Jan. 18, 2023

DACK’s Customer Experience Enhancing Solution, with Thomas Schaper

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In today’s episode, Alex and Annie welcome Thomas Schaper, the Head of Product at DACK Inc. Thomas shares his experience in creating DACK as an app that improves the guest experience and makes vacations easier. He also discusses details about DACK’s model from how it was named to how it works. Find out more about Thomas and DACK in this latest episode of Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals.




“If you free up your staff with automation and tech, then you can focus on the truly cool parts about hospitality. You can come up with more engaging conversations to  have with them, when every call doesn't have to be about what the Wi-Fi code is or how to how to turn on the hot tub, stuff like that. I think it kind of frees up your team to do more memorable, engaging, you know, personal things.”


This episode is brought to you byWheelhouse: The Ultimate Revenue Driving Machine. 

Wheelhouse is a proud member of Alex & Annie's List, presented byRev & Research

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Episode 71 - Thomas Schaper

[00:00:00]Welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of vacation rentals. With more than 35 years combined industry experience, Alex Hener and Annie Holcomb have teamed up to connect the dots between inspiration and opportunity. Seeking to find the one's story, idea, strategy, or decision that led to their guest's big aha moment.

Join them as they highlight the real stories behind the people and. That have built vacation rentals into the 100 billion industry it is today. And now it's time to get real and have some fun with your hosts. Alex and Annie, welcome to Alex and Annie, the Real Women of Vacation Rentals. I'm Alex. And I'm Annie.

And we are here today with Thomas Schaffer, who is co-founder and head of Project for Dak Thomas, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Yes, glad to be. Yeah, we've, we've been talking to you and some of your other teammates for several months[00:01:00]now, so very excited to have you on and, and hear more about what, what you guys have, have going, have going on and how your growth has just been, uh, just crazy.

I feel like the last few months I just keep hearing about Dak and so many people are starting to use your service and it's just really exciting. But before we get started, can you give our audience a little bit of back, uh, your background and involvement within the vacation rental and tourism space?

Yeah, absolutely. So, um, we started Dak about, um, three or four years ago. So it was late 2019, early 2020. Um, we actually came from outside the vacation rental space. Uh, Damon and I were both really avid travelers and love traveling. Um, well, I love traveling. Damon traveled a lot for. Um, cuz he was an exec at eBay pre previous to, to working with Dak.

And so, um, both of us were kind of talking one day. Um,[00:02:00]and, and both had the same frustrations with, with guest experience and travel. Um, we wanted to, um, just improve guest experience in general, um, and had this, you know, great idea for an app. Um, and, uh, and then I think. Three, three months after we started talking was, was March, 2020.

So things changed up a little bit. Um, but we kind of continued to pursue building out a product and, and something, you know, uh, meaningful for guests and meaningful for operators. Um, and actually that still resonated with investors, um, in 2020. And then they realized that everything was gonna go contactless anyways and touchless, right.

So, um, we actually got funding in October of 2020. Um, I remember going, uh, to two person in person VC meetings. Everything else was virtual, um, which was really weird.[00:03:00]Yeah. Um, launch, launched the product in January of 2021 and it been granted ever since. Um, but yeah, it's been crazy just, you know, growing it, uh, growing a team virtually, growing the product, virtually fundraising, virtually everything's been virtual, but it's been really an exciting journey for sure.

So when you guys, um, decided that you were gonna do this, did, did you have. A strong technology background to be able to like, build this from And, and, and if so, like what, what was your technology background? You said you kind of dabbled in vacation rentals came in, came into this space cuz you like to travel, but what was it about your technology background, if you had it, that, that brought you to build what you built?

Yeah, absolutely. So, um, on on Damon's side, Damon had built a, a company called GSI Commerce that today you would know as fanatics. Um, which was basically, The e-commerce engine that powered, uh, Ralph Lauren, Dick Sporting[00:04:00]Goods, Estee Lauder, all these big companies, MLB and nba. Um, and then that company had sold to eBay.

Um, and then he was head of business development at eBay. So his background was very much, you know, tech for, for companies that they couldn't build themselves, right. Plus he had this good experience with Marketplace at eBay. I came from product and and mobile development. The company I was working at before, um, Dak, was actually called Galvan's here.

It was a tech startup in, uh, Las Vegas. Um, and it was all about, uh, tours and activities, booking in Vegas. So if you didn't know what to do, we could come up with an entire itinerary for you. It was all digital. And right before I met Damon, uh, we were working on a product called Table Party. Which is kind of booking like last minute, uh, v i p tables at the clubs, um, nightclubs and day clubs and all that, right?

And, um, and then it was kind of getting some traction and some interest.[00:05:00]Um, but then we kind of, I met Damon. I said, this is, this is way cool. I want to do this with, with Damon. And, and that's how we kind of got started there. It's very robust. I think that was kind of the first thing that I thought of when we did a demo of, of Dak several months ago.

And even just now looking at your site again, it's dak inc.com if anybody wants to go check it out, there is a lot that this does. This is not just an app , right? I mean, yeah. There's, there's a lot in here. So, uh, just l looking at some of the solutions that are offered, I mean, the guest verification, the digital access and smart locks, is that products that you have white labeled into yours, or is that tech that you have built?

