European startups are fast gaining maturity. ByHours is a venture-funded company growing steadily and expanding globally. Read on for a wonderful story.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Guillermo Gaspart: I was born here in Barcelona, Spain 40 years ago and am married with three kids. I’m the fourth generation of a hotel family business from Spain. My great grandfather was one of the founders of the first hotel groups here in Spain.
I’ve been in the hotel industry for all my professional life – working in the reception, being a gentleman at a hotel, and everything close to the hotel. Seven years ago, I met Christian, my business partner. That’s when we started with ByHours.
Sramana Mitra: What is it about the hotel industry that you decided to take on in this venture? What was the genesis of that idea?
Guillermo Gaspart: The first idea came from a very simple question from a business partner. I was in the hotel industry. But my business partner Christian is not involved in the hotel industry. They wanted to ask a really simple question.
This question was, “Why is the minimum stay in a hotel 24 hours. Why not 22 because normally the difference between the check in and check out is 22 hours?” That was the first question. After that, we realized that there was no flexibility or personalization once we made a check in time.
Sramana Mitra: What were you going to do to address this issue?
Guillermo Gaspart: We realized that in the market, there was nobody offering this flexibility. Neither OTA’s or platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak, or Trivago. From the big ones to the smallest ones, nobody was offering this kind of flexibility in their websites and in their channels.
That’s why we decided to build and start ByHours. We allow users to decide their check in time. If you want to check in at 5PM or 6AM, you can do that. How many hours do you want to stay in a hotel? Micro stays is just three, six, or twelve hours. You just pay for those hours.
Sramana Mitra: How do you get this business off the ground?
Guillermo Gaspart: At the beginning, it was really complicated because the first challenge that we had seven years ago was trying to convince and trying to show to our investors, or even ourselves, that hotels want to play this game and that they want to participate. They’re putting our platform just to offer to the guest or to the users.
We started with my personal network here in Barcelona and in Madrid. Really soon and really fast, all the hotels realized that they got this additional new revenue for their P&L.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start the business?
Guillermo Gaspart: In 2012.
Sramana Mitra: Did you raise money or did you bootstrap the business? What’s the financing strategy?
Guillermo Gaspart: At the beginning, it was more our own money.
Sramana Mitra: How much money was that?
Guillermo Gaspart: At the beginning, it was €100,000.
Sramana Mitra: With that, did you first go talk to the hotels and get some people on board, or did you first build a product and then started to sell?
Guillermo Gaspart: It was more to build the website and the technology – just to provide a decent product to their guests.