AI Roundtable: How AI Assistants are Transforming Hospitality

Follow our guest

In this podcast, Mark hosted a roundtable with AI leaders in hospitality, featuring Cole (Host AI), Clive (Hello Hosty), Naim (Guest Guru), Luca (Jurny), and Sam (Bestie AI). They explored AI's transformative role in enhancing efficiency, maintaining a competitive edge, and automating repetitive tasks within the hospitality sector. The discussion also touched on Airbnb's strategic AI acquisitions and the spirit of collaboration among competitors.

The guests shared their journeys into AI, showing its varied applications in property management and guest communication.

Subscribe & Listen Below


Or... Watch the Video Replay

Play Video

Key Takeaways

Timestamps (audio)


The AI Assistant Roundtable

[00:00:00] Mark: I have just recorded what I think will be the most important podcast. Out of all the podcasts we have done, because we are talking to the AI assistant round table, we've got some amazing people in here. We've got Cole from Host AI. We had Clive from Hello Hosty. We had Naim from Guest Guru.

[00:00:22] We had Luca from Jurny and Sam from Bestie AI. Uh, we talked and we delved into some unbelievable topics. We talked about how AI offers massive advantages, but how they can. How hosts, how you host can keep a hospitable edge. We talked about what AI is going to do to help with businesses and how it can help alleviate and get rid of those repetitive tasks.

[00:00:50] We also took a look at the A, B and B acquisition of game plan AI. And we also then looked ahead and we, we delved into what each of these companies are doing, how they're helping. We had a journey involved, which is a PMS. We had Zebra involved. That's a PMS. We had hello Hosty, which is Clive, who is a property manager who scratches their itch and designed all of this.

[00:01:12] And then Cole, who is, um, has been picked up by Y Combinator and then Sam Beste. These are some of the cleverest people in this space that I know. And we got them all together. And even though all of them are competitors, they all wanted to come on this because they wanted to have that collaborative approach.

[00:01:29] Um, this is one that you need to watch twice. This is one that you're going to need to make notes. This is one that you're going to. Have these aha moments and it'll just change your mindset massively, but have an open mind and tune into it, leave your comments and I want to hear your feedback below.

Introducing the speakers

[00:01:48] Clive: Okay, so, uh, my name's Clive Clive Tuss. I am, um, the founder, and CEO of Hello Hosty. But before Hello Hoste. Um, which is, uh, an AI assistant to property managers before, uh, uh, to Hello Hosty. I've been, um, a property manager for around 15 years. So I've built up a, uh, property management company. We do, we predominantly do short term, although we do also do, uh, manage long term let's and midterm.

[00:02:17] We've got portfolio properties, uh, that we manage around the world. And Hello Hosty was born out of a, um, in, in my business life. What I'd like to focus on are automation and systemization.

[00:02:30] Na'im: Um, so I started off managing service apartments in, um, Cambridge in the UK, and then expanded to various other cities.

[00:02:37] And then got into, uh, leasing apartment blocks, finishing them, subletting them. And then when COVID hit, I started buying hotels, managing hotels, and last year we got into weddings as well, um, bought a wedding venue just outside London. In terms of software, as the management business was, uh, growing fairly rapidly and quality of service was declining, I got into, uh, developing add-ons to the PMS we were using, and that Turned into a full PMS and channel manager over time.

[00:03:09] So that's Zibu. And then last year, one of our Zibu users was telling me about this guest score and wanted integration and how great it was. Um, and then two weeks later, I heard they shut down because Airbnb discontinued the forwarding message service. Um, and, uh, he said, are you interested in buying it?

[00:03:26] Can you please buy it and sort it out? So I said, fine. And that's how I ended up getting invoked in AI.

[00:03:32] Cole: Hey guys, I'm, uh, Cole Rubin, co-founder, and CEO of Host. ai. Then building and managing vacation rentals last four years, uh, got into it right at the beginning of COVID. Um, basically like it was with my buddies, everything had been cancelled.

