Kris Burnett
Jun 1, 2013

2013 Executive Vendor Summit - March 20-22, 2013: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

9th Annual Executive Vendor Summit - March 20-22, 2013: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

2013 Executive Vendor Summit - March 20-22, 2013: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Kris Burnett
Jun 1, 2013

9th Annual Executive Vendor Summit - March 20-22, 2013: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Executive Vendor Summit: [ig-zek-yuh-tiv • ven-der • suhm-it] noun –

Event where more than 65 companies that compete for business throughout the year put that aside for two and half days and instead discuss many of the challenges they face and how to provide better and more cohesive solutions for the hospitality industry. Countless vendors have attended this Summit and walked away with partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

This year’s Executive Vendor Summit, Hospitality Upgrade’s ninth, was held at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Weston, Fla. Each year, several people arrive early as the pre-conference dinner has become a bit of a tradition. Early in the Summit's history, who­mever happened to be in the lobby when the Hospitality Upgrade team went to dinner the night before the conference began was invited to come along. Now, many attendees purposely plan to arrive the night before just for this officially unofficial, casual dinner. With 25 attending, this year’s pre-conference dinner was held at La Rural Argentine Grill, and was hosted by Newmarket’s own Luis Segredo.

The conference officially began with a golf tournament held nearby at Bonaventure Country Club. Top honors went to the team comprised of Nikhil Nath from Knowcross Solutions, technology consultant Ted Horner, RP Rama of HFTP and JHM Hotels, and SmarTV’s Michael Infante. The prizes for straightest drive and longest putt made went to Ron Peterson of Blueprint RF and ENG Infotech’s Evan Brown, respectively.
More than 65 attendees set aside two and a half days each spring to attend this event year after year.

“With continued pressure on senior management’s time, there is no other conference in our industry where you can achieve such comprehensive access to your peers in an educational setting,” said Sean O’Neill of Newmarket.

The networking is by far the most popular part of the summit each year. Nikhil Nath of Knowcross said, “This conference provides an excellent opportunity to network with your peers in an industry in which better inter-vendor relationships will almost certainly benefit the vendors and the customers.”

Session 1: Ask the Money

John Rovani, managing partner, Ponterra Business Advisors; Chris Hemmeter, managing director, Thayer Ventures; and Rob Rogers, principal, Vista Equity Partners.

The first session focused on the M&A trends in and around the hospitality industry. John Rovani opened the discussion with an overview of the deals and trends in the hospitality technology sector, both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C).

Rovani's takeaway: “Although it is not a time to relax, the global economic collapse has been adverted and the global economy is projected to grow 3.5 percent. The technology, hospitality and retail sectors have outperformed the overall market.  There is increased momentum toward smart mobile technology, cloud/SaaS and social networking products.”

For more information on Mr. Rovani’s presentation, please see his article here.

Representing Venture Capital, Chris Hemmeter said 70 percent of the Thayer Ventures’ portfolio companies are B2B, with a majority playing in the big data and analytics space.

He agreed with Rovani that mobile is a very big deal. “Remember the old days when we just asked someone where we should go?” Hemmeter asked. “Millenials are very different about how they shop and where they shop.”

He said, “You have to incorporate tablets into mobile and everything that’s emerging. Near the end of 2012, 13 percent of all Internet traffic was on mobile – that’s amazing.”

He pointed to a very big fact today: travelers are marketers. “Forty-five percent of reviews online are by 35 to 49-year-olds. That’s remarkable,” he said. “Underestimating the power of online reviews is very dangerous for the travel industry.”

As he showed, more than 80 percent of travelers read online reviews, increasingly via mobile phone. As mentioned before, mobile is on the rise with 22 percent of smartphone owners reading hotel reviews on their mobile phones. Even more sobering, four out of five people reverse their purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.

