extraordinary hotel brands for a chance to win 20,000 points. Visit Marriott-GroupSync Giveaway for complete details and rules.
*A small meeting is defined as 10-25 guest rooms on peak and/or events for up to 50 attendees, starting 4 days out and up to 1 year out with a maximum length of stay of 7 days.
Optii Solutions Launches Data Analytics Team to Double Down on Advanced Predictive Technology
Optii Solutions, the leading cloud-based hotel operations software, announced today an increased investment and focus on advanced technologies and analytics, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
By creating a formal data analytics team, Optii Solutions will ensure that its use of these advanced technologies will continue to play a key role in its product development strategy going forward. After extensive conversations with customers over the last 12 months, it is clear that AI and ML are central to the increases in operational performances at Optii customer hotels. It’s also one of the main drivers of differentiation for the company in a field of static task management systems it competes against.
Dino Pietropaolo, Chief Technology Officer, Optii Solutions, said: “When we look at our competitors, it is clear that hotel operations technology based on digitizing traditional ways of working has reached a point of diminishing returns. We see the rate of performance improvements fall off a cliff just a few months after implementation with these solutions. While AI and ML has been a part of Optii’s approach, we have an exciting runway in how we leverage these technologies. Soon, Optii will be able to make an impressive set of decisions and predictions that can make operations the most advanced part of the hotel. And it will never stop learning.”
Hotel operations have been traditionally labor intensive, and while this will never go away, those in operations positions at hotels will soon have access to tools that will dramatically change the operational decision-making process.
Katherine Grass, Chief Executive Officer, Optii Solutions, said: “The micro and macro challenges facing the hospitality industry are real, and it’s our job as technologists to put our best foot forward and help solve these challenges. In this case, we recognize that the use of advanced technologies is optimial and Optii’s strength. The efficiency and productivity gains Optii customers are seeing today are really just the beginning. With the use of Optii, I foresee hotel operations leaders pushing the boundaries in new ways, and their roles within their respective organizations being elevated. Their level of impact on the business as well as guest experience will reach new heights.“
Carnival Corporation Expands Next-Generation Wi-Fi Connectivity with SpaceX’s Starlink
Carnival Corporation & plc announced an agreement for the next-generation of internet connectivity across its global fleet, the latest in a series of moves that have nearly tripled ship bandwidth since 2019. The company has signed a new agreement with SpaceX’s Starlink, the leader in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology, to provide faster service, greater capacity and more reliable Wi-Fi on a global scale.
Fleet roll-out of Starlink began in December 2022 with Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA Cruises ships, with plans to expand Starlink to several of the company’s other world-class cruise brands, which include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, P&O Cruises (Australia), Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (UK) and Cunard.
Rivaling on-land connectivity experiences, Starlink greatly advances Carnival Corporation’s focus on providing the best available Wi-Fi experience for its guests to stay connected while on vacation, including sharing photos and videos, streaming movies and live sporting events, and enjoying other content onboard with a reliable connection at even faster speeds.
“For many of our guests, it has become more and more important to maintain the type of connectivity at sea that they’ve become accustomed to at home, and of course to share the unforgettable experiences of their cruise with friends and family,” said Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We are in the business of delivering happiness, and Starlink makes it as easy as possible for our guests to share all their great moments and memories, giving them even more joy out of their cruise vacation.”
According to Weinstein, “The added bandwidth will give the brands the capabilities and flexibility to introduce new guest services and features, as well as help boost operational functions like onboard equipment monitoring and real-time communications between ship and shore teams. And importantly, adding Starlink’s innovative technology to the company’s existing connectivity platform will also help our amazing crew stay in touch with friends and loved ones.”
“High-speed, low-latency broadband internet is critical in our modern age, and we’re excited to provide Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA’s guests an internet experience that makes their travel even more enjoyable,” said Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink sales for SpaceX. “In even the most remote waters, guests onboard Carnival Corporation ships will be able to share real-time updates with friends and family.”
Starlink joins a growing portfolio of world-class communications service, satellite and other technology providers that make up Carnival Corporation’s industry-leading, fleetwide connectivity ecosystem. As a global cruise company with nearly 100 ships visiting over 700 ports worldwide, Carnival Corporation’s innovative, multi-provider connectivity framework is designed to strategically route internet traffic to optimize network speeds across its fleet anywhere in the world.