Yeah. Yeah. And it kind of goes, it kind of goes back to that original story of like, as Travelers, you know, we weren't operators, we were, we were, you know, outsiders kind of coming into the space and we just kind of saw. this gap in, in technology, right? And so, you know,[00:06:00]everything, and I, I would just, I was on a, I guess two webinar, the idea kinda talking about the same thing.

But ev everything in your state journey really up until you get to your accommodation is digital, right? So you, you book, you know, you book your experience on, on Airbnb or vrbo, right? Uh, you get, you can get to the airport with the Delta Airlines app. Um, I mean I just lost, uh, my, my debit card the other day and I forgot that I had a replacement for three weeks cuz I was using Apple Pay everywhere with my phone.

Right. So it's just kinda Yeah, everything is, and then, you know, we were just talking about staying at, at, at, at little, at Little Caesars. I need a lot pizza at that conference. Sorry. Caesars . That's funny. At, um, at Caesars Palace, but. But you, yeah. So you had this whole digital experience and then you get to Caesar's Palace and you wait an an hour and a half line to check in.

Right? Sorry. Right. So where we actually boggling. Yeah. Just crazy. Yeah. And they don't even offer you a drink or anything. It's just nuts,[00:07:00]right? , yeah. Variable. But, um, yeah, so then you, uh, you have, so like our initial vision was everything in the guest experience should be digital and it should be mobile first.

And so that was kind of why it's such a. Platform cuz that was the original like Figma that we built out together before we even started writing. One line of code was, I'm a guest, I land at the airport. How can this be completely seamless and digital for me? and that included everything from checkin to checkout access, all of that.

Um, it's pretty crazy how much that's evolved and, and how many partners there are out there for, for us to use now. So yeah, we do, we do partner with a couple of companies for, for certain components of the product, right? Like super Hugs a really big partner for us for, for guest verification. But we wanna make everything built into the app, right?

So we don't want you to. Have to pop over to Super hug to get verified, then come back to the app. Everything's in the app. You wouldn't know that you're using Super Hug[00:08:00]when you're doing it. It's all, it's all built in, um, completely in the same interface, um, on the, on the app. What I loved about it when we did the demo, um, cause they, they sent me a reservation, like a dummy reservation and just like acted like I, it was mine.

And I thought it was really neat. And I, I think such a great tool is that you can do all these upsells within it. So if somebody wants to, again, you have the ability to, I think I don't. I don't remember if it was like through open table, like you can book a reservation on a restaurant, low nearby spas.

You know, in ski markets you can do all of the different things that you need to do. So like for you, how is that putting all that together? Because again, every market is a little different. Yeah, so there's diff, you know, there are some companies that specialize in a, you know, attractions and activity tickets for like, Tons of markets, so it's easier.

But when you go granular into some of these markets that maybe don't have a national brand behind some of this stuff, how do you guys attack that? Because again, that that's, that's a really big opportunity for property managers to be able to do upselling and, and really make a more robust guest[00:09:00]experience, uh, you know, outside of the app.

But how do you, how do you na, navigate. No, absolutely. It's, it's a great question and I think the, the power of the upsells in the app is that you're doing all these other things, but we really do all those other things to get you to the spot where you'll do an upsell, right? So, You do the verification, you do the access, you do everything as a guest.

But I'm using the app throughout my stay, especially if the operator has an integrated access. I'm using the uh, app. I think our average is around 12 times per stay, so I'm opening it, I'm looking at it, and we keep those upsells like really front and center everywhere you go. Um, and then having the operator, every operator we talk to we're like, you can do upsells with Dak.

You can make more money with Dak. You know, try the upsells. And they're like, great, but I don't wanna do any more work. , yeah. That is like resounding uh, across the board. No one, no one has the bandwidth for it really. And so, sure. I kind of put it in the three buckets of upsells that we do. We have our digital upsells.

I would[00:10:00]call 'em like early check-in, you know, where you'll, you'll request early check-in. Operator can automatically approve it, depending on occupancy, the lock wall automatically be updated. So the operator's really not doing any extra work there to capture that revenue. Um, and then we have, uh, third party vendors that we use, like buy itr that automatically plug in local tours and activities.

That's really easy to onboard. Um, and you make a commission off each one of those. But I think what's really exciting that we're seeing right now is, Operators can, uh, have a vendor approve and decline up sales and get the guest details and facilitate that directly. And that's really not a lot of work in your local area to go.

And, um, so we're kind of using the vendors to, or the operators to go find vendors in their local area. And it's, it's not that hard. There's always a ski rental guy. Guide. Um, there's always a personal chef or a masseuse that is looking for more work and the gig economy there, there's always looking for, for more work there.[00:11:00] 

Um, and so what they can do is they can plug that vendor in, they get the request operator has nothing to do with it, and they're just making more money, you know, as they sleep. So it's, it's a win-win for everybody there. And I think, I think what's really critical about that, Sorry, I'm rambling here, but I'm probably the most excited about that part of the, uh, the app is, I think what's really critical there is, you know, showing local businesses that these people are coming from short-term rentals, I think is so crucial because as you're going Absolutely.

And, and regulations and all this, show them that, hey, you know, we're a driver of the local economy and we're not detracting at all. Yeah, I love that. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Do you guys have, um, I think one of the things that Alison and I have debated is, um, the viability of getting people to download an app versus like just texting them something.

