Simon Lehmann Joins Direct® Advisory Board
Direct, the forward-thinking, do-everything software platform for lodging management companies of all sizes worldwide, announced today that travel industry veteran Simon Lehmann has officially joined the company as an advisor.
"It's 2018 - we're seeing self-driving cars, self-landing rockets, and self-governing currency, yet the B2B software that runs the $650B Hotel and Lodging industry still feels coin-operated...disconnected, antiquated, and lacking true innovation," said Lehmann, an expert in the industry and frequent keynote speaker. "A massive convergence is taking place, and the entire travel hospitality vertical is becoming one. The vision for Direct is very much aligned with this."
" We're seeing self-driving cars, self-landing rockets, and self-governing currency, yet the B2B software that runs the industry still feels coin-operated... "
So what's the big problem Direct is solving? First, in order for lodging management companies to operate and generate revenue, 10+ disjointed, costly, and/or outdated software tools are required in conjunction with a very laborious process carried out thousands of times per year. Direct adds immediate value bringing every feature necessary to run a business under one roof by consolidating or replacing the functionalities altogether, allowing companies to save time and money, and ultimately increase margins and revenue.
The next-gen software platform from Direct is currently targeting vacation rental management companies, which control the majority of global vacation home rental supply--over 2.2 million units, and manage portfolios of 135 units on average.
That said, the hotel side of the industry, 10x the size of its rapidly-growing counterpart, faces many of the same problems, and more and more operators are offering consumers a variety of lodging options (e.g. vacation rental units, hostel rooms, and hotel rooms, all on a single property). Recognizing the lines are blurring, Direct will soon penetrate hotels, starting with a handful of independent operators in the Chicago area whose needs mirror those of traditional vacation rental management companies.
"The incumbents are reaching the end of their product life cycles, while the newer entrants, which actually have pretty outdated tech stacks, simply aren't bringing anything new to the table," said Wes Smithe, co-founder and CEO. "It takes customers 3-6 months to onboard with the incumbents, and after you've endured this you feel as though you're being held prisoner, while those brave enough to abandon ship are forced to choose the best out of all bad options. In either case, the outcome is overly complicated and expensive, and Direct is addressing the resulting inertia head on."
Based in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, the Direct team has built a proprietary platform that is agnostic in terms of distribution and property type, and scales to meet the needs of any size company, from one brand with a dozen units, to companies with dozens of brands and hundreds of thousands of units. Joining is risk-free, and the onboarding experience is free and nearly frictionless.
As far as features, the next-gen software platform currently includes a robust property management system (PMS), accounting and reporting tools, unified guest communication, fully-customizable e-commerce website and auto-email builders, and a two-way channel manager that fully automates and maximizes distribution to top marketplaces, a proprietary CRM, and much more.
Looking ahead, the team has multiple above parity features currently in development that will completely transform how companies manage, monitor, maintain, and automate every facet of their businesses, including revenue and yield management, staff task and accounting workflows, guest communication, and smart home technology. Additionally, Lehmann, who is based in Zurich, Switzerland, brings a wealth of experience and connections in the active European vacation rental market, so the Direct team is ramping up internationalization support within the product to increase their overseas footprint later on in the year.
"In general, the B2B software side of the industry is highly fragmented, everyone is integrating with one another, and there are multiple players charging far too much for doing very little," said Chad O'Farrell, co-founder and Chief Development Officer. "With Direct suppliers can truly manage everything from one place, and at a fraction of the cost."
Simon Lehmann is currently CEO and Co-Founder at AJL Consulting, based in Zurich, Switzerland. Prior to founding AJL, Simon was President at Phocuswright, the industry's leading research firm. He was also a non-executive board member at HomeAway (until acquisition by Expedia), and is the former CEO of Interhome, one of the largest vacation / holiday rental providers in Europe with over 30,000 properties in 31 countries.
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