This CEO Won’t Stop Until He Reinvents the Global Hospitality Management Industry
Rami Zeidan, founder and CEO of darling hotel technology House of Life, is a busy guy. With 60 independent hotels currently under management (and another 40 expected by the end of the year), as well as five Life House-branded hotels serving guests (and two more set to open in 2022), the company is harnessing the return triumphant from the journey to drive his ambitious agenda.
I recently spoke with Zeidan to learn more about what makes Life House work and what the future holds for the company post-pandemic. His answers 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 commercial real estate owned by investors seeking financial return, we focus on owner issues (i.e. profitability) rather than consumer issues ( customer experience). This essentially means radically focusing on the return on investment of each operational component by using our proprietary software platform to automate back-office components of hotel operations like finance, accounting and revenue management, and empower staff in contact with customers to be excellent in his work. without much training or expertise. The result is a much more reliable, low-cost operation, with staff who can focus on the guest experience, regardless of hotel brand.
Q: You worked in the hotel industry, but in the field of investment. What prompted you to focus on the technology side of the business?
A: During my time at investment companies such as TPG Global and Sydell Group, I wasn’t just focused on investing, we also owned or managed hotel operating companies. I spent a lot of time evaluating the technology systems that supported these hotel operations, which led to a few findings: 1) Hotels had a lot of staff/costs in an operation that were not positive in return on investment; 2) Existing software was insufficient and was a barrier to improving these operational staffing models; and 3) The problem was complex and there was no incentive for anyone to invest in solving it (including hotel technology companies).
The only way to solve this complex problem was to invest ambitiously in a company that could develop enough scale to make this investment profitable. Venture capitalists are great at understanding these ambitious visions and supporting teams to implement them.
Q: You first launched a hotel brand, which you describe as forward-thinking and disruptive for the sector. Many 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 technology solutions different?
A: We developed the Life House hotel brand to solve a few different problems. The first was a great boutique hotel being overpriced – ours are affordably priced. Then we developed a brand that wasn’t too rigid and tailored to real estate, especially historic buildings, so that we could scale faster without compromising brand or renovation ROI, and to make sure we can tell real, contextual stories locally. . Finally, we created a brand to communicate to hotel owners around the world that we understand modern travelers – we’re not just a technology company – which has helped us earn their trust. The brand itself differentiates travelers because it offers the contextual authenticity and design to help people feel at home somewhere, all at an affordable price.
In terms of technological solutions, we have focused on back-office software. Meanwhile, our guest-facing software (including a mobile app) has been geared towards making guest experiences efficient and empowered – so our hotels’ human interactions can be substantial over transactions.
Q: What areas are you disrupting exactly? Customer experience, operations, marketing, booking engines? And how?
A: We are primarily focused on improving hotel operations for independent hotels. We operate many different types of properties, from ultra-luxury hotels to roadside motels, requiring each to offer a different guest experience. So we designed software that makes all of the repeatable components of an operation (finance, accounting, check-in, booking, revenue management, dynamic pricing, housekeeping management, etc.) automated or downright easy.
The result is that hotel staff can focus on what they excel at and what can’t be automated: making sure guests have a great experience and the hotel is clean and beautiful, whatever whatever the brand of the hotel, the architecture, or the level of service is. We’ve also partnered with Kayak to help us support independent hotels by enabling more travelers to understand and book Kayak-branded hotels (and potentially any hotel in the Kayak market), without the marketing machinery or the sophistication of the big brands.
Q: Can you briefly describe your five-year plan for Life House?
A: Over the next 24 months, we hope to capture the small independent hotel market in North America and scale our revenue management software solution. From there, we will look to expand into Europe, where there are even more independent hotels than in the US and need even more help.
All the while, we will continuously invest in our software platform to make it even smarter, automatic and useful. We believe that in a few years we will be mature enough as a business to power the world’s largest hotels for the most sophisticated hotel owners.
In addition, on the brand side, this year we are launching a new 3-star brand called “Life Inn”. The goal is to make certain service hotels attractive, reliable and contextual enough that even if you just want a place to sleep, you’ll still want to talk about it on social media.