Dan Lynn of Zuzu Hospitality Solutions, Nailing two markets: Startup Stories

He reveals the early operational choices of an up-and-coming hotel management service.

Prior to co-founding Zuzu Hospitality Solutions, Dan Lynn spent much of his career in the hospitality industry. He worked with Expedia and helped build its Asia Pacific business as the CEO of the AirAsia-Expedia joint venture AAE before joining HomeAway.com as vice president APAC and emerging markets. Lynn also spent some time at Movenpick Hotels and Resorts in Switzerland as its non-executive director.

Established in 2016, Zuzu Hospitality Solutions is a Singapore-based startup that offers hotel management services. Its software platform consists of online management and distribution tools, and the company also offers consultations to help independent hotels better manage their brand and revenue. The “hotel OS” startup recently raised USD 3.7 million in a Series A round led by Wavemaker Partners.

KrASIA spoke with Lynn to find out more about Zuzu Hospitality Solutions’ early days, specifically touching upon the good moves that Zuzu Hospitality Solutions made and a mistake that had to be addressed quickly.

KrASIA (K): What are two good choices you made in the nascence of your company?

Dan Lynn (L): From our very first day, we managed to sign hotel customers to Zuzu Hospitality Solutions. This is in spite of the fact that our platform, in the early days, was not able to deliver everything these hoteliers wanted. However, we knew we could still add value to these hoteliers as we provided the proprietary hotel operating system with a service model delivered by specialist revenue managers.

Zuzu Hospitality Solutions is now the only complete outsourced yield management solution for independent hotels. Rather than dropping a piece of software on a hotel and expecting them to figure it out for themselves, we provide both the software and the service. We let hoteliers outsource their yield optimization so they can focus on hospitality and delivering a great experience day to day. We are also the only partner of independent hotels that delivers revenue upside for them, making us true hotel partners for the long term. As such, having customers from day one kept us super focused on catering to their needs.

Another good choice we made was launching Zuzu Hospitality Solutions in two somewhat different markets. We understand that conventional wisdom says to nail one market first. However, we found that working in two markets, though difficult, forced us to really think about commonalities across market and how to effectively operate somewhat remotely. This insight made our late growth into other countries easier. We are now expanding from our launch markets of Indonesia, Taiwan, and Singapore into Australia, Thailand, and Malaysia.

K: What was one misstep that you had to overcome?

L: We tried to supercharge our growth by bringing in a batch of clients from a partner who had been working with a non-tech solution. Moving away from our standard approach to growth ended up adding in customers that were not the right fit with our business at that point. We could not align on the right way to work together, so we reversed this decision. We feel that if you have a growth model that’s working, you should focus on optimizing that instead of chasing silver bullets. Having continued support from our existing investors in this investment round shows that we have fulfilled our mission to deliver yield management as a service for independent hotels. We are also grateful to have new investors come on board and help us in our next phase of international expansion.

This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in Southeast Asia.