[00:03:48] Looked to travel to Joshua Tree. And I was like, geez, this is expensive. Looked on Zillow what these houses were trading for. Worked in commercial real estate. So could do the back of the napkin math, looked at this and was like, this is. Really good deal bought my first house at 21, snowballed into a portfolio, developed purpose-built vocational homes, managed for others, and then just through managing my portfolio for these other people, saw all the inefficiencies around the industry and how much AI could solve, which is where, uh, the idea for Host AI came from.

[00:04:21] Sam: Yeah. So, uh, originally from Canada, I live in New York now. Um, before this, I was, uh, the co-founder of a software startup for e-commerce brands. It's still kind of running, but we pivoted into the space like last August. Um, uh, so we had sold to big Shopify brands like Peloton and Taylor stitch and had an AI algorithm that would figure out the highest converting images and then also generate.

[00:04:48] Um, variant photos. So we're using like old school style. GaN like way before like, you know, all this dolly and stuff came out. We've been working with alls, like back when everyone was talking about crypto, but in the image space, image generation space back in like 20 19, 20 20. And we just decided to, you know, throw the cards in.

[00:05:07] Uh, when we had a few like major bumps with like Shopify and distribution. So meanwhile, I had, since I was around the same kind of age, cold buying properties with my brothers, turning them to Airbnb, and started managing properties for other people. Did like a small arbitrage thing. One of the people in Canada had a bunch of listings in Germany and started doing it in Germany.

[00:05:26] And then basically these two things collided. You guys as founders, like you get it. Like you just like, You either have it sometimes or you don't, uh, we just didn't have product market fit. So we gave up and I had these properties like, as like a good, like with API access. So I was like, what can we do? Um, and then basically just started looking at the market.

[00:05:43] I had tried, met with Cole, like tried software. Um, I had heard of Guest Guru before, like pretty interesting story. It's nice to meet you too. And then just been growing since then, similar thing, like adding new PMSs. Same kind of pitch you guys pitch, probably gas communications, operations, upselling, all that stuff.

[00:06:02] Luca: Hey guys, founder and CEO of Journey. Been in the industry for 12 years now. Originally born and raised in Italy, moved to the US. Live there for 15 years. Um, L. A. Specifically started the industry super early on. Airbnb wasn't even yet a thing. My first business was a landing page about luxury homes in L.A. Um, made several pivots from there, um, to try to figure out really what the next scalable big thing could be in the industry.

[00:06:36] Um, Before Journey, I met, I grew a management company to 300 units. I was kind of in the race of the lyrics and the thunder, not, not raise as much money as they did, but, uh, uh, was, was going after that game. And, uh, realized that probably the biggest issue of the industry from a PM perspective was fragmentation, especially in the technology, the different technology, not talking to each other and the lack of automation that existed because of this.

[00:07:05] So we start building, uh, at first, like, kind of like a middle layer, uh, which then in turn into a very integrated PMS, which is now a journey. And, uh, uh, from there, because automation has always been the first goal for, for the company, we started getting more and more involved into the AI side of things.

[00:07:24] The fact that we had a centralized system also helped a lot. And then now we work pretty much at PMS, uh, that we say is AI-enabled. Cool. And now we're pretty invested in AI.

Questions for Luca

[00:07:38] Mark: So we'll, we'll jump straight back to you, Luca. So obviously, um, Jurny similar to obviously the VIVU, you can see a massive viewpoint of the industry.

[00:07:50] You've got lots of hosts using the service and obviously, you've tapped into this world, of AI. What was the deciding factor for yourself to go, to go in on this? You saw it was being more widely used what November Um, and now where we are now, obviously last year, I saw Journey make that pivot to where you are sort of talking more about AI, what was the reason for it?

[00:08:18] And what have you done specifically behind the scenes to be helping hosts tap into like pivoting and working along property management software, but using AI as well?

[00:08:28] Luca: Well, I think a couple of years ago, we started seeing the potential of where this. To take the industry as a whole and how, uh, I could fill a lot of the existing gaps within the industry from day one.

[00:08:45] I was like, how can I almost fully automate my whole operation back when I was a host? Uh, and I think I've been, uh, upon intended in that journey since since 13 years ago. Um, and so, like, I found AI is probably one of the best, the best tool to fill up all these gaps. Um, I think there are several things that we can do with this technology, but Uh, the most exciting ones for me are, one, the new way, so software as until today, it's been much limited from UI, UX, and I think for the first time.