I've experienced it both ways and I have to say, like, I didn't mind downloading an app. I mean, it, you know, it, it, it gave me a really great insight on how things work.[00:12:00]Um, but I know they're, you know, that, that's probably in some markets, maybe harder than others. So how do you guys go about, um, Engaging someone that might say like, uh, you know, we've tried apps before, like, our guest isn't gonna download that.

Like, what's your approach? Yeah, yeah. So now we actually do have a web version, an native version of the same app. Oh, good. It was kind of that. So what what's really interesting is we, our numbers were tremendous, like for, for downloading the app. Um, yeah. Especially communication. Um, but no one really believed us.

But we were seeing, you know, 80, 85% on average across the board and some operators even up until like a hundred, 2040%. Cuz they'll get additional guess the register per day. Sure. Um, and it's all about how you communicate it, right? So you don't want to say, Um, you know, you have to download this app, or you need to download this app.

It's, you know, it's, hey, to explore the local area to learn more about your property, um, you know, to purchase early check-in, you know, download the[00:13:00]app or, you know, click on this link. Um, and, and making an exciting and enticing and the, and the right verbiage is so key. Um, and, and what I think what we really see, which is interesting, is particular in this vacation rental space.

Guests really do wanna go look at that property before they stay there. So they wanna see the pictures, they wanna see what's available. They wanna see the upsells. Yeah. Um, it's, it might be the one vacation they take a year, right? Mm-hmm. they up all year for this, this house in, in Hilton Head, and they're gonna wanna explore it.

And, and so we actually see guests download the app when they do download it, you know, 31 days out on average, right? So they, they're, they're very, really curious. And then you have this really engaged audience kind of the entire time. Before I check in now, do you have the ability to share the property with family and friends from the app also?

Yeah. Yeah. Which is really, it's, it's great for a lot, a lot of reasons, right? Is one, you know, you get all that data as an operator, right? So you get the additional guests, um, you know,[00:14:00]contact info as well. You can remarket it to them for, for direct bookings as well. You can see who's kind of part of that party and, and make sure like, you know, you know, who's coming in and out of the unit as well.

Um, and then it also kind of helps curb questions from anyone in the party, right? So for the front, yes, they can say, here's the wifi info, here's how to turn on the hot tub, so the rest of their friends and family. And you know, again, in the space you do see. Um, we've had some record, you know, additional guests, groups.

I think we've had as much as, as 10 or 12, um, from one of our operators in, in, uh, Tennessee. So it's just really interesting to see that many people as part of one, uh, group. And there's some, so there's some cool stuff in the roadmap that we wanna do with that. Um, additional guest kind of family, you know, maybe split the bill in an upsell, that sort of thing.

Um, so, and, and are you collecting their email addresses too, of, of those guests? And that, does that go back to the property manager? Yeah. Yeah. You get everything unasked. Um,[00:15:00]we, you can export it from our, um, uh, portal so you get all the unmasked email, the phone number, everything so you can. You know, uh, circumvent the, the OTA the next time around.

Yeah, it's interesting. There's, there's a lot of people, or not a lot, but a, a good amount that are attacking kind of the same problem, but just from a different way. So we just had Stai on the show recently, Arthur, and I mean, they're doing it by, in order to get more guest emails, you have to put your, your email in to get the wifi password.

Just like if you were at an airport. Um, but you're kind, you're kind of doing the same thing. I mean, if. They have to have the app for other reasons, but you know, at that point you already have their, their contact information too. So I, I think that there's a lot of different ways to do it, but that's definitely a problem that as an operator we're all trying to solve because if you just have one person's email address and it's a.

Eight bedroom home. Uh, we were talking to somebody recently that just said, you know, they, they were in an eight bedroom home and[00:16:00]only one person got the checkout email about where you bring trash and where you do things. And they said that person left early and they did everything wrong and they got fined, but they're like, we never even knew we were supposed to do.

And you know, the one guest that left. Forward us the email. So I think that the more, the more you can get everybody involved in those details, that just makes for a better stay for your entire party. You know, I mean, if you don't have people that are just not sure what they need to do, so there's a lot of value to it.

No, and I, and I, I, I think that again, comes back to the verbiage, right? Is, is so we do have operators that have really high engagement with the additional guests, right? And, and that's, you know, you can say, Hey, rather than answer all the questions for the rest of your party, have them download the app as well.

They'll know, you know, what the wifi is and they won't, you know, uh, text you consistently throughout this day. And I think trying to organize a big group like that is probably, yeah, I wouldn't . Oh yeah, for sure. for sure. Yeah. Do you guys, um, so, so collecting the data, and you can obviously hold that for yourself.

Are you[00:17:00]working with anybody that is in multiple markets so they can retarget, like, you know, again, if they're. I'm just thinking of somebody like, uh, Steve Milo who's got, you know, Hawaii and Florida and, you know, maybe some mountain properties so he can just remarket those for the seasonality of each one of those markets.

Yeah, absolutely. So you, um, there's rebooking links like all throughout the app and like we keep adding more just to like really try to drive those direct bookings and then you can always go back through. Stays with Dak and, and book again at that same unit or a different unit offered by that host. And then there's some cool stuff you can do with, uh, the communication sequences after the guest checks out.

