Do you wonder why check in at hotels often takes so long? Until recently hotels were forced to rely upon a closed one-stop-shop systems offered up by incumbent players. Founded in 2012 by Matthijs Welle and Richard Valtr, Mews has revolutionised the way that hotels operate across all departments, through its mobile hotel management platform. Mews enables hoteliers to free themselves from boring administration and rather focus on creating real customer experiences.
The company is based in Amsterdam, with additional offices in Prague, London, Paris and Barcelona. Mews, which already employs a team of about 100 people, recently closed a €6 million Series A funding round led by Notion Capital, with participation from HenQ and Thayer Ventures. We interviewed the founder and CEO Matthijs Welle, who is leading Mews from the company’s office in Prague, to learn about his entrepreneurial journey and future plans.
Matthijs, what is Mews? What do you do?
Mews is a software company that has built a complete back office solution for hotels. If you have ever checked into a hotel, and wondered why you have to queue up at a reception desk to get into your room, while airlines invented online check-in almost 20 years ago…so did we. So we rebuilt the entire hotel software infrastructure to support an open network of apps, allowing hoteliers to completely revamp and modernise their guest experiences.
Who are your competitors, and what makes your offering stand out?
Our biggest competitor is Oracle, who acquired Micros Fidelio a few years back, which has been the leader in the industry for years. They are however struggling to get traction with their own cloud solution and most of their clients still run on their old on-premise system, which is clunky and hard to integrate with. Besides Oracle there is a host of competitors, mostly regional and mostly focused on smaller hotels. Mews on the outset never shied away from tackling complex environments, large hotels, lots of integrations and going after pretty much any country we could get our hands on. This made the early years really tough, but recently we started to reap the benefits, as we can handle chain hotels, across multiple countries, with up to 2,000 rooms per hotel. Another winner is our open API, which in most other industries is expected, in the hotel technology landscape its still not a given. The open API allows any partner to integrate into Mews, and to date we have 140 partners connected.
How did the hotel industry change in the past ten years? Where will it be in another ten years? What trends do you see?
Unfortunately the hotel industry has been relatively stagnant, due to the lack of innovation in their back-office systems, which is a big blocker in launching guest facing applications, as they need to pull the guest data from those systems. If you would walk into any mid-range hotel and just spend 30 minutes in the lobby observing the reception desk, you will see the incredible level of manual work involved in operating and serving guests, its crazy. Many hotel managers are just blind to it, as its how we have always done business, but I think there is a tipping point coming. As hotels will move to the Cloud (I estimate only 5-10% today are in the Cloud), this will bring a liberation and will allow hotels to get creative with their guest experiences. The open API will allow hoteliers to get really creative in coming up with new scenarios to hyper-personalize guest experiences.
What challenges do hotels face today?
This year has been all about GDPR and a lot of our competitors have struggled to implement great solutions that allows guests to query to see the personal data a hotel has on record. This was a great opportunity for Cloud systems. I think the next big thing will be PCI compliance, as hotels today still process huge volumes of credit cards manually (by typing in 16 digits on credit card terminals) which is incredibly old fashioned. Hoteliers unfortunately don’t spend enough on their back-office innovation, and at some point this will need to get tackled.
How did Mews grow so fast? Any secret growth hacking tips?
We were incredibly lucky to find a killer startup team, which was key to our early success. The real growth came in the last 2 years, where we expanded into 38 countries across hotels, hostels, chains, campsites and AirBnB apartments. Early on we learned that hotels needed to integrate a myriad of systems into the PMS (accounting, door locks, TV, travel agents, housekeeping, revenue management, etc) and we did not have the manpower to build each and every integration ourselves. So when we opened up our API 2 years ago, suddenly we did not have to build everything ourselves, but we were able to ask the partners to rather integrate into Mews, which proved to be a winning formula.
What growth do you expect this and next year?
Our revenues grew by 400% over the last 12 months and we are already seeing this trend continue for the coming months, which is amazing. Our team grew from 40 people in January this year to 100 people today in August, with locations in Prague, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona and we will be opening offices in Berlin and Sydney in the coming months.
Why are you in this particular industry/business?
I have always been passionate about hotels, and I knew from age 4 that I was going to work in this industry. After almost 10 years with Hilton, I felt it was time to tackle bigger challenges and join Richard (the founder) in bringing some real innovation. It was a huge bet, but luckily the hard work paid off.
How is it to manage a global business from Prague?
Its been hard in the early years, as there is a lack of serious VC’s and investors who can help young startups succeed and the community of entrepreneurs is very small in comparison to London or Amsterdam. We therefore consciously started looking for investments in the Netherlands and UK, and found that to be a successful path to be on. We are looking for a lot of talent to join our Prague team, as we are quickly scaling up our support, training and development teams, so anyone interested can apply.