Dec. 14, 2022

How a Young Entrepreneur is Re-imagining Guest Experience Technology, with Francois Goello


Francois Goello who is the founder of Enso Connect joins us today for an interesting tale of how a terrible guest experience led to him founding one of the slickest guest apps on the market. Francois tells us how Enso Connect was built from the guest perspective first - rather than the property first - and how this frame of mind is enabling them to solve communication issues that PMS's (property management systems) were not made to handle. 

An entrepreneur from a very early age, Francois shares how his first two jobs involved snow balls and trading American Express cards. Now leading Enso Connect at only 25 years of age, Francois has an infectious energy and passion for technology and the industry. Tune in for an engaging episode!

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

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

CONTACT FRANCOIS GOELLO
Enso Connect
LinkedIn

CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
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Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Transcript

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm Alex

Annie Holcombe:

and Im Annie!

Alex Husner:

. And we're joined today with Francois Gouelo of Enzo connect, Francoise, welcome to the show.

Francois Gouelo:

Thank you so much for having me really appreciate it. And this is the highlight of my day today. So

Alex Husner:

the highlight of our day in our week we've been in month that really, I mean, we've been looking forward to talking to you for for so long now, and just so excited to hear about everything you have going on and Enzo connect, and, more importantly, just about you because you went in the time that we've grown to know you are just a fireball of energy and creativity and entrepreneurship. So before we get started, can you give our audience just a little bit of background on what they don't know about you? But some of the things that we might know and we're so impressed by?

Francois Gouelo:

For sure, for sure. I'll I'll start with the demographics. So I'm born in London, live, I grew up in London, then moved to New York and moved to Paris and moved to Toronto. I'm French, but from France, not from Canada. Even though I live in Toronto, everyone keeps thinking I'm Quebecoi. But and you know, and so started off actually as a class project. Back in 2019. I was at the University of Toronto studying computer science, cognitive science, focus in computational linguistics, had to come up with a solution to an entrepreneurial problem. And it had to be robotics focused, and I really don't like robotics. So I went up to my prof and I said, Can I do smart home devices instead? He reluctantly said yes, but he said, You're not going to win the $10,000 cash prize because all the judges are robotics. So I said Challenge Accepted Mario and the first weekend, my best friend calls me up and he says Francois while you're French, you don't know how to ski you're trying to become Canadian. You don't know how to ski you need to learn. So it was a very last minute trip. Friday afternoon he we get in the car we book a vacation rental on the way it was instant book on Airbnb. So we get one of those automated messages that just says key under the doormat. Have a nice day. We get to the unit. Key is frozen under the doormat three centimeters of thick. That's a good start to the guest experience. Oh, yeah, it was pretty messy. We finally get in after prying the door open and the heating system is per room. But we couldn't figure that out until the end of the stay. We all just slept in the living room. And then it was just it was a messy stay. But like the millennials, we are we're asking for like pizza delivery in the middle of nowhere. 11pm like as the corners

Alex Husner:

and I wouldn't be doing the same.

Francois Gouelo:

Right? And yeah, five days after checkout, we get a text message saying we left one of the windows open to the kitchen, kitchen pipes froze. We owe him $5,000 and he's sending us to small claims court. So that's what started. Enzo.

Annie Holcombe:

Wow. Wow. Did you learn to see but did you learn to ski that weekend?

Francois Gouelo:

So I learned pizza and fries go? Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's what I learned. Yeah, yeah. Turns out wow, not pizza stop. If you're on a blue going super fast. So no, I did not learn how to ski properly. The big one? Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

The bunny slope, right.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So was that an individual owner that you booked through on Airbnb? Or was it a professional?

Francois Gouelo:

It was a professional company. And funny enough, they ended up in one of our sales sequences. And I was like, guys, not this one. Not to

Alex Husner:

add on another $5,000. Yeah,

Francois Gouelo:

exactly. Like, hey, you were the inspiration behind this. But yeah, I mean, we ended up winning the 10 Grand. And initially, we started in a completely wrong direction, we're actually looking to build a property management system, which was mistake numero uno. This was pre pandemic. And we quickly realized there's enough PMS systems out there. So let's focus on what we do best, which is guest experience and work with the PMS is rather than against. And that's what led to where we're at today. And, you know, the different segments of the journey. I mean, there's been a lot of hiccups along the way, let's, let's be real COVID being one of them, of course. But, yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

So your aha moment was that that weekend? I take it like that really started your spark of, going down this path?

