The Tyrolean Startup RateBoard is one of the rising stars of the Austrian entrepreneur landscape. Behind the SaaS company are next to the Falkensteiner hoteliers family the Salzburg VC Next Floor and the aws Gründerfonds. The team has already raised millions of dollars in growth capital and counts hundreds of hotels throughout the DACH region and Italy among its customers.
Simon Falkensteiner met his co-founder Matthias Trenkwalder during his studies in Innsbruck. The two have initially gone different ways in their career. Falkensteiner worked in a family business. Trenkwalder spent a long time with the Munich company builder Venture Stars. “I noticed that there is no simple pricing software for hotels,” says Falkensteiner in an interview with Trending Topics. What is quite normal when booking flights, for example, is reserved in the hotel industry for large hotel chains that work with expensive and complicated solutions.
RateBoard has won the Challenge Challenge Tourism in Tyrol and is thus 2019 in the final of the largest startup competition in Austria.
What the ideal price of a room depends on
“Smaller hotels may have raised their prices a little bit each year and responded spontaneously with lower prices when demand was low,” says Falkensteiner, who seized the opportunity in 2015 and founded RateBoard together with Trenkwalder. The startup software calculates the best price for a hotel room on a daily basis, based on various factors such as (historical) occupancy of the hotel, competitors’ prices, regional demand according to booking platforms such as Booking.com, holiday periods throughout Europe, weather data or hotel reviews on the Internet.
Hundreds of reservation systems from the 1990s
The biggest challenge was docking with hotels’ reservation systems, which are the strongest data source for RateBoard. There, the software retrieves historical data of up to five years in the past and current data. The problem: There are up to 300 different systems worldwide, estimates Falkensteiner. And there is usually no interface. “Most of the systems are from the 1990s and are very closed.”
RateBoard has already created direct access to 50 systems – according to the co-founder, this corresponds to around 90 percent of the systems in German-speaking countries. The startup avoids conflicts with data protection by transmitting no personal data. For example, RateBoard knows the country of origin of a guest in a room, but not his or her name or contact details.
4,000 euros per year
250 hotels already use RateBoard and the growth is strong: Every month the Tyrolean start-up company finds 10 to 20 new customers. You pay for the software annually royalties of an average of 4,000 euros – the exact price depends on the number of rooms. RateBoard has found a niche that does not occupy any of the few competitors: Ferienhotellerie. Other smaller providers, for example, in Holland or Sweden, but focus on city hotels, says Falkensteiner.
Exciting market in Scandinavia
For the next few years, the team has set itself ambitious goals with offices in Innsbruck and Vienna. “In two years, we want to reach 1,000 hotels,” says the hoteliers son. The startup is also aiming for another round of financing for its expansion into new markets. Around 46 percent of the company is still in the hands of the two founders.
Falkensteiner finds especially countries in the north exciting. “Scandinavia is much more open to digitization than Italy, for example.” That his own father, Erich Falkensteiner, is also his investor, he sees relaxed. “It’s sometimes difficult for me, but his know-how in the hotel industry is priceless.”