And, these reviews impact hotel revenues as Hemmeter pointed out. According to a recent study conducted by Professor Chris Anderson and Cornell University the end of last year, a 1 point swing in user ratings results in a 10 percent increase in ADR, while a 1 percent increase in an online reputation score equals a 1 percent boost in RevPAR. As he cautioned, “Know what’s being said, then act and measure.”

According to Hemmeter, digital data is growing at 62 percent year over year vs. structured data at 22 percent; global mobile data traffic is estimated to grow 25 times over the next five years, driven by video; 375 million tablets are projected to be sold in 2016 with 760 million in use by the end of that year; and analytics leader IBM is looking to generate $20 billion from new initiatives by 2015.

Some trends he sees include the 500 million smartphones in use, or 77 percent of the planet owning a mobile device; more than 50 percent of smartphone owners having downloaded a travel app; travel e-commerce growing 73 percent between 2005 and 2010 to $85 billion in United States; and mobile e-commerce slated to reach $163 billion worldwide by 2015.

Voice recognition is a new area of interest that Hemmeter mentioned and said it could have big implications in the travel industry. He also said that there is a trend of combining meta search and partnering with media like Hipmunk. “Many are battling for the travel dollar,” he said. “OTAs (online travel agencies) represent not a big percentage; the chains are still holding their own… We’ve seen more activity with boutique online booking. We’re seeing some interesting trends with Google.”

Hemmeter said, “We believe mobile is the game changer.” He estimates $25 billion in booking online in 2014. “There are a lot of really interesting trends in mobile that we are watching,” he said.

Hemmeter's takeaway: “The intensity of change and general uncertainty facing travelers, suppliers and vendors is unprecedented. We think we know more than we do and that’s a serious risk for all of us in the business. As investors, we try to open ourselves to innovation in ways that feel downright silly sometimes. It’s uncomfortable to accept the possibilities that face us and it takes courage to venture outside the box when the what-ifs sound so silly.

Representing the private equity side, Rogers’ company, Vista Equity, is very focused on software and software-enabled companies. Its goal is to create value through operational improvement, he said.

“There are different times and different (people) who will be able to help your company,” he said. “It comes down to your goals and where you want to be.”

In order to reach the maximum potential, he recommended the following: identify critical metrics and benchmarks, pursue best practices vs. common practices, understand the interconnectedness, embrace change and destroy silos. The four pillars needed to do this are: understanding value creation and fair value capture, investing in process excellence, becoming a low-cost producer and creating a repeatable process for continued innovation.

“One of the biggest benefits of software (products) is providing value to the end customers,” he said. “Be sure you’re investing in that product and the long-term (view) of it… We (private equity firms) are very different from other companies,” he said. “We really focus on working with these companies and building best practices.”

Don Hay asked the panel how they know when they have found the right culture mix. “How do you look for that? How do you bring these new tricks to those old dogs and bring those tricks new ideas?” he asked.

Hemmeter said, “We don’t really have time to change the team, so the team is critical. If we find a team that’s strong but not coachable, we won’t do it.”

Rogers agreed if it doesn’t seem like a fit or the team is not coachable, it’s not right for his company either. He said, “They have to be ready to go. Most, if they want to grow their business, they are pretty open (to us).”

Session 2: Ask the CIO

Speakers: Patrick Manuel, director of international technology, Royal Caribbean Cruises; Brian Garavuso, EVP and CIO, Diamond Resorts International; and Jason Doebrich, director of technology, Mandarin Oriental Miami

This session presented the different technology focuses in the cruise, timeshare and resort communities.

Like many in the hospitality industry, Manuel’s team from the cruise industry is focused on bandwidth.

With the growth of smartphone and tablet use, Manuel showed the top 10 apps users have on their phones. The top 10 free apps in 2012 in order were, YouTube, Instagram, Draw Something Free, Flashlight, Facebook, Pandora Radio, Temple Run, Pinterest, Twitter and Skype. The top 10 paid apps include Angry Birds Space, WhatsApp Messenger, Draw Something, Camera+, Where’s My Water?, Angry Birds Star Wars, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, Bejeweled and Tetris.