Francois Gouelo:

For sure. I mean, it was a it was a combination of one I've always loved to travel. So this was a great way for me to mix, you know, a passion which was traveling I think it always gives you that sense of being a child again, when you explore a new location. And having grown up in both having had the privilege of growing up in Europe and North America, I felt like my travel experiences within Europe and North America had gotten a bit stale. And so I started exploring Southeast Asia and Latin am Erika and other places and it kind of sparked that interest for travel again that year when when that idea had sparked or when we had that issue with the ski trip. But I would say the aha moment for where Enzo Connect is today is when we started discovering the amount of pieces of tech that people were using the soft point based solutions, how fragmented the industry is on that side of things, and how it actually affects the guest experience how important the guest experience is not just as the general topic that a lot of people been using these days, but as a quantifiable metric for years, the success of your business reviews, you know, it's one of the key metrics for owners owner retention, and even just your business in general to get more guests. So yeah, there have been a few aha moments, quite frankly,

Alex Husner:

I'm sure I'm sure. I was heard about a property manager the other day, who uses 28 different systems, or that team has to regularly use 28 different systems like that is unbelievable. I mean, how do you how do you scale that? How do you teach that? That's just you know, there's so much room for error when you start using multiple systems. And I think, you know, property management software in our industry has has evolved a lot over the years. But really, you know what, it was built four years ago. Sorry. Okay. Well, I'll start from scratch and then yeah, so? Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. I was talking to a company the other day that I heard that they use 28 different systems to run their business. And you know, from a scalability stance, that's this, that makes it impossible, you can't have that many systems that your staff is having to use. And the margin for error just increases more and more when you keep adding on more programs. And it's, you know, the way that property management systems were built within our industry, they started basically, just as an accounting platform, that's the core basis of what a property management system is. But as things you know, started to evolve and the needs of how the website was so important, and the call center became so important, and then how you streamline communications, I feel like a lot of the technology in our space is more it's been kind of Jenga put together, like block by block, but never was never was built years ago, to know where it is now. And so some of the newer technology that's out there, I think they've had a better opportunity to, you know, look towards the future a little bit a little bit better. But also, some of the some of those technologies also suffer from not understanding as much on what operators really need as their software. And I think what I what I love about what you guys have done is you really, you're more than just an app, I think you really connect a lot of different assets of facets of the guest experience and the guests communication process, from the time of booking all the way through post stay with a unified inbox that makes things a lot easier for teams. I mean, your your system actually does cater to kind of the legacy operators that have reservation teams who aren't just online, you know, online agents. So can you tell us a little bit more about Enzo and what you've built and where you stand?

Unknown:

Yeah. So, you know, after this whole PMS conversation, and realizing we're not going down that path COVID hit and we were still, you know, exploring a bit the industry trying to understand that the key problems people were facing, and part of the solution that we had pitched and started building was around communication. And so when we started building out was a unified inbox. That was the first piece of tech weebill text email, WhatsApp Airbnb message with plans of even integrating social media platforms in the near future and started layering a lot of basic automations AI driven decision making systems. So whether it's sentiment analysis, context analysis, or even chatbot like features, but when it wasn't enough, and to the automations that we started, people started seeing people use were overkill. And were overkill to the point that it was actually damaging the guest experience because they were sending so many messages to the guest automate different aspects that guests they didn't care. They don't care about all this. They just want to know when can I check in and that's it. Sure. I need to send you my passport, my DS and my this and I don't care what's code, I just want to get it. Right. And so, at the end, I think it was January of this year, actually, we launched a very small proof of concept around the boarding pass. And I was very pleasantly surprised. That's where things started uptaking for us very quickly, and we we signed like 300 accounts in the first month, which we had never done that before. We had, you know, very fewer accounts at the time. And it evolved rapidly, you know, it started off with a way for you to just display the check in information and collect some emails. Then we had customers come in, and they were like, well, I want to do verification, and then other customers came in, I want to do upsells, I want to do smart locks, I want to do this, I want to do that. And so we started approaching all the different companies in the space that do these different pieces, AutoHost on the verification, you know, Annie Host CO on upsells, or Mount with upsells and started looking at all these different pieces and thinking, well, how can we bring all of this under one umbrella. So it's just one link you send to guests. And that's it. And we partnered with a lot of these companies. But then what we realized was well, people want to use things based on their business like every and this is something Steve Milo actually iterated VRMA, which is, every owner, every property manager, every guest, every property is different in the vacation rental space. That's what makes this industry so unique compared to the hotel industry were very standardized. And so on vacation rental, we're looking for standardization. So using that same customization engine of the messaging, we applied it to the boarding pass so that you can start saying if this channel, run the verification with these guys, if this type of guest upsell this, if this, you know business like franchise or sub Property Group, run it that way, and really customizing all the different segments. So that you're not forced into this sort of pigeonhole or one guest experience. And that's it, it's your business, you choose how you want to run it, we're just connecting all these different tools that you're using, and letting you choose how you want to use them based on your business rules. And it's been fun.

