Today we’d like to introduce you to Jordan Hollander.
Jordan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I first got exposed to the hotel and broader hospitality industry as an equity analyst where my firm had invested in companies like Six Flags Entertainment, Wyndham Hotels, Sabre, TripAdvisor, Dunkin Donuts, etc. I then went to work in private equity, where I lead acquisitions for a real estate private equity firm in San Francisco.
Investing in Bay Area hotels, I caught the technology bug but felt frustrated that the hotel industry I worked in really hadn’t caught up to the rest of Silicon Valley because we liked to “do things as we had always done it”. Most of our team thought of technology as a cost center and not as a strategic asset that could differentiate us in highly competitive markets. At this time, our OTA commissions (e.g., Expedia) were skyrocketing and we were getting crushed by AirBnB supply expansion.
As I saw these forces disrupting our own hotels, I searched for ways we could mitigate those risks and technology upgrades were really the only scalable solution to those problems like rising marketing and labor expenses. To run our hotels, we needed more than 15 strategic technology partners but many of those partners were extremely dated systems built decades ago. As I looked to upgrade our toolset, I couldn’t find the right information online so I decided to create one. I launched the business part-time with my co-founder and identical twin brother while we were in MBA programs – I was at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and he was here in California at USC’s Marshall MBA Program. During the first year, we got into an accelerator funded by real estate billionaire Sam Zell and then I was awarded a Pritzker Group Venture Fellow where we further developed the concept.
Today we work with more than 600 software companies around the world ranging from startups in Brazil to fortune 500s like Oracle here in the U.S. and all across the world. Our platform helps more than 50,000 hotel owners and managers each month learn about hotel technology and digital disruption.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I had an old boss who gave me a pep talk on a bad day where he drew a squiggly line trending up and to the right on a whiteboard. He explained to me that no career is straight up, there are ups and downs but what you need to watch is that the line is trending in the right direction over the long term. We actually started our business as a hotel software company before really understanding the challenges of scaling a technology company into the hotel vertical and that lead us to where we are today. I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason” but I do believe it’s important to find meaning in every failure and disappointment. Since pivoting into our current business model we’ve had other failures like building a full chat platform for buyers and sellers to collaborate. Nobody ended up using the platform, we wasted a quarter of software engineering resources and ripped the thing out of our platform the next month. It taught us a valuable lesson about building MVPs and testing before investing. We found meaning which I’m sure saved us from making an even more expensive mistake down the line. We’ll continue to fail and that’s part of the startup process, but we need to make sure with every failure we live to play another day and that we can quickly identify the assumptions that went wrong in our hypothesis to change course.
Please tell us about Hotel Tech Report.
Our company is called Hotel Tech Report, we are the hotel industry’s leading source of insights around digital disruption and software providers. Each month we help more than 50,000 hotel owners and managers around the world find the right software for their businesses. Anybody who’s operated in VMS (vertical market software) knows that industry expertise and specialization is critical in these sectors, we bring a level of expertise and community that larger generalist competitors don’t provide. We are trusted by hotel owners at major chains like Marriott and Hilton and help thousands of boutique brands and independents using HotelTechReport.com like employees at Nobu Hotels, Generator Hostels and more.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I was a collegiate swimmer and that’s all I cared about until I graduated. It was my sense of self-worth and identity. I barely cared about school beyond getting decent grades. If I could start over, I would have tried to become more intellectually curious sooner. Once I started working in finance my boss Samir opened the door to so many intellectual pursuits that I didn’t even know existed and really helped me find my passion for learning. Another thing I would do differently is I would have started to learn marketing sooner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software company, a plumber or a media business – if you don’t understand how to attract customers, you don’t have a shot. I just started to really understand marketing in the last 3-5 years and it’s completely eye-opening.