[00:09:27] Uh, outside of like, obviously chatbot is the number one thing that people can think with, with AI today because of chatGPT. But if you think beyond that, I think one of the biggest applications that are going to be in software is changing the way you interact with the software itself.

Questions for Na’im

[00:09:41] Mark: I will just jump quickly to Na'im.

[00:09:44] The founder of Zebu, you've got Zebu, which is a big, very popular PMS. The story is very cool. One of your customers, and I think another customer you're talking about mentioned GetSchool, and you've gone and purchased it. What was the reason why you went ahead and purchased it? Why did you go ahead and pull the trigger?

[00:10:00] And more importantly, what have you been doing since then to, to sort of integrate it more into Zebu or whatever you've been doing to sort of, um, tailor the needs of your customers?

[00:10:12] Na'im: Yeah, I mean, the reality is that, like everyone else, thinking we have to get into this AI game somehow, and unfortunately, we're in the middle of a huge transition that we're just finishing off and changing the interfaces, even redesigning everything.

[00:10:27] Um, so we didn't have the resources to do it in-house. When this came up, it was almost like a shortcut to get to where I wanted to be. And I thought these guys have done, you know, a fair amount of work. Um, and because, the service had shut down, they managed to get it for a very good price.

[00:10:43] Um, so it's, it's not like I had a whole lot of spare cash, like ground market, but, we worked it out in instalments and so on. Um, so since then we've um, uh, we managed to integrate, uh, Zebo and, uh, various other PMSs. So we started off the chat links, which got, gave us access to, um, tens of PMSs and then we integrated to.

[00:11:06] Um, guests and I think, uh, host are hostfully and, uh, Tokit or someone else. We've got three, or four PMSs now integrated. And of course, Boostly for the direct booking websites. So we, um, we built, uh, the chat function out so that you can have it on the website when you're working on this website with Boostly and so on and interact.

[00:11:27] Um, for your direct bookings with it.

Questions for Clive

[00:11:29] Mark: Thank you for that. We'll go to Clive next. So you're, um, coming at it, we're scratching your itch, property management company, you know, having to deal with all of the questions. As we all know, anybody who's dealt with any questions from, any guest, knows that it can get very repetitive.

[00:11:45] It can get very boring and sometimes as well, depending on, the tonality. Of the person you're talking to on the other end, it's very easy for your human instincts to kick in and want to turn around and tell them to fuck off, which you can't do for all professional reasons. Um, so obviously you've, you've scratched that itch you put together, um, Hello Hosty.

[00:12:06] So what was like the deciding factor? How did you go about it? How did you go about creating it? What, did you do to build it out? Have you got a big team? Like just sort of like break down the sort of like the, the, the first parts of this.

[00:12:19] Clive: Well, there's quite a lot in there. So yeah, let's unpack that.

[00:12:21] Um, really the, the, the first, the first step in all of this, we were, we were looking at doing some, some building on some of our software. And then as chat GPT was kind of came to prevalence, it became very clear that. Chat GPT was able to, uh, formulate responses to to guest messages. So we were using chat GPT in a kind of a very long way, um, to, to respond to guests, but we're producing incredible, incredible responses to these messages.

[00:12:56] Um, and like you say, removing ego, answering every single section of the, of a guest message with, with reason and, um, Um, and foresight to give to provide incredible answers. Um, so we've got, we've got a team-based, um, in the, in the UK. Our team of kind of like our business all over the place.

[00:13:18] So we've got people in in the UK, Sri Lanka, Poland, US. Who is working on this project with us, where we, where we're going at the moment, what I, what I've heard from both Luca and Naeem, I, I, I kind of felt that um, what, what I'm hearing and the way that I'm feeling about this, that the products we've got today, the, where, where we're going to evolve to, it's going to be solving all kinds of challenges.

[00:13:43] And I think chat is, is just. The very, it's the very first step in, in what will be quite a long road with AI. I mean, we're at the birth of this new technology pretty much. And, um, and the challenges that this new technology is going to be solving for me as a property manager and for the industry overall, it's going to far, far exceed what we're seeing today with, with regards just to being chapped.