Annie Holcombe:

And that's just amazing. And to that point, like, you know, I talking with people and and like just throughout my my industry experience, like I started out in hotels, moved over to vacation rentals, and went to OTA, and it's been the whole circle. But that's always been like the issue is like, there's all these pieces of technology that were kind of sitting out there that were great, and they were functional. But the problem was they weren't agile enough to work for vacation rentals, because like you said everything within one company can be so inherently different. So I think what you've been able to do is you've built this technology or created this connection of technology where it is agile, and it can just function based on what the needs are of the of the property manager. So growth for you scalability for you must just be limitless at this point.

Unknown:

That's the objective. And actually, there's two pieces to the growth side of things on how we built EnzoConnect that makes this, you know, not sound arrogant, but like a billion dollar idea. And I do really think so is the fact that the architecture of our system. So connection with a lot of different tools is a big piece because it's no longer a rip and replace, I don't go to you as a property manager and say, Hey, rip your existing tech stack, use mine, it's better because XYZ, I say no, keep what you've got replaced certain pieces if you want to, but make it work together so that you don't make mistakes, updating, I forgot to update that system. So this didn't get sent down human error which can happen but also tech error, because it's not communicating between each other. But the real bit, I'd say the secret sauce that you guys get to denote here, that I think I'd shared a Verma is how we built our infrastructure. We didn't build it around properties, we built it around guests. Which means with enough guests being processed through Enzo connect, we can start seeing patterns. And we've already started seeing few but enough to know that this is the right direction on guest behaviors based on demographics based on where they're coming from, you know, what if they're traveling for business, and we're collecting all that information, not just through the boarding pass, but through messaging, knowing their sentiment, knowing what types of questions they ask, so that we can infer insights for future property managers and upsells additional revenue opportunities. Basically, if you book a property on Enzo connect today, and tomorrow, you book another property from a completely different property manager, who's also Enzo connected. I can tell that second property manager, by the way, Alex and Annie had rented out their properties to Bob, and this is the experience they had and these are the reasons that we suggest doing this, this and that. And I think it creates kind of a community from a data perspective. Obviously, there's a lot of limitations, privacy and segments that we have to go through before we can really go down. But

Alex Husner:

that's really I love that you built it based on guests versus on properties. I think that's that's really poignant statement. So how do you foresee that communication on the data sharing work? Working if I book at one company, but then I look at another company and they both use Enzo connect, like, where how do you connect those dots in a way that's meaningful either? Is it meaningful to the guest? And no? Or is it to the property manager? Like it does like, yes, make an account with Enzo connect, or how does that work?

Francois Gouelo:

No. So the guest doesn't get anything other than a web app. It's a link that we send through our messaging system, text, email, WhatsApp, Airbnb, etc, they open that link. And it's pretty much everything they need for their state verification, check in smart locks, upsells, guidebooks, all branded with the property managers, logos, social media tags, and so on. They have no application to download, they can add it to their Apple wallet, and so on the data that we're inferring and collecting throughout their process. So as they're opening up the guidebooks and reading information, as they're purchasing certain upsells are putting in certain data points, travel reasons, emails, phone numbers, we're centralizing that at the Enzo level, now you still own that data, you can use our CRM to retarget them, you can export it, it's your data, we're not going to do we're not monetizing it for selling it to third party or anything like that. However, we're going to infer insights that, you know, we can't necessarily share the names, we can't necessarily share personal data on past historical upsells. But we can infer what should be done. So if I know Bob is traveling for business, and every time he travels for business, he purchases an early check in now let's say he books a new property and I see that Bob has booked this new property is also traveling for business. And because we collected the flight number and connect the flight awareness and know Hey, the flight is late. We know he's gonna We're actually the flight is early, I guess that would be the example we know he's going to purchase an early check in. So let's push that upsell to the guest. Okay, a new revenue stream for the operator and a better experience for the guests because you proactively provided a service, maybe you provide it for free because you already know he's going to need it and that's just going to be that extra thing that made this trip even better. Whatever it is however you want to to do it but optimizing on a more granular level and personalizing but really personalizing not saying personalized because we use his name and a message like that's Right. Personalized to needs. His actual needs and wants not personalization. Right. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. Oh my gosh, that's so cool. Like I think of all the different times I think like that could have been contacted be sold a spa because I was gonna be there for hours earlier. Yeah. Yeah. They need to follow us around Alex. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, no kidding. Definitely an Alex and Annie thing for sure. So one thing that I have noticed too about PMS is is the the guest automation communications, whether it's the confirmation, the pre arrival, the post days, like that's, that's also really not the core competency of a PMS. And I think that's, that's kind of what drew me to you. Several months ago, when we first started talking about it, I was just curious to see how y'all were doing it. Because in a similar fashion, when I was at condo world, we used a company called revinate, that sort of sent out all of our pre arrivals, confirmations, as well as our actual email marketing promotions. But I think it's a hard thing to have within a software. So I mean, what do you see? What do you foresee? Like, do you foresee Enzo event? I know you do some white labeling, but like, do you see software companies really just bringing you into the fold? Or do you think that they're going to continue to try and figure out and replicate the technology that you've built? Or where do you see the convergence within those two sides?