So you can say, Hey, book again with us directly. Uh, here's a coupon. That sort of stuff. Um, you can also have them. You can, there's like a coupon release mechanism. So you can create a, a discount in your PMs, which almost every PMs that has a direct book in engine has, right? Mm-hmm. . So you create that coupon code,[00:18:00]um, and then you put it into a short code on D and then you say, Hey, sign up for Dak, um, you know, downloader app, and then you'll get 15% off.

The next day. You capture that guest info and you release the coupon code to them, and then they try to book again with you directly that way as well. So we're trying to hit it. Pretty much any side possible. And, and we definitely have seen it, which is really cool as the same guest showing up in our data, um, for the same operator.

Booking, again, using the app again is really exciting to see. Is, is the app branded for the property or is it branded as Dak? Yeah, so the native app is Dak, uh, it's the DAK app. Um, and then, you know, the, the web version, we can obviously, um, a little bit easily or a little bit more easily, you know, white label.

Um, I think. For most of the operators we work with, right? It just wouldn't make sense for them to have a native app. If you have 30 doors, 50 doors, even a hundred doors, right? We have had some conversations with the guys with, you know,[00:19:00]800 to a thousand doors, right? That really are, it's then for them, it's almost like a build or buy, right?

Mm-hmm. , they're thinking about building a native app themselves. You know, why not use. Our technology and, and, and have a native app that we've already built. Right. But yeah, for, for most everybody, it's, it's the DAC app, and I think it makes the most sense. It's kind of, I kind of see it as like a clear for hospitality, right?

Mm-hmm. , um, like you use it everywhere. You download it once, you register once and you can check in anywhere, that sort of thing, right? Does it have functionality where if, so somebody's already been screened at one company, that if they go to stay with another company, they don't have to go through that process again?

Yeah, that's, that's, yeah. So you, that, that other operator would get that guest info as well. Um, and all that would happen for that guest. If they still have the app on their phone, would they just get a push notification that. Your stay at, you know, unit 2 0 8 is confirmed, uh, you can go check in there as well.

Um, right. Yeah. Yeah.[00:20:00]So naturally the next question would be then, are you gonna do an OTA that guests can search for other properties that use your app ? Yeah. Yeah. If you, if you download the app today, uh, you can, you can search, uh, most of the properties that actually work with us. Okay. Um, and that's, Definitely a direction, uh, that we're exploring for sure, because we do have this great inventory of operators.

Um, we were, we were debating it at first on, you know, uh, what would this look like and, and, and what would, you know, what would that OTA look like? And then we kind of realized that. Wait a second. Like most of our operators really are great operators, right? Like if they're willing to work on guest experience and take it to the next level, they're probably already a super host.

They're a great host. So we actually have like a really great inventory of homes available there. So I have to ask this question cuz I always ask these weird questions. Dak the name, like, it, it doesn't roll off the tongue and speak to what this is. Yeah. . And so like, you know,[00:21:00]if I, if someone said you need to download this DAK app, I'd be like, I don't, I would, I, I was thinking like maintenance or something.

I didn't even, you couldn't even like wrap my head around like, that's what this would be. So how did you guys come up with a name and do you see yourself like changing it to modify it to more speak, uh, the language or, you know, kind of, ID be more identifiable. Yeah. Yeah, I think, um, you know, re rebrandings always, always out there, right?

And, and we talked to, to marketing experts, right? Um, like Alex or, or yourself, right. . Um, but no, I think what happened is it was kind of just a placeholder. Um, it was something like digital access and, and code and key or something like that. And, and we had. Um, and we actually were working with a consulting firm in, in, um, Venice is actually one of the investors.

Um, it's the guy that came up with the Kia Hamsters. Um, so , right? Yeah. Yeah. And he's like, we're talking about changing it before we even launched. And he is[00:22:00]like, you know what? This is kind of quirky. You remember it? It's four letters. There's no competitive, uh, search phrases for it. Yeah. Um, you can find it easily on Google, stuff like that.

So we're like, he's like, actually, you know, I kind of recommend keeping it for now. Um, and just rolling with it. And so we're like, okay, we'll, we'll stick with it and. Way we went. So yeah, just, uh, is out there now. , , no looking back, right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, you guys have done a great job, I think with overall the branding with the design of it.

Yeah. I mean, you, you, you have a very different, um, look to your demonstration. It's memorable at the trade shows. Yeah. To, to the app. I mean, it's, it's, it's very clean, but I like the black and the white and that it can. Customized to the operator. So it's, that was kinda the idea with the, with the branding, you asked about that earlier, is we, what we really wanted is like Dak the brand, not to be, um, any particular like color or super memorable or anything like[00:23:00]that.

Like we're basically that you build your brand on, right? Mm-hmm. . Yeah, you fill it in. So basically any logo, any pictures, anything looks good in that app. Black and white, right? There's no right contrasting colors or anything like that. Um, and that was kind of the idea with even, even what we built out on the, the site is the idea is it kind of feels like blueprints.

It's kind of like where you built your technology from your tell your story from our platform, right? And we try to stay as neutral as, as possible in that way. Yeah, that's smart. I like that. I mean that definitely for what you guys have that's gonna solidify the guest experience in using that and remembering Dak as well as the operator, you know, much, much more so than if it was completely customizable.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it's, I mean, I think it's really interesting depending on the operator, right, is, you know, we have like the the guy, the guy with 20 doors, Um, and we, you know, we love all our operators, but the guy with 20 doors, we will get support tickets, um, where the gust[00:24:00]doesn't really know even what channel they booked on.

Right. Um, yeah, so it's kinda weird because they, they're using the DAK app. Um, they don't really know the name of the host they're staying with. They don't know the channel they booked on, right? If they do with someone like, you know, Casa or Grand Welcome, or Homes and Villas, right? They're gonna know where they, where they originally booked at, right?

A lot of these guys, they don't, so it really doesn't even matter at that point. What it just download this app or click on this link and follow the instructions out. Um, and, and, and they kind of go with it from. . Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So what, what would you say is the ideal type of client that you're going after?

Is it somebody that's on um, A P M S that just doesn't, they don't already, they don't offer an app or they don't offer a good guest experience in an app? Because I think that's, that's kind of what I've seen more is that everybody has some version of an app. Most of the software companies, but very few of 'em are actually.

I don't think any of 'em actually are anywhere near this good .[00:25:00]If, if it's native to that PMs, right? Yeah. Um, but like, like te tell us about like what the reason somebody normally comes to you that is, is the right customer. Yeah. It's interesting because we, we, um, we have a variety of customers. I think it's, I think what's so interesting about the space, so it's been a huge, huge learning for, for me and Damon.

Um, How different each operator is. Right? You have high, high end luxury operators, you have everything in between and, and they all kind of find a reason to use the platform and they, it's, it's never any one, uh, like specific reason, which is fair. Yeah. Um, and, but they, they all, they all end up there somehow.

Um, but what's really interesting. I think with the first, the first two PMSs we integrated with, um, one of them was streamlined and one of them was Escapia. Both of them have pretty decent apps. , um, you know, you, you realize from a technology standpoint, you[00:26:00]know, there's so much I wanna do with our tech and just mm-hmm.

unjust as guest experience app alone. And it's, you know, there's a, there's a, the broader companies are talking about like all in one and, you know, um, you know, incorporating everything into the pmms, this sort of thing. And it's. It's just not, I don't, I don't see how it's even feasible from a technology standpoint, knowing how much I have on my roadmap and how much I wanna develop with a team that we have.

Um, and they're working on trust accounting and inboxes and multi calendar and channel integrations and all this stuff. Right? And then for a lot of these guys, you know, the, the app, the customers are telling us, like the guest experience app has pretty much been frozen for the. Five years, like no new features, no new look change in the field and all that.

And, um, I think that, I think the look in the field does matter, right? I think improving it, making it sure it's modern, updating it regularly is, is pretty important as you, as you go as a company. Um, so I, yeah,[00:27:00]I think it's, it's interesting who we sell to and, um, the fact that these guys have a free app in their pmms, but they're still wanting to pay for DAG just because they see so much new features and new stuff coming out with it is pretty interesting to see.

Simon, uh, Lehman, a good friend of ours, of the show and ours, um, he has been doing a lot of, um, posts and kind of studies about like the technology within the space and like what exists. And he had a chart out, I think it was about two weeks ago, that showed where the technology sits in the verticals within vacation rentals and guest experience or what's deemed guest experience was like the.

Segment. And if you had asked me, I would've said PMSs cuz he had done a post. Mm-hmm. not too long before that about PMSs. And I was blown away at the number of these little small bespoke systems, you know, like in Asia and Europe and there's more of 'em popping up in the us. But how do you, in a crowded space, how do you, how do you see your ability to differentiate yourself and stand out?

Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. I think,[00:28:00]um, it's, it's, it's crazy because, you know, in 2019 we first started talking about, Um, a lot of the stuff we wanted to do was either like, newly viable or, or not even viable, right? So like, you know, even the digital access partnerships that we've worked on, um, over the last couple years, that sort of stuff, and, and managing key codes.

I mean, we have to like, you know, basically beat down the door at Allegion and yell in those places to get access to those APIs, right? Um, and so, yeah, so it was, it was so, it was so new then that there was, you know, basically no one in the space and it really got crowded fast. But I think what's really interesting is, In terms of penetration of the market, I think we're still probably, you know, maybe five, 10% of operators are using, you know, guest tag.

Right? Yeah. I think there's so much white space, blank space there. Um, I really don't even, we honestly don't come across competitors on most[00:29:00]calls. I think most calls that we have, You know, Dak versus the status quo, right? Like, whatever you know you're doing today with offline locks and, you know, and, and a binder in your unit.

Um, yeah. persuade you to go digital. We're not trying to persuade you to switch from Yeah. You know, like, uh, a paradigm to Dak or something like that. We just, we don't even come across each other really. And I've talked to their team too, and, and they don't, they don't really come across us as much either.

Such a blank space, and it's such a big space that, you know, it's been, it's been pretty great to, to grow into it. No, that's, it's funny you say that. Okay. No, I was gonna, I was gonna say just, uh, the, talking about the, the book, the Flip book. So I stayed with a very large brand not too long ago, and I had booked through an ota, didn't know that I was going to be in this brand, but they had me download an app and I downloaded the app and then it was just turned out, most of it was like via text, so it was fine.

But I did get to the unit and I thought it was really funny because I had seen your app and I had seen all the things that were sitting in it, and I was like, they had me download this app. I have the app. ,[00:30:00]but I get to the room and everything is still in a book. There's still these, you know, manila folders.

Yeah. With things for like, you know, here's your wifi and here's your instructions for the ac and this is what happens if your, you know, your power goes out. Like it. It was just really dumbfounding to me that like I downloaded this, they had been communicating with me, trying to upsell me on coming in early, staying an extra day, those kind of things.

But that part of it, that all that paper stuff was still sitting. In the unit. And I think that's where, that's where we, what you guys have, like just, it really just jumps in. It's like, you know, especially with Covid, they wanted you to take all of that stuff out of out of units, like so there wasn't paper and you needed to be able to have a digital way to get to 'em.

And I think it's just, So much easier to be on the fly change and update and add, um, you know, as opposed to going to every single unit and going, yeah, did I put the menus in there? You know, , it's crazy cause we couldn't, yeah, we couldn't even use menus for a while, remember on, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Everything is a QR code. Yeah, yeah. No, and it's, it's really, I mean, we're really, I think with this, with this, uh,[00:31:00]industry is, you know, really persuading people to go digital. And even, even, even like what we were talking about earlier with the notion on, you know, guests don't wanna download an app and then you go to Verma and you downloaded the Verma app for the , the vacation, the conference, it didn't work.

the same thing. And like you, you, you're guests and consumers download apps, you know, every day. And they, they want everything to be digital. Um, but the operators still have this inclination towards like print, like we have some operators that request Yeah. You know, QR code. For every item in the property to link to a specific page, you know, on deck, right?

Like, so they could link to like the web version. And I'm like, do you, do you really wanna print out, you know, codes and manage the links for those, for each property across my gosh, property portfolio? That sounds worst than digital, right? So get, get the guests to download an app or, or, or click on the link, right?

Get them engaged. It's super easy to manage from there. And, and you don't have to worry about the rest, you know.[00:32:00]Yeah, it's definitely, it's like it's a curve to get people out of what they're used to. And I know here in Myrtle Beach as well as where Annie is, you know, these are both various in Panama City, very established vacation rental.

Yeah. Industries that, you know, in, in our, in condos, there's not only your materials that you have, but also the Chamber of Commerce normally has a visitor's guide and that has to be updated every single year. And really it. A operational nightmare because it's to, to try and when you're in multiple different properties to try and streamline that process.

If you've gotta update 500 in the chamber book, that's a, a hardcover book. So if you've gotta update 500 condos with 500 books, they're heavy. You can't just have the maid service bring it up. I mean, like, they, they don't, they don't have time, they don't have the resources to do that. So a lot of times you.

Whenever you're doing, um, unit evaluations, that that stuff like that would get changed out. But still, it's hard to schedule[00:33:00]and make sure that you're, you're updating. And I'd be lying if I, I, I didn't admit that. There's several condos I've been in, in our area here that, you know, you, you find a, uh, visitors guy that's from several years ago.

Yeah, I believe it. Yeah. No, it's, it's, it's crazy. And I mean, some of the, some of the processes even beyond the, the guide that operators are still doing that. Offline. Um, and, and, and manual are just crazy to me. I mean, like we have, we have operators that still reset, you know, locks, uh, you know, manually. Uh, we had, we had an operator.

Um, and I feel okay saying it now because they ended up selling, but they were in San Diego and, and they were, they had their cleaning staff going up on ladders, changing the garage code manually after every stay. Oh my gosh. I was like crazy. Wow. Crazy. I have to digitize, like there's definitely some save time on Yeah.

Really low hanging fruit[00:34:00]there for sure. Yeah. Yeah. I remember having to do. Changes Alex, in our market, when we, when I worked for a large company, we. Almost 1800 on rental. And every year the phone books, they would deliver the phone books. Yeah, phone books. Yeah, exactly. We would deliver them on a pallet to mm-hmm.

this convention center that was at the hotel that was part of our company, and we would have to go in there and it was like, You know, here's the stack and you're gonna go with the housekeeping team and you're gonna go into all these units. And then it was like, well, the hoa, we managed the hoa. So the HOA is like, oh, well they want you to do all the units in a building, you know, so you spend like two days in a building just pulling that stuff out.

Yeah. Shocking in and out. It'ss just, it's just so, it's just so amazing to me. Like what Technology, like again, operational efficiencies that you can put in place by having something like. Yeah. And, and at the same, oh, go, oh, sorry. Go ahead. Oh, I was just gonna say, I, I did stay though at a air, at a, uh, caught, I almost just said at an Airbnb.

It really wasn't Airbnb though, because it was an individual owner. They booked[00:35:00]directly through on Airbnb this summer, uh, in, uh, the Smokey Mountains. And they did have, they had a guestbook in the unit. . That's also something that is kind of, it's debated, you know, I mean, there, there's pros and cons. You definitely have to really carefully watch what people are writing in that and remove if there are bad pitches.

Yeah. But if you are an, an individual host that's taking care of that unit, stuff like that is possible to still do and to still make it really feel like it is a local experience. So, I, I, I can't say that it's awful having. You know, having books and having those things in the units, but it's, it's at, at enterprise level, it's just really hard.

There's no way we could have cleaning crews, checking every, uh, visitor's book. And, and in the condos here, we used to have, um, guest books too. So, and sometimes you'll find a condo that the owner has put one in themselves Yeah. That we weren't made aware of. , so. Right. Some people just like to have that feedback.

They wanna know, like if somebody's saying that they love my unit, I think they also wanna do it so[00:36:00]they can show like an owner down there. You know, these people really liked my unit better. My laptops prettier than yours. You know, it's a, it's a personal, it's a thing. Yeah. Yeah. It really is. Yeah. That, that's the idea.

That too is, is if you free up your staff and you free up your team with automation and, and some tag, then you can focus on like the truly cool parts about, you know, hos hospitality, right? Like you can come up with. More engaging conversations you can have with them. It doesn't have, every call doesn't have to be about what the wifi code is or what, you know, how to, how to turn on the hot tub, stuff like that.

Mm-hmm. , I think it kinda frees up your team to do more memorable, engaging, you know, personal things like that if you don't have to worry about the rest of that stuff, you know? Mm-hmm. . Um, but yeah, I love the guest book idea. That's probably. It's probably been one of our most requested in-app features as well.

Really? Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. That's kinda like reviews, I guess, right? Yeah. Yeah. And we, we just, uh, launched like a checkout[00:37:00]flow where operators are start, are starting to get. Every checkout survey and, and pre-check in survey and or, or, okay. Post check and survey and stuff like that. So capturing the feedback's really important, but that guest book could be pretty cool on, you know, sharing stories, sharing ideas, tips about the local area, stuff like that.

Right. Yeah, I love that. Do you guys, um, do you offer like, the ability to put videos in and, and I what just popped into mind, Alex was thinking about Lauren Madewell at Antebellum's. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. She's done some really, really cute and engaging, like fun, like, you're about to check in, here's the rules, and she's made light of it and like you're about to check out and here's what you need to do.

And she dresses up in a bear costume and it's just absolutely hysterical. Yeah. It's just kitchy and it fits the market. So like that kind of thing. Like I, I, I, I've just shared it with people. Like I encourage people like videos. So do you have the capability of embedding a video in the app? Yeah, you can.

Yeah. You can embed videos, uh, pretty much in any content category. So this meeting, cool. All that. Right. And then,[00:38:00]um, we actually have our own videos for stuff that people get stuck on. Right? So one of the ones that we. Is, uh, we have animations for how to use smart locks. Um, and so you click need help in the app and then it'll show you how to use a yellow lock or Alay lock or an August locker.

Yeah, I realized is. Um, as we were getting support requests and stuff like that is guests don't have never seen a yellow lock before , right? If you've never seen it before, you don't know that you need to wake it up with three fingers, like, uh, or you can click on the yellow logo or press the keypad with three fingers to wake it up and, and you don't also don't know how to lock it.

You have to click like the check mark to lock it when you leave. Um, so we had this great team. And, uh, South Africa come up with this, this set of animations that walks you through it. Um, there was like some actress from South Africa that did the voice, so it's kind of fun. It's got this, yeah. . That's awesome.

That was really, yeah. And that, that's actually helped once, once we implemented those, I think, um,[00:39:00]our, our support request went like down I'd, I'd say probably about half. Yeah. It's just. Yeah. And these locks are just so, like that's, and it's so funny cuz we had the same problem where it was like they sent us the instructions but it wasn.

It wasn't, it just didn't flow right. So it was like, you know, step one, step two. But it was like we kept doing it, but if you waited too long, it would reset. And we, I think we stood outside the unit for like 15 minutes trying to figure the lock. And I'm like, I'm sure the people in the neighborhood were like, are they breaking in?

Like, what is, yeah. What's going on? So I'm sure that that's, that's a very helpful, helpful tool to be able to have. Yeah. Yeah. And we thought we had like a, we thought we had some, some tech issues and, and stuff like that. And, and then we were starting to run reports where we're like, no, we're getting like a hundred percent, you know, accuracy on, on writing codes, you know, so like it has to be used error, but you never want to tell someone that , right?

Yeah, yeah. Out in the cold. So yeah, we try to figure out every possible way to. Get that guest in that unit, um, through the user experience. Right. Um, that's[00:40:00]been like a big, big goal for us. Cause no operator wants to get called at at 1:00 AM you know, . No. Right. Yeah, definitely not . Especially if they're paying for technology.

They want technology to solve some of those problems for them. Yeah, that's right. So how many PMSs do you guys actually, um, are you connected to at this point? Yeah, it's, uh, we're up to 18 now. Uh, okay. , um, which has been, uh, a feed in itself for sure. Um, our, our team, our team built a really good architecture that is, it makes it pretty easy to plug new, new APIs into it, but mm-hmm.

um, I think the harder part is, you know, getting in touch, uh, with people at the PMs companies and getting Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, when you're a new kid on the block and they're getting. Left and right to integrate that. It's definitely a challenge, but yeah, you've gotta have, it's like what comes first, what comes first, the, the horse of the cart.

And you've gotta have enough clients that want to use you for the PMSs to let you in, but you can't[00:41:00]get in unless you have the connections. Right. See that happen a lot. Yeah. Yeah. No, it's crazy. And it's, it's, it's awesome. Now is, you know, there's so many new ones out there that are completely cloud-based where Yeah.