Questions for Sam

[00:14:09] Mark: It leads me on nicely to what I wanted to ask. Sam, is that we're noticing now that loads of verticals are being brought up, and are being created around AI. There's, there's lots of different aspects where companies are creating solutions for different verticals that are out there in the world now. You've done a few, but you've settled on this, which is hospitality, but most importantly, you know, short-term rental communication.

[00:14:35] Why did you sort of stop doing what you're doing with a dealer company and dive all in on, on hospitality? What was it like, what was the thing that kept dragging you back to hospitality? Why did you decide to come all in on this Sam?

[00:14:47] Sam: Yeah, I think it was honestly just, um, LLMs on the text side. Like we've spent two and a half years working with LLMs on.

[00:14:54] image, like, and motion. And it's such a tough, like, our eyes are so much more critical of visuals than we are when it comes to, like, the difficulty of just text files. So I think, like, Just then, we were basically like the right, like wrong business, right time, I guess I should say. It's because we were pitching legit.

[00:15:12] Like when we did our first fundraiser, it was nobody cared about generative AI. Like if you were doing this in 2019, or 2020, literally nobody cared. Like we talked to every tier one fund and nobody cared. So like, I think like now moving into the tech space, like the fact that it wasn't anything too, um, too advanced as far as I'm thinking, we just had like a very limited runway and we Taking off and I had this little, like, starting point where text was such a big, big piece.

[00:15:38] And then also the text is, is the most important thing is programming itself, right? Like function call, you know, there's a lot of this cool stuff that I know everyone on this call is familiar with, but we won't go too much into for the sake of the discussion, but there's some just mind-blowing stuff happening on the text field text space that The observation here so far is none of us are engineers and here we are building a, I think I can speak for everybody here that we're not, we've picked up some stuff and we're savvy enough.

[00:16:04] But the fact that we can even be in this space building, uh, means that it's just like a, a cool way because we have like, such an acute, some of you guys been running multi-hundred units. Like, I got whatever, 35 units, but you understand the problems and the missing points in each PMS and things that you wish you could build.

[00:16:20] And then you build them yourself instead of like. Asking some product manager at a PMS, you just do it yourself. So anyway, I thought that was a cool way that like, I have something, uh, industry expertise in and also just kind of got burned in the image space specifically for AI.

[00:16:34] Mark: Um, so Sam mentioned there that, you know, when he was talking about this in 2019, 2020, no one paid attention.

[00:16:42] And you've come on board with this, but more importantly, you've come on board with this and you've also been picked up by Y Combinator. I, how did that. Come about how, how did Host. ai get on that, that platform? And like, what have you found as being the benefits of being part of, of like that big organization, that big, that big why?

[00:17:01] Cole: Sure. So always, uh, one of my cousins, he's a partner on Host. ai. He's running the head of product. It's kind of just something we always talked about being a part of. And then my co-founder Pun, who's the CTO. He, um, we were working on this over summer, 2023, and he had a work at Google. He's on an H1B from Thailand.

[00:17:23] So he couldn't continue working on Host AI. So basically we have this product shipped with no CTO and the only way to get them full time was to transfer his visa. So applying to YC, um, YC has really good resources to help, help with that. So that was one of the main drivers for, for why we applied, ended up getting accepted, got his visa transferred over and just through like the mentorship guidance with that, and I've been able to like.

[00:17:50] Drill down on the tech, improve the response quality and think, think a lot bigger, um, in terms of what we want to go after. Um, there, YC does a really good job of getting you to narrow down on a certain thing. Um, like talk to your users, continually refine, and don't overthink it. And then ultimately getting you, to go after a bigger vision in the end.

[00:18:10] Mark: Nice.

[00:18:11] Cole: So it's just been super grateful to be a part of this.

[00:18:14] Mark: This has been amazing. Thank you so much for giving up your time. Um, we will try and put all the links and all the posts and all of the things that, that you can see around, around the internet and we'll, we'll get this shared as wide as far as possible.

[00:18:26] Um, so yeah, thank you very much for doing this.

[00:18:29] Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee podcast. Bruce Lee led Bruce Lee. 'cause it's so hard on the tees. Loosely making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.