Unknown:

I mean, I think, you know, there will be companies there will be PMS is that will continue to want to be at all and build it all. And that's good. And, you know, to each their own, I think it's more of a land grab and time to time to market kind of question. If anything is, as a property management system, you have 1000s of things to look at, I mean channel management and owner this and guess and accounting and financials. And I mean, I couldn't even list everything. And I've written actually my whole thesis for my master's, I've written it on convergence of hospitality technology. And the the take behind it, the research that we that we have done on this was there's four potentially five now I've learned after the thesis was was submitted key verticals and while the PMS is trying to be all five verticals, which would be you know, cleaning, maintenance operations, guest experience, revenue management, dynamic pricing, that segment and then accounting, which could be tied within revenue management. I think and of course, you could keep going on additional verticals but I think they can fit within those pillars. For that to want to build everything is complicated. None of them have succeeded. Even the ones that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars still have a marketplace still have a lot of useage And in fact, I would quote Mews, one of the property management system in the hotel space that actually sees more success with their operators, the more tools they have. Now, I don't think it has to do with the quantity of tools, but the fact that the tools that they're able to use are focused, they are specialized in one thing, and they're the best in that vertical. Now, how wide that vertical is TBD, to be determined, but I think the property management system side of things is potentially too wide to cover it all. Messaging wise to answer your question a bit more. Specifically, Alex, you know, Guesty, he has a very powerful unified inbox, no questions asked Hostaway as well, doesn't matter. Like we to a synchronize with most of these systems, whether you use ours, there's, it doesn't matter because there's additional value around the boarding pass that customers are using. And then if they do want to make a shift, because we have additional functionalities around AI, this, whatever, go for it. At the end of the day. Our approach. We're kind of like the Labradors that like to stay in this industry. We're not the pit bulls is not. We're not trying to replace things. And we're trying to connect all of it in a way that makes sense. And then you choose what you want to use. If you want 28 tools, go for it. Not a problem. Yeah, exactly. Not Recommended. But

Alex Husner:

yeah, and property managers can customize all these journeys themselves. Right. So I mean, the if, then this tech. Yeah, that back end, that's all on our side to make adjustments to. Yeah, that's great. Exactly. Very cool. Exact. Very cool. So let's talk a little bit about you, we want to know about you. And just one of the things you left out and when you gave your initial demographics was your age and you're you're you're young, right, but you're how old are you?

Francois Gouelo:

2525. Okay,

Alex Husner:

so and you've, you've done a lot, and you've you've built a lot, and your growth trajectory is just huge for somebody at that age. But talk talk about like, I mean, just what your entrepreneurial journey has been like, I mean, how did you know from a very young age that this is, this is what you wanted to do and wanted to lead a team of technologists and developers and Did you always know that?

Unknown:

Yes and No, like I always, I always had an entrepreneurial vibe, if you will, like my first non official venture was selling Snowball's in France to people at the park because I had the this little machine that can make the perfect round snowballs

Annie Holcombe:

The little scooper

Francois Gouelo:

Yeah. France, nobody like It never snows. And I think was back in 2013. It started snowing enough to make real snowballs and I put them up on the I lived in a city called sajama Lab, which had a beautiful view of Paris, it was on a plateau. And so I put it on the I guess the ramp, the woody, would you call it the fence line, all these snowballs, and people started taking pictures. And I was like, wait a minute, that's my IP. So I started charging them. And then I started gamifying it being like, you throw a snowball and hit my snowball, then I'll give you your money back. And like, oh, it was an old lady and makes her really far away. So she couldn't hit it.

Alex Husner:

Definitely the most. Or job.

Annie Holcombe:

Oh my gosh, I love it.