Royal Connect, iLounge (Celebrity) and other onboard tablet apps including art tours, wine and tapas menus, as well as interactive dinner menus provide guests with other resources while on board. As Manuel mentioned, it’s the new normal to always be connected.

After the struggles some of his company’s competitors have faced recently, he said, “We don’t want to be in the news; we want to be in social media.”

This goes back to the first challenge he mentioned. “We are trying to serve 2,000 guests with less bandwidth than you have in your house,” he said. “What’s the right option? Let’s not buy more bandwidth, let’s think of exponential growth.”

In the timeshare industry, Brian Garavuso’s team is focused on CRM and marketing to the customer. “We are trying to change it to an experience they can’t get anywhere else,” he said.

The company prides itself on its own homegrown PMS (Atlas/Clarity) with several cool features/systems including CRS, CRM, yield and revenue management as well as guest services.

The differentiators that the company focuses on include the customer journey, upstream engagement, one-to-one hospitality and targeted marketing. “We want that unique experience,” he said. “When the customers are in front of us, there is always an ulterior motive… We talk to our customers very one on one; we want to know a lot about them… We also want to give them unexpected delights like flowers in their room.”

As a representative of the hotel and resort properties sector, Jason Doebrich of Mandarin Oriental Miami shared some of the new technologies that he is interested in. These include mobile apps for POS, PMS, spa and wearable technology like wristbands or glasses, hands-free technology and voice commands. He pointed to an infrastructure design shift with fiber to the room, single mode fiber and remote powering solutions.

Boro Petrovic of MICROS asked the three panelists their top budgetary items. Doebrich answered, Wi-Fi infrastructure. Manuel said, “(It's) Wi-Fi, as we’re always looking to cut costs.” Garavuso said Diamond Resorts' top budgetary item was improved accounting efficiency and an active solution to replicate data.

Garavuso said, “I believe the presentations on the uniqueness of the technology for destination resorts, cruise ships and timeshare resorts allowed the attendees to understand the special technological requirements and initiatives of these types of operations." As they learned, there are many additional needs beyond property management and point of sale.”

Doebrich's takeaway: “Mobile applications for POS, PMS and spa are desperately needed, specifically with the ability to roam seamlessly across access points and have the capability of charging credit card payment and room charges. Wearable technology is the wave of the future.”

Session 3: The Building Blocks to a Successful Exit

Speakers: Henry Danish, CEO, and former chairman of EZYield; Bruce Nunally, partner, Carr, Riggs & Ingram LLC; Brad Rost, managing partner, Tenenbaum & Saas, PC; and John Rovani, managing partner, Ponterra Business Advisors.

When making plans for your business’ next direction, Rovani recommends three things: include exit planning in your strategic plan, develop a phased-in approach for how to build value drivers into the business, and ensure it is flexible enough to change as the business grows.

Rovani recommended that during the M&A process, companies should hire three teams: an outside CPA firm, an M&A advisory team and outside transaction counsel (legal counsel). “You may need a specialized attorney for that transaction,” he said. “His or her job is to get in and then get out. Their goal is to get the deal done. They may cost more than your normal attorney, but they are worth it.”

Rovani's takeaway: "As you develop your exit strategies consider that cross border deals are increasing; technology is rapidly changing so understand your product’s lifecycle, and understand the fundamental change in how the youngest demographic is using technology."

For more on Rovani’s presentation, please see his article here.

Bruce Nunnally, CPA, said, “My goal is to make you look good and make this deal happen.”

He agreed with Rovani about the importance of a financial advisor, attorney and CPA when developing an exit strategy, and said, “When due diligence is done, there’s not a lot of surprises. That’s my job.”

Nunnally said the number one issue he sees is revenue accounting. “If you’re making your money on software, there are not a lot of accountants who understand revenue recognition,” he said. Nunnally recommended writing off bad debts and getting rid of obsolete inventory.