You never even had to contact anyone at. Yeah, company, the API was there. Um, and I think like, uh, hospitable is one, you know, like I mentioned that's like, and, and, and out listing both of those guys have completely open APIs. Um, yeah. Yeah. And things did not used to be like that. I mean, been been in the business for as long as any, and I have, I mean, gosh, you'd, it's, and really not even that long ago.

Was that still severely an issue? And I know with some of our, uh, hotel partners that we've worked with at our condo resorts in the Myrtle Beach area, And in Panama City where any is, uh, that's, that's one of the biggest problems they have with their hotel tech, is that they are very much closed off systems.

And if you wanna do an API into them, hold on, , you know, brace yourself, because it's gonna be very expensive and it's gonna take a really[00:42:00]long time and it might not even work. So it's a, a big risk, but it's, uh, it's good to see. And we've talked to, uh, several of, of the CEOs of other p m s companies and Margot and, and.

Marcus and Yeah. Um, Vare at, at, uh, Guesty. Hostfully hosted, yeah. All, all of them. And just had the same conversation that it's, it's exciting and I'm proud that we can say that our industry has taken a very different stance on that versus that, uh, the hotel, older tech. And we've really just, I think we've really progressed as an industry because of Covid, you know, how much happened in that time and, you know, companies.

Like Dak is, is just proof of that. So it's, it's, I honestly don't think we, I don't think we could be a company in, in 20 and, and the two things going for. All the access providers and all the PMSs, you know, opened up their APIs. Yeah, right. And then the other thing was, you[00:43:00]know, the, the, the, the positive, you know, spin on, you know, the, the pandemic was, you know, everyone went digital.

And I knew, I knew we had a chance at getting people to engage with an app when, like my parents started using Instacart . Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Things that, yeah, that definitely. Definitely changed . Yeah. But I heard, I heard, I've heard some crazy stats too on the hotel space is I think it's still only like 20 or 30% cloud-based total.

Yeah. It's crazy. Yeah. Yeah. And, and it gets really crazy when you've got, there's so much crossover between hotel and vacation rental inventory that they now want to be able to list their properties on vacation rental channels. And I mean, that, that connectivity just is, is very minimal. I mean, if it exists, it's, it's.

It, it's, it's not anything close to how, uh, robust it is on the vacation rental side. I think we've got way more options for distribution just in general, um, for our product. Yeah. So[00:44:00]thankful that we do . Cause I've seen the dark side. It's not fun. . So what are you most excited about in the new year for Dak and, and just even personally, like what are, what are some goals or things that you're looking forward to?

Yeah, yeah. No, definitely. Um, for us, I think we're really, I think we're really at this point now, um, where everything in the roadmap is like never been done before. Um, or at least I haven't seen it implemented. And so there's a lot of really cool stuff. Like we kind of have our core. Product set and everything works well from, you know, check in the checkout, like I said.

But now we can kind of do new and exciting things, um, you know, with itinerary, with additional guests, you know, sharing, uh, upsell, stuff like that. And, um, we don't have to worry anymore about, you know, making sure that a gets written to a lock or making sure that we're stable with our guesty integration.

Stuff like that. We've kind of worked through all. Um, day-to-day[00:45:00]hiccups, you know, as a, as a new company. So it's, it should be a really exciting year, you know, product-wise, and I'm, I'm really excited for that. Um, you know, especially cuz that's the part of the company I love to do Right. Is yeah. That's awesome.

And uh, when you're a co-founder, I've also been like accountant, you know, doing a lot of all trades, right? Yeah. As we've grown the team, the, of all the all trades. There you go. It's not bad. That is good. Yeah. the of all trades cuz you guys do a lot . That's how we started the podcast. . Uh, that's, I'm gonna steal that one.

Yeah, that's . We just want a small feed. No, . Yeah, exactly. Oh, well, Thomas, it has been wonderful to hear more about what you have going on just to get to know you better. And, and we appreciate, um, your support of the podcast. You, you and all your team and, and the company has been great, uh, to us and we appreciate that Very much.

So thank you again for coming on today. No, thanks so much[00:46:00]for having me, guys. I really, really enjoyed it and uh, it was a pleasure being. Yeah, absolutely. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what's the easiest way to contact you? Yeah, they can do, uh, Thomas Inc. Would be my email. Um, I didn't go to the website, inc.com and, and, uh, use the, uh, book of demo form there and, and I'll usually see any of those come through as well.

And, uh, okay. Happy to hear from anybody. Okay, great. Awesome. If anybody wants to get in touch with Annie and I, you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com and until next time, thank you for tuning in everybody.

Thomas SchaperProfile Photo

Thomas Schaper

Head of Product & Co-Founder Dack Inc

Thomas Schaper is Head of Product and co-founder of DACK, a SaaS platform dedicated to transforming the short-term rental guest experience. In just a few short years DACK has grown from being offered at zero to thousands of doors and has seen over 60K guest app downloads. Prior to DACK Thomas worked in product development for a travel and experiences startup in Las Vegas, including an application to help guests book last-minute bottle service. In 2019 he crossed paths with Damon Mintzer, DACK's CEO, and found they were both equally fed up with inconsistent guest experiences while traveling and the surprising lack of technology in lodging. They saw an opportunity to digitize and enhance the guest experience. DACK received its first funding from outside investors in late 2020 as the travel world was getting back to its feet after the pandemic and were lucky enough to be part of the incredible growth and resurgence of the STR and lodging market.