Francois Gouelo:

I'm definitely not an official business. My dad had, you know, Amex sends you these fake credit cards, or they used to send you the fake ones to kind of show you what it looks like, right? And so I don't know why but they send them so many of these. And I started trading them like it was real currency I got in trouble for it got acquired by the principle. So I mean, I've always been inclined to do something and have that entrepreneurial fire for sure. But I didn't know that it was gonna happen right after university. I thought it was gonna be more traditional, go through my master's program, you know, go to a software engineering gig in, you know, one of the big tech companies. And then once I get fed up and start my own thing, or once I have a bit of money, then start my own thing. That's kind of just landed on my lap. I mean, I was I was given this opportunity to join this course, we started this thing. We won the money of starting a Master's of entrepreneurship at Cambridge in the UK. And I was like, this kind of all aligns. Let's keep doing it. Let's see. Yeah. And then now it's like, there's no, I mean, first of all, there's no way out of this. Like, I've signed up for this.

Annie Holcombe:

There's no backing away now.

Francois Gouelo:

But either way, I'm loving it. Like it is the best thing ever. It's the most time consuming, tiring. And you know, yeah, it's being a founder is one of the most exhausting jobs but it's so fun. And I get to meet people from around the world. So

Annie Holcombe:

yeah, it clearly fulfills you and you like just you just you have this energy that that radiates from you. And I remember, I think it was Julie George was the first person that had brought you up, at least to me and I think I probably to Alex too, and we were both Like, there's no way this kid like, yeah, she's like blowing smoke like this can't be real and like, the more we got to, like, read about you and like, connect with you, and it's just like, you had a brilliant idea, and you weren't afraid to just go after it. And I think that that's just that's such a great story to anybody that just, you know, if you if you have something, you have an idea go after it. I mean, it might not work, it might work. And if, and if you can, if you can derive any sort of passion from it, like, that's what life is all about is finding little moments that will drive you forward. So I wanted to touch on that, like, so you, you're young, you come up with this incredible idea. You start going to meet with people. So were you meeting with property managers that were like, I have, like bed linens that are older than you like, I mean, were they? They were just like, I don't know anything about this business. I mean, did you find that that were your age, was maybe a barrier that you had to find a way to really hone your your pitch your delivery of the product in such a way that you could overcome that?

Unknown:

Oh, for sure. I mean, first off, I had no, I don't come from this industry, which I think is something that is beneficial for a tech company. Because I come in from a tech perspective, I don't come in as I was a property manager, and these are the problems I faced, therefore, I built this. Sure, that's what you faced, but every other property manager, right have not faced that same problem. So I get a bit more of a step back on how this industry works. You know, I came in with an I didnt know what channel manager was Simon Lehman taught me. I was there, it was so cool. Like, many of our problems, you know, yeah. So no, I didn't have any experience in the space other than, you know, being on the guest side of things which, which could conflict on how you would build the tech but two pieces to that was one building the best team ever. Like, this is not this is not a me show, even though I'm the one on videos, although I'm gonna start externalizing that to the team. thing. Yeah, you know, we've got the best engineers, I've got the best marketing, I've got the best design, I've got the best onboarding. Oscar has been killing it on the onboarding. I can't even imagine. Kudos to Oscar for that. But the age has been a handicap in some cases. I remember a few examples where that question would be brought up as part of negotiations as if it had any impact. So you know, it takes longer to build that credibility in the industry. At my age, I don't have that 20 years of experience, and so on. But you meet the right people, you persevere, you keep going, you don't give up and people start listening slowly and surely. And now now they're coming to me for consulting. And I'm like, yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah, it's it's so crazy. And I would echo the same thing that you said that, I get asked a lot, if I've had a challenge, you know, rising up in business, because I'm a woman. And I've always said that, I really think that is I had more of a challenge in my early days, because I was young, then. And I was judged more for being young at that time that I was about your age, really a couple years younger, when I got into vacation rentals and tourism in our area here. And it was more just that people just didn't trust that you knew what you were talking about. And to be honest I probably didn't. So, because it takes experience, you know, and, you know, once I quickly got that experience, but but just like you said, it takes meeting the right people, and leveraging those moments of confidence to be able to continue to push yourself forward. And I it's exciting to see I think our industry is becoming so it has certainly since then become more accepting of younger people coming into the fold, because technology is just you know, that such a big part in it, that we need younger people that have been brought up with this tech,

