Startups #nofilter had the privilege of sitting down with Bizly Founder & CEO Ron Shah. Ron talks about how the idea for a work rental meeting app came about, why hotels are so dazzled with his business, and shares some interesting insider information.
1. Where did the idea for the app come from?
In 2014, I was a VC and two of my portfolio companies were sold to Google that summer. Things were heating up! Just then, the water pipe in my conference room burst, leaving me without meeting space for three months. I tried to do my meetings at nearby hotels and ran into massive pain — a manual booking process that took three or four days with 15 emails, three or four phone calls, several contracts, payment forms and, wait for it…faxes!
2. Tell us about how you got started. Was it difficult to get hotels on board with your idea? What was your sales pitch to the first hotel you approached.
It’s been a no-brainer for hotels since the beginning. When we first started, we designed a beautiful prototype (non-functioning) on my phone. When I walked hotels through how it worked, they were dazzled. This led us to build the product. Over time, there was definitely some resistance based on operational issues at hotels, but we learned from those pain points and built solutions. After about 9 months, we figured out how to solve nearly all the pain.
3. Do you consider We Work to be a competitor?
Corporations are conducting millions of small offsite meetings every month in hotels and restaurants. Bizly is a platform that simply makes it easier and better to plan and complete those transactions. WeWork is not in this space.
4. Any plans to buy real estate and rent out your own meeting spots?
No. We are not in the real estate business. We believe that hotels and restaurants already provide the variety, service, amenities and care that corporations require for their small meeting needs, but that there is a lot of inefficiency around how it is booked. We don’t believe you solve that inefficiency by creating new spaces.
5. What one thing are you most excited about right now with Bizly?
I am the most excited for Bizly to become the one-stop content destination for people to view ALL the best hotel and restaurant meeting spots in their city and really have a trusted resource to plan offsites. Our team does a ton of offsites at hotels and they are always magical. What can make a meeting magical? Two words: truffle fries.
6. Do you have any user data you can share with us? Revenue? Hotels enlisted?
We officially launched in August, and we have tripled our bookings every month since then. We have signed nearly 200 hotel partnerships with most of the best brands in the world.
7. How is your funding going – any big rounds raised yet?
We raised a great seed round in 2016 and have another round planned for 2017.
8. Are there any legal issues with your business model? We know that AirBNB has effectively been shut out of New York City due to laws that short term rentals must be for a minimum of 30 days. I’m assuming this doesn’t apply to you, but any potential looming legal obstacle that you can foresee?
Nope. We have built a booking model that supports all of the complexities of hotel meetings, from union contracting to conditional taxes/fees. Our platform is completely compliant.
9. For fun: What website do you go to when your internet isn’t working?
LOL. How do you go to a website when your internet isn’t working?
10. For fun: Any advice for Startup #nofilter?
Would love to listen to these interviews via podcast!