“Realize that you might need to change your focus from a tax-saving focus to a profitability focus,” he warned. Other considerations include having a tax checkup and understanding current tax laws and provisions including ATRA 2012 and ACA 2010.

After a deal is initiated, he recommends considering post-transaction and finance issues in advance, including financial reporting integration, management reporting, budgeting and forecasting, purchase price allocation and tax integration.

Nunnally said, “Having audited or reviewed financial statements by an independent CPA can both speed up the transaction process, and also result in stronger selling price positions. Realize that you may need to change from a tax-saving focus to a profitability focus. Have a tax checkup. Your consultants are your best friends during a potential transaction. You need the right advisor, attorney and CPA on your team.”

Representing the legal side, attorney Bradshaw Rost said, “If you have partners, you may need another lawyer (especially if all have their own). There will be a conflict of interest; you don’t want your company’s lawyer, and you don’t want your partner’s lawyer.”

Regarding a letter of intent (LOI), he recommended having an attorney read it and said, “Don’t put something in there if you won’t agree to it later.”

Other recommendations include saving all documents as PDFs and setting up a virtual deal room of all documents. “Get rid of any employees that you don’t want to talk to a potential buyer... It’s like curb appeal when selling a house,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of having an attorney who has contract experience. “Sometimes lawyers put a paragraph on paper and it isn’t clear what you want. Push as hard as you can to make sure all contracts are clear. It only matters what the judge thinks if there is a lawsuit, so make sure the attorney has experience with contracts."

Rost's Takeaway: “I enjoyed sharing my legal insights and suggestions with an elite group of executives and entrepreneurs discussing how to prepare for the successful sale of their businesses. The creation, development and eventual sale of a business is one of the most important building blocks of our economy, and as an attorney it is always gratifying to be able to assist in achieving that goal.”

Next came Henry Danish, who was willing to briefly describe the experience of selling his company (EZYield at the time), and provide some words of wisdom. He said, “Don’t be scared, but don’t ignore what these advisors have all said.”

There are seven things that Danish says he learned. First was that there are two ways to run a business. “You are running the business for your customers,” he said. “You need to run the business for a potential buyer or investor.” Next, exiting a business is about visualizing the outcome, and building a plan to get there. He also suggested outsourcing the exit to M&A professionals and trusting them to execute it. He cautioned to make sure the money interests are aligned and said, “Whomever you choose as an M&A advisor, once you decide to sell the business, they have the same goal as you have.” Another important recommendation was getting your records in order including hiring a great CPA. “This is important because your (in-house) CPA does stuff differently than the person who does your taxes,” he said. He also reminded the group that most buyers kick the tires and are not serious. He said, “Have a good transaction attorney because you’re going to talk to them a lot,” he said. “You want a good relationship so you can talk at 2 a.m. (when you need to). Dream big, it actually works… The day to start building a plan is today,” Danish said.

For more of the EZYield story from Henry Danish, please see the sidebar below.

Digital Alchemy’s Don Hay asked Danish what he would have done differently before he sold. Danish said, “If you’ve never seen a due diligence report, go online and find a standardized list of due diligence questions or find a M&A advisor. It is unbelievable the reports and questions you are asked for three to four years before you sell a company.”

Nunnally said, “The biggest accounting problem I almost always find… when people think, if I bill it, it’s revenue and if I buy it it’s an expense. What people record as revenue and expenses, sometimes it’s actually deferred revenue and some is not revenue at all.”

Rost said, “A compilation and audited statement is only as good as the numbers you give your accountant. You really should start to have your financial statements audited.”
And Rovani said, “You need someone who has an objective view.”

Danish said, “In the midst of all that, you still have to run your company… It’s almost impossible to do due diligence on your own, most likely you will have to notify your key players.”

Session 4: The Tao of Exploitation

Speaker: Peter Hay, Security Zen

This session explored the leading practices in data protection and brought up the question of how safe a company’s data really is.