Unknown:

for sure. And I would also add, like, trust, you know, when the trust factor around the people that we work with, as well, which took time initially, you know, landing that first customer landing that first investor and so on. But then it's a it's, it gets the machine going. And once you get the machine going on like right now I'm at a phase where I can comfortably say we have product market fit, we still have to work on our distribution strategy, we still have to work on on certain things. But it's gotten to a point where if someone doesn't, isn't sure, I can just be like, well look at the hundreds of property managers, we've 20,000 properties on our platform now. Everyone's like, yeah, you know, if you don't trust me, ask them. You know, and it's, it's that has, but it took time. I mean, my first customer who's also happens to be my second investor was gesturing where basically it was kind of a weird, weird thing. But I had won the City of Toronto Entrepreneur of the Year for this pitch competition. So it's 2019 pre pandemic, we want to build this PMS thing. We've got a proof of concept and we've got like one property manager with like 60 properties on it, you know, and that's pretty much it. And we win this this pitch competition from Entrepreneur Organization, and I meet this guy called Daniel Dubois, who is, I think, like head of Airbnb for Canada at the time and Eastern USA or a piece of the Eastern east coast. And he puts me in touch with Mike from Jetstream. And I pitched them what I want to do, and they believed in it, and they were, you know, very, very positive then COVID Hit the worst time to follow up with them. Yeah. But two, three months later, he follows up with me, and we keep conversation going. And we're talking about, you know, potentially as joining their team, like there were different conversations. And then I just said, Why don't you invest some money, and let's see what happens. And, you know, it kind of led one way to one thing led to another, and it was really just a snowball effect, if you will, of customers, investors, partners and people to meet. And yeah, big kudos to Jetstream, and obviously, our very first investor Creator Fund that probably took the biggest risk because they put in their money six days before Trump closed the borders. Yeah, that day, when when the borders were closed, everyone else backed out real quick for anything travel related. So yeah. Big kudos to Creatore Fund for that. But yeah, it's been a bit of a, you know,

Alex Husner:

there's there's no straight line in any of these types of journeys. So, yeah, that's exciting.

Unknown:

I don't know. Yeah, I suppose the other thing is being young. I've got, you know, people say nine to five, I got 12 hours in the day, maybe 14?

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, you got the energy

Francois Gouelo:

Yeah, I got the energy to keep going. So yeah, the difference is, maybe yeah, I don't have the experience. But I've got double the amount of time that you know, someone with 20 years experience has to learn, and to figure it out. So you know, they say it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in a subject. Goldman Sachs pays their employees very well, because they expect them to work 14 hours to get that 10,000 hours. Yeah, shorter timeframe. So it's kind of the same idea with Enzo, it's like, hey, how much can I learn quickly about how this industry works? So I can be, you know, not just thought leadership, but I can't know what the hell I'm talking about. Right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's how I see it. I don't know.

Alex Husner:

No, it's a great perspective. It's a great perspective. So what what do you think is, I mean, coming into vacation rentals and not knowing the industry? What do you what would you say is the biggest challenge for you right now? I mean, what what's, what's the thing that keeps you up at night?

Unknown:

So I mentioned distribution, we, one of the things that we did was, instead of integrating with all the PMS is and then kind of figuring out how to make good technology, we decided to do the entire opposite, which was let's build really good technology and integrate to few systems and then work our way in. So I mean, right now, the thing that's keeping me up at night is how quickly can we increase that distribution strategy now that we know that product is working product is good. I want to move fast. And I mean, there's so many things, Alex, Annie that keeps me up at night. So many things like it's probably bad, but the team making sure everyone's happy. And everyone feels like they've got the right purpose here. You know, where we're headed in a few months, some of the new features that are coming out, and how we're going to hire people, because right now we're going through a hiring process. And I'm, as I mentioned earlier, like, um, HR and recruiting and everything, but like, yeah, when do you when do you hire a recruiting person? Like when right after 20 people after 30 People like I don't know, like, Right.

Annie Holcombe:

Steve Trover could help you out there for sure. That man has a system down to help people out. But I wanted to ask you, you know, there's all these pieces of technology and I think that one of the things that Alex and I have identified is that out of COVID came collaboration out of COVID came innovation. out of COVID came a sense of purpose and place that vacation rentals had not been experiencing before industry has been around for a really long time. We've all been struggling to try and try to get our footing get our place in the sun. We haven't. So for you, what do you think is the next logical step for Enzo Connect like would you do you foresee you taking this and rolling it out and like replicating into like different business models for different types of industries? Or you know, I just feel like you have this this mind that's constantly working because you're not sleeping at night because you're up thinking what what where do you where do you see all this going for you with with again? There's a huge spotlight on our industry like how can you you Francoise and Enzo take it take advantage of that spotlight?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, I think we're gonna stick to the hospitality industry. I love this space. I mean, whether it's hotels, vacation rentals, what you mentioned about, you know, community and people coming together. I see this in our industry more than any other industry. Free that, you know, so definitely. Yeah, yeah, it's one big family and even competitors, even, you know, whatever it's like everyone's kind of we're all working towards the same goal and that sense. Yeah, I agree. I think there's a way for us. So you know, we've been focused on the professional operators at this stage. So people, there's no limit necessarily in listing count, but really people who are looking to scale a business, if you're running just a side gig hustle, and that's it, we're not necessarily going to be the right fit. But if you're looking to build a business and scale it and get it to, you know, 50 100 500 properties, that's really what we focus on. And what I'm interested in is actually there's one key vision, I would say behind Enzo Connect is to provide the same quality and experience as hotels have for years, especially luxury hotels, but for all vacation rentals, basically bringing that set of standardization and experience that hotels are are strong on. But in a digital, international global format, where you can run almost automated but personalized hospitality business and focus your team and your efforts on what matters in hospitality, which is the human connection, not, you know, just everything that has to be automated in the operations and the cleaning, and the this and the accounting, etc. I think there's an opportunity for us to move both towards the hotel market further. We are in boutique hotels, we are in this sort of, you know, middle ground of what you would consider hotels, I'm not sure if they're hotels vacation rentals are like semi condo like, right? Yeah, yeah. You know, it's like, you have like

