ALICE is a hospitality operations platform that allows hotel managers to oversee all operational tasks in real time, streamlining the internal communications process. The NYC-based company was founded in 2012 by Alex Shashou, Dmitry Koltunov, Julie Ulrich, and Justin Effron.
I had the chance to sit down with Shashou and ask him about how the platform came to be, as well as how they're bringing new vitality to an industry in need of it.
To start, Alex, I'd like to hear more about your background. What were you doing prior to founding ALICE?
Even before ALICE, hotels have always been a huge part of my life. My father owned and operated three major hotel brands in the UK, and I had the pleasure of literally growing up within the realm of hospitality. As I grew older, I later had the opportunity to intern within these hotels—and witnessed issues with internal communications firsthand. I was fascinated by the various cultures in hotels as well as the ways in which every department, from concierge to maintenance to laundry services, worked together to create positive experiences for guests—and wanted to do my part to help improve these processes. In 2013, I co-founded ALICE, turning my passion into my full-time career.
Tell me the story of how ALICE was founded.
ALICE was born out of a frustrating hotel experience. My business partner, Justin Effron, was traveling through Asia and encountered numerous frustrations with communication between guests and hotels. After witnessing this lack of clear, streamlined communications between hotel staff, Justin and I sought out a method to bring these communications into the modern era. At first, we thought the solution to these issues was a consumer-facing app, so we created a tool that allowed guests to order food and services from hotels in the style of Grubhub or Seamless. However, before long, we found that the true solution wasn’t putting these technologies in the hands of consumers. Rather, the key to improving guest satisfaction laid in improving communications and services on the back-end, for hotel staff and the services they offered.
As a result, we made it our mission to help hotels by bringing them out of their outdated legacy systems and into today’s digital-focused world. From there, we created a technology operations platform that fixed their disconnected nature—reducing the time required to complete guest requests and ultimately driving better customer experiences.
For those who don't know, what does ALICE do?
ALICE is a day-to-day hotel operations platform that allows hotel managers to oversee all operational tasks in real time, streamlining the internal communications process from start to finish. ALICE’s technology provides hotel managers with the tools they need to do every aspect of their jobs better. And by reducing the time required to complete internal requests, hotels have additional time to devote to ensuring guest satisfaction. Our technology connects the front desk, back office, maintenance, housekeeping, and management departments to achieve operational excellence, get ahead of guest complaints, and meet and exceed guest expectations. By revitalizing the practice of hospitality, we’re helping hotels provide guests with elevated and personalized experiences.
What problem are you trying to solve in the hospitality industry?
Today, the hospitality industry still struggles to provide outstanding guest experiences, but the right technology can help solve this problem easily. All too often, hotels are slowed down by poor internal communications, tasks that can be automated, and a competitive booking landscape, reducing their ability to focus on individual guest satisfaction. At ALICE, we want to utilize technology to help hotels do hospitality better by putting guest needs at the forefront of all operations and by streamlining internal communications to reduce the time required to complete guest requests. By reducing this time requirement, we help hotel staff find additional time in their day to focus on creating personalized experiences for each and every guest that stays with them.
In addition, many of today’s hotels are running off of severely outdated methods of communication, so we want to bring innovation into a vertical that has been slow to adopt technology, and help make exceptional hospitality possible.
Who are your core customers?
Our customer base is primarily comprised of any hotel that’s working to improve its guest experience. These properties tend to be 3 to 5-star hotels from all across the globe, and each property is seeking a solution to help them improve their overall efficiency and create positive, personalized experiences for their guests.
How has ALICE evolved over time?
In only five years, ALICE has grown from an idea and a handful of team members to a fully flushed out hotel operations platform, with a team of over 110 employees spanning 75 countries across the globe—and we’re just getting started. At ALICE, our team is working to bring the best possible standard of hospitality to over 2,000 hotels—whatever that may be. As our company grows, so does the platform, which is continually connecting more and more departments within the umbrella of hotel operations under one united platform. We’re consistently working to help hotels be forward thinkers and remain on the cutting-edge, and as the needs of our customers change, we will continue to adapt and offer solutions that improve their operations.
What are your hiring plans?
Our organization is growing—and we’re seeking some of the strongest players in the space to aid us in that development. At ALICE, we give our employees the flexibility to work remotely from anywhere in the world, as well as offer unlimited vacation time and flexible working hours, and hope that our benefits will help us to attract some of the best, brightest and most passionate candidates in the industry.
We also prioritize learning—and even have a monthly book club where we read and discuss different perspectives on leadership, growth, business and corporate culture. We use these books to find solutions to the challenges we’re facing, whether they be with internal growth, product sales, or the like, and utilize our findings to help us create the best business that we can be. As a result, we’re actively seeking candidates with a similar growth mindset to help us continually shape ALICE into the most effective platform it can be.
What comes next?
Change. For ALICE, our end goal is to help hotels do hospitality better, and by giving hotel staff the necessary tools to focus on the individual needs of each guest, we can do exactly that. We want to integrate technology into the everyday communications within hotels to help each property preemptively identify and resolve guest needs—essentially taking the standard of customer service to the next level.