“I can build you a house that no one can break into, but you can’t survive living there,” Peter Hay said. Therein lies the risk. As Hay mentioned, data must be accessible to be useful, and this is an inherent limitation of data.

He reminded the group that security and insecurity cannot be separated. “Embracing a security posture also means embracing risks, but make sure those risks are clearly articulated,” he said. “Published standards aren’t perfect either; you are announcing to hackers what they need to defeat.”

Some words he recommended the attendees look out for included, “convenient” and “user friendly.” These are both words that should be sending up red flags, he said. One popular item he brought up was Bluetooth. “It’s convenient and easy… (in other words) insecure… You can extract an entire call from Bluetooth.” He asked the attendees, “Do you have a rule about Bluetooth (in your workplace)?”

And he added that many cordless phones can be tapped. “People can listen in on a conversation and it’s perfectly legal,” he said.

Another warning dealt with USB drives. “They are walking, talking security violations,” he said. “There’s no other way to make them (truly) safe than to remove all USB drives from computers.” But, most of us are unable to do that, so we must be cautious with these devices and their drives.

Hay's takeaway: “The exploiter seeks the simplest easiest way into your network; this is usually taking advantage of a trusted relationship–trust between client and server, software and hardware, a protocol and an underlying protocol, an employer and employee, or employee and purported email sender. By turning the tables on the laziness of an attacker and hardening these trusted relationships, you drive away the vast majority of potential penetrations.”

Session 5: I, I, I: Inspiration. Innovation. Invention.

Speaker: Jason Bryant, founder and co-CEO, Nor1, Inc.

Bryant began by describing a culture of innovation. “Create a healthy, stable environment where they’re empowered,” he said. “Refine the definition of innovation… something new, original or improved that creates value… It’s important to have this discussion with your team, what innovation is.”

He said, “It’s important you are consistently fostering new information about your companies, your competitors. Let your team members go to as many conferences (as you can). Nor1 provides an educational credit (even for singing, flying and other activities); this encourages lifelong learning.”

Bryant said it’s beneficial to build innovation into the culture. “It’s important to your team,” he said. “We (Nor1) are partners with several companies like Genares, MICROS and others – it’s important… to share your problems, your challenges.”

His company had one product for five years and the team became complacent. “If the team wouldn’t take the risk to learn something new, they’re not going to innovate,” he said.
Technology consultant Ted Horner asked, “When you are hiring someone, what’s the one thing you are looking for in an individual to become part of your team?”

“Really, really smart people,” Bryant said. “Chemistry is important. Are they a team player and do they fit in with our chemistry.”

Session 6: Cloud 2.1– Exploring the practical realities of migrating to the cloud

Speakers: Peter Hay, security; Scott Warner, owner, Garvey, Schubert & Barer; and Patrick van der Wardt, chief marketing officer, iTesso.

This session began with a look at the legal aspects of migrating to the cloud.

Warner said, "Thirty percent of people really think cloud computing has something to do with cumulus clouds.

“There will be 14 million jobs related to cloud by 2015,” Warner said. But, many businesses don’t know they are using the cloud to do business or that people in the organization are using the cloud to do business.

He said, “You will take on some liabilities for your customers if you provide something in the cloud.”

Regarding cloud contract issues, he recommended doing your due diligence with your cloud provider. “A lot of people don’t even negotiate a cloud agreement… that’s not really a good idea,” he said. “Most agreements have a term automatic renewal. (Some) have terms that permit the cloud provider to terminate the service (without notice)… you really need to check for this.”

He also said to pay close attention to service levels. “Getting a credit to get more bad service isn’t really going to help,” he said.

Another issue is the data itself. “If you get sued, simply saying, 'I own the data' is not enough,” he said. “If there is a dispute over service, how do you get the data back? Make it very clear in the contract. You want to make sure you have the ability to assign and they don’t.”

You want to make sure the contract does not allow cloud providers to automatically destroy the data if the contract is terminated or you end business with them.

In addition to the legal risks of doing business in the cloud, there are also security risks. Peter Hay rejoined the group to bring up a few items to watch. “I’m very positive on the cloud, but cautious,” he said. “Fifty-one percent say their No. 1 concern about the cloud is security.”

Hay said there are advantages though. “The cloud has tremendous potential… The ability to parallel process and its scalability, that’s something you really need to be able to provide to your customers.”

Other items he said that all should carefully examine were forensics possibly left behind by a cloud solution (evidence for someone who may have access), and service-level agreements, as Warner mentioned.

“Look very, very carefully at your SLA (service-level agreement),” he said. “We won a contract because we said we’d provide 100 percent SLA, but 100 percent SLA can mean whatever you want it to.” He also recommended hiring a forensics expert or asking your vendors to, especially when dealing with mobile.

Hay's takeaway: “It seems everyone is migrating to the cloud, but from a security standpoint, cloud migrations make very tempting targets: huge volumes of data with a single heavily defended border which allows the defender to concentrate their efforts, saving time, effort and budget. However, you must continually assess, refine and upgrade their defensive stance, technology and policy to ensure that your defenses do not become a cyber Maginot Line.”

Patrick van der Wardt presented the ups and downs of his company operating in the cloud.

“Some of the things Pete (Hay) mentioned were precisely the reason we decided to move to the cloud,” he said. “(Its) parallel properties and the ability to get people online instantly were important reasons.”

One benefit was not having his team onsite for extended periods of time. “I think we can do a better job and not have to fly travelers all around the world… look at what we’ve been doing the last 21 years,” he said. “We are (now) taking that software, creating the products the hotels need and are only onsite for two days instead of 20 days or 50 days.”

Van der Wardt warned of the financial considerations when moving to SaaS, including keeping track of cash flow, not neglecting your current customer base, not trying to transition overnight and maintaining your current products. Considerations when choosing a hosting provider include uptime, SLA, scalability, geographical spread; choosing a reliable, committed partner; finding out if they are hosting or using a platform; and the cost.

“I think if there’s an industry that cloud was created for, it’s hospitality,” van der Wardt said. “We didn’t want to neglect our existing customers; we don’t try to transition overnight… it allows us to maintain our current product and create new products (for our customers).

We chose Microsoft,” he said. “With the Windows Azure product, we’ve made a good decision for us.”

Even with the challenges (including finding developers who had knowledge of the cloud, starting over three times in the last 30 months and transitioning to HTML 5 since Microsoft will no longer be supporting StarLight), van der Wardt said they are pleased with their decision. He said, “We want to develop products in hotels that work really well and allow a person to check in in 45 seconds and not 45 minutes.”

Session 7: Who NUI?

Speaker: Tim Huckaby, chairman/CEO, Actus Interactive Software and founder/chairman, InterKnowlogy.

Natural user interface (NUI) is described by Huckaby as touch, gesture, voice and neural in a number of technologies and platforms on a broad spectrum of devices, and is the next wave of experiences being offered to engage users. In this session Huckaby discussed the creation of high-impact user experiences and how these can change the relationship dynamics between software and its users.

Huckaby: “We are at the cusp of a revolution in software and hardware. Using natural user interface (NUI) technologies improves the user experience in hospitality.”

We’ve all seen examples from movies where an actor is shown waving his or her arms around in order to view and place photos, lists or graphic images in the air. At a previous Executive Vendor Summit, our group experienced Microsoft’s Surface, which enabled us to view an image of a pizza and place/touch images of toppings to put on it as if we were making it and send the order to the kitchen.

“I’m fascinated by technology,” Huckaby opened. “We build cutting-edge software, but it is really innovative.”

His customers range from retail to hospitality to NASA. “This waving at stuff and speaking to it is real,” he said. Huckaby’s company can even do some holographic environments and said we are about a decade away from truly virtual environments.

Huckaby said January 27, 2010 was the date that changed his life for the good. “Steve Jobs held up that (iPad®) like the Lion King. Who thought we could have something so efficient (for touch)… (Apple®) paved the way for multitouch.”

He even remembers the beginning stages of this technology. “I was there when they told us to take our right hand off the keyboard and put it on this mousy thing (the original mouse),” he said. “Touch is now a prevalent way to use computer systems because of Apple.”

And there are advantages too. Huckaby said, “It gets half as expensive and twice as capable every year… It’s common to use gesture in computing solutions… healthcare has Surface-type products in use now.”

Another example is in the foodservice industry. “We expect a 25 percent upsell because a human will not feel guilt by ordering from a machine,” he said. “At Carl Junior, customers go to a kiosk. They never interact with a human. In reality, there is a 37 percent upsell because of this machine.”

“We force our programmers to talk to each other now, and integrate designers into the mix,” he said. “I have truly come to appreciate a good designer. They are now involved in the process from the beginning (when designing these products).”

He also said that if you can integrate a game into your software, people will learn more quickly. One example is a program by NASA. It was built for 5th graders, but Huckaby said adults like him sometimes engage for up to 6 hours at a time. “Everyone from 5 years old to 80 is digging it because they want to know what NASA is doing,” he said.

Another example is Kinect with W Hotel content. “A digital sign can host any content (Angry Birds, W Hotel),” he said. “We have built our services to be Kinect enabled.”

Kinect engages the user, then he or she walks up and touches it. “We also have the ability for voice recognition (which can be used to change the screen) but it takes a ton of hardware to make it work,” he said.

There are other areas where these technologies would be effective. “It could measure exercises (physical therapy),” he said. “A good use case for Kinect is healthcare.”

Another is retail. “We can track my wife at Nordstrom in San Diego when she’s looking at cute shoes,” Huckaby said. “Then when we see her at Nordstrom in Seattle, and she looks at shoes again, we can push a 40 percent off coupon to her.”

One thing Huckaby mentioned was that competition is a good thing in this and any industry. “Microsoft does not own this space,” he said. “We are building some crazy stuff;  With these (types of programs) we can do physical interaction in a virtual environment within a decade.”

Huckaby's takeaway: “The natural user interface (NUI) includes the implementation of touch, gesture and voice-controlled systems. NUI-enabled applications improve the communication, education and user experience across the hospitality continuum. Multitouch capable systems implement NUI in terms of common gestures of touch, physical object interaction, and virtual object interaction.”

(Tim Huckaby will be speaking at HITEC 2013 with HU Publisher Richard Siegel on Monday, June 24, 2013. Be sure to attend to see some of these amazing technologies at work.)

From mergers and acquisitions to security in the cloud, and innovative thinking to buying shoes at Nordstrom while the store watches, technology keeps on moving forward, and at this year’s event, the attendees were witness to some great concepts and truly educational information.

Special thanks to event sponsors Stefanini, Ponterra Business Advisors and HFTP.

Attendees of Hospitality Upgrade's 2013 Executive Vendor Summit include:

Don Hay, Founder & CEO, Digital Alchemy; Murat Ozsu, CEO, innRoad, Inc.; Peter Klebanoff, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Monscierge; Mark Haley, Managing Partner, The Prism Partnership; Ursula Rhode, COO, Genares; Mark Holzberg, Vice President - The Americas & Global Managed Services, Swisscom; Kristin Intress, CEO, TravLynx; Tim Huckaby, Chairman/CEO, Actus Interactive Software and Founder/Chairman, InterKnowlogy; Luis  Segredo, President, MTech Division of Newmarket International; Seth Christian, CIO, Immersion Companies Inc.; Robert  Nolan, CEO, Customer Direct, LLC; Stewart Applbaum, Sr. Vice President & General Manager, Infor Global Solutions; Michael Infante, CEO, The SmarTV Company, LLC; Jacob Dehan, CEO, Northwind Canada Inc.; Steve Gelb, CEO, MaximRMS; Jay Troutman, President, APTECH; Stuart Layzell, Chief Financial Officer, Adaco Inc.; Bruce Bensetler, President, Data Plus; Ted Horner, Owner, E Horner & Associates; Sean O’Neill, Chairman, Newmarket International; Connie Rheams, SVP Business Development, INDRA; Bob Magliozzi, Sr. Vice President, CENDYN; Jeff Venza, President & CEO, Venza Group, Inc.; Bryan Wood, Director of Certification, HFTP; Jason Bryant, Founder, co-CEO, Nor1; Kevin Ruhman, Vice President-Hospitality, NEC; Raman Rama, VP & CTO/CIO, JHM Hotels; Nikhil Nath, CEO, Knowcross; Brad Rost, Managing Partner, Tenenbaum & Saas, PC; John Rovani,  Managing Partner, Ponterra Business Advisors; Sherry Marek, Vice President, Datavision; Rod Jimenez, Managing Director & COO, Sceptre Hospitality Resources; Bruce Travis, Director, Business Development, Stefanini; Jon Inge, President, Jon Inge & Associates; Michael Garvin, President/CEO, RoamingAround Mobile Solutions; John Burns, President, Hospitality Technology Consulting; Frank Pitsikalis, Founder & CEO, ResortSuite; Evan Brown, CEO, ENG Infotech Corp; Fabien Pesenti, Country Manager, SIX Payment Services; Trevor Warner, President, Warner Consulting Group; Boro Petrovic, CTO HBU, MICROS Systems, Inc.; Ron Peterson, CEO, Blueprint RF; Mark Loyd, Chief Strategy Officer, Multi-Systems, Inc.; Greg Pesik, President & CEO, Passkey.

Rost’s 10 Tips When Negotiating a Contract

  1. Organize and update files: Save documents as PDFs, use one contact and set up a virtual deal room (area to store these documents).
  2. Organizational documents: Check whether stock certificates are properly issued, and whether transfer ledgers and minute book are current and accurate. Make sure the company is in good standing in all jurisdictions where it conducts business.
  3. Check customer-vendor contracts: Check the assignability clause and whether customers will be required to stay after the sale; put any informal/verbal agreements in writing.
  4. Assign key employees upon sale: Should they stay or should they go? Check their contracts; decide if financial incentives are required and whether they can be trusted.
  5. Asset sale – secured creditors: Confirm the debt can be paid without a prepayment penalty and collateral can be sold without triggering a default. Find out if secured creditors need to be involved in negotiations and to what extent.
  6. Financial records: Confirm they are as clean and accurate as possible/audited and all taxes are up to date. Confirm if there is any unreported revenue stream.
  7. Real property and leases: See if the landlord has the right to review/consent and check if any liens or mortgages on the property. Get an updated environmental review.
  8. Intellectual property: Make sure you actually own IP, patents or copyrights. “That’s the first thing you need to go back tomorrow and do.”
  9. Check employee benefit plans and unions: Comply with ERISA and other applicable laws/regulations, and check the collective bargaining agreement for unions.
  10. Review pending/threatened litigation: Get rid of lawsuits against you and check any threatened claims against the company.

The EZYield Story

Started the business with $1,000.
Identified a problem as hotel operators and brought automation to distribution.
Made mistakes and learned from them.
Were successful because they listened to customers and  advisers.
Chose great advisers they learned to trust. Henry admits he was skeptical at first.
Wanted to sell. Their advisers told them to merge first, which they did with HotelProphets.
The merger resulted in the doubling of revenue, a faster growth rate, and a significant increase in profits
Hired a great CEO because they wanted to leave the business.
Made themselves much more attractive for an exit as they entered the ideal bull’s-eye for buyers.
Henry is now an investor and an active participant in an exciting new venture.

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