Alex Husner:

condo-Hotels.

Francois Gouelo:

Yeah. Cool. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Um, but start moving more towards traditional hotels, for sure. And downstream towards individual operators. Although that one, I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like. Because it would have to be super self served. Because the CAC LTV and all that doesn't make sense at this stage, but anyway, that's, that's numbers. Look, I think we can conquer the hospitality space and be as big as you know, what's, how do you pronounce emma deuce? And do my French comes out sometimes.

Annie Holcombe:

And it sounds cooler when you say.

Francois Gouelo:

So do you think there's an opportunity for us to be as big as you think the guest experience vertical is one that we can conquer? And but we just got to keep our heads down for now and keep working on both the technology or the relations with our partners and growing it out for more property managers. Really,

Alex Husner:

I love that you say that. And Annie and I talked about this on the show a lot that it's like hospitality is really that's what we all do at the end of the day. So whether it's a timeshare, whether it's a vacation rental, whether it's a it's a hotel, whether it's a campground, you know, it's still there, we're all providing a hospitality experience to guests, and hopefully a good one. But there's a lot more similarities in what we all do, then there are differences. And I think there's for many years, there's just been kind of a hard line between, like vacation rentals and timeshare, for example, like very, very, very hard line. And we talked about convergence or just opportunities really to work together between different verticals. And I know in our market in Myrtle Beach, we've been able to see that and prove that and I think also where Annie is to in Panama City Beach, but it is it's a lot of it, I feel like it's market dependent for how different sides can work together. But, you know, as far as you guys are concerned, the technology, it should apply really for any type of inventory. So I think that's the really cool, that makes it the billion dollar idea that was mentioned, because they're there, you're not, you're not limited to just one type of accommodation. So

Unknown:

that's for sure was one of the first slides when I demo the product, or when our team demos, the product is our customers. And we don't do it to say like, Oh, look at the brands we actually do to show look at the diversity, you know, yeah, yeah, a glamping site, we've got a hotel, very traditional, you know, boutique, Parisian type hotel, but we also have this cool modern one called Nap York, it's like fully autonomous pods in New York. Yes, walk in sleep, Japanese style. So it's really, you get to craft, both on the real estate size aside on the experience side, what what you dream about in your hospitality business, and we're just that tech player in the background connecting the dots to make that dream happen. And then looking at the business models as well. I mean, you know, we talked about CO hosting arbitrage franchise, all these different business models that are appearing within hospitality that I think are unique. I don't have a position on who's going to win. I think it's going to be a combination. But being able to surface that as well is fairly important. My main thing is just this industry can be standardized. It absolutely can. Yeah, it's just tech companies are not currently really. We're not actually leading towards that because of the amount of tech players that are coming out because of all the opportunities that can Come for tech players, we're actually adding to this fragmentation on both the guest side, making it completely disparate. Nobody knows what's going on, right? I mean, I've got a property manager I spoke to was like, You guys have verification? I've been getting emails with passport information. And yeah, some guests complaint. I'm like, No way guests complain I would never send via email. Are you great? Yeah, no kidding. Oh, yeah. Education, you know, and solving that fragmentation will lead to standardization in the space.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I think standardization. But I think to a certain extent, that's where it's been so hard for people outside of our industry to really get their handle on it. Because perfect example, now in my new role at cost ago, we are a franchise model. And every market operates a little bit different. I mean, you have some some markets where they have one centralized linen facility, you have some that they they do the linens in the unit, because the units are very, very far spread out from each other. And it's that creates a lot of different operational challenges for vacation rentals, that technology really can't necessarily solve for that. In our Myrtle Beach market. We are a Saturday to Saturday market. So we are when you check out at 10. Those eight bedroom houses got to be cleaned by three o'clock. I mean, you only have a limited amount of hours. So the different operational things like that is where it's the rubber meets the road in our industry and where there's a good good operators can figure out a way to do it. But it's not as simple as, as technology can sometimes make it seem

Unknown:

100% I think our goal at the end of the day is to be like Shopify of guest experience. Yeah, it's like, every website is different. But yeah, they all have that sort sort of same architecture in the background. But they'll have different designs, they'll have different checkout links, they'll sell different products, they'll do things differently. And we're just gonna focus on the guest experience because it's a big enough segment. And I have no interest in getting into revenue management and yeah, reasons cleaning like Oh, my goodness, I'm gonna stick to what I like. So and then also, just because I respect so much the companies that are out there in those verticals that are already doing such a fantastic job, I mean, Breezeway, cleaning Turnover. BNB, Wheelhouse Price labs, like Yeah,

Alex Husner:

absolutely. Yeah, there's people that are

Annie Holcombe:

really focused on the things that you can focus on, right like that, that makes a lot of sense. So I think I would love to have you back. Later this time next year. Yeah, like, you're

Alex Husner:

gonna have a lot of announcements, you'll have an HR manager by then

Annie Holcombe:

you will have a team, you will have a team of people handling your PR and scheduling.

Francois Gouelo:

So we'll get myself on, don't worry.

Annie Holcombe:

We have your whatsapp so we can get you in anytime now. So looking forward, what do you think? Just before we wrap up, what do you think is maybe an item that the industry is not focused enough on and probably should be loved to ask everybody? Because there's very different perspective, depending on what angle you're coming from? And I'm really curious to what you think, is just that item that we're not focused enough attention on?

Unknown:

Oh, that's a very powerful question. A lot of answers to that. I love what you said, this is gonna be unscripted, you're sending me this type of question. As a curveball. I have too many answers. No, I love it. I would say one underestimated element is around upsells. I mean, I've been talking about this for a long time. And you know, even though it's one of the verticals of what we do, it's, it's not our core focus. But I think there's additional opportunities around upsells there's additional opportunities around data collection, and I think, furthering the direct booking movement, people building brands, professionalization of this industry, like these are trends that are happening in real time that we should double down on that we should be excited by that these brands are going to come out and we're gonna have . its either gonna go multiple brands, a bunch of small brands, or it's gonna go Hilton Marriott, you know, we were already seeing it, Vacasa, Vtrips, Avant Stay, like these big brands that are starting to get known in the world. And all of that I think, is going to come from guest experience, it's going to come from your direct booking strategy. And that direct booking strategy is going to come from the data you collect, which includes upsells, which includes, you know, sentiment or all of the different factors around the guest experience because one interesting data point and I know we we have to wrap it up here but is email marketing versus SMS marketing. Email marketing represents less than 7% open rates when you send that mail MailChimp blasts your past guests less than 7% open so I can only imagine what the actual conversion metrics behind that is. Yeah, SMS, it's 85% open rates, because that little blue dot really annoying and you're just going to open that just to get rid of the notification, but that's enough to get you know 10 words about something personal something you know from a previous experience in that stay and let people remember that Airbnb is Yellow Pages. The OTAs are yellow pages that you're building a hospitality business, not an Airbnb business, and that you need to shine through your brand. Your experience. I think you guys just had Auntie Bellies.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, Auntie Belhams.

Francois Gouelo:

Like, oh my god, the brand. I mean, these things are tiktoks entertaining. But it's cool, it builds a brand and it builds that family like hospitality, you know, friendly environment that I know, the vacation rental industry is so well known for. So I think there's gonna be extra efforts on that. And I'm hoping to be a part of that, that sort of, you know, advancements,

Alex Husner:

as far as SMS side are you speaking for like promotions through SMS or automations? Right SMS,

Francois Gouelo:

both automated promotions.

Alex Husner:

I gotta, I gotta be honest with you, friends a lot. I there's nothing I despise more than text message promotions. And I'll, I'll challenge it a little bit on the on the emails too, because our emails, when I was previously, Condo old me we were getting 25 to 30%, on promotional emails, and on automated emails, those were 50 to 60%. But I don't know I can be proven wrong. So if you for sure come up with a really great way. I feel like it text messages, it's your texts are more personal to you versus an email we've all become accustomed to. You're getting a bunch of different things in there, that when a text comes in, I'm thinking oh, it's Annie, or its Francois. Yeah. But then I think it's Nine West. I'm like, oh, that's annoying. I don't need to talk to him right now.

Annie Holcombe:

But if it was, manolo blahnik would answer it,

Alex Husner:

no, maybe

Annie Holcombe:

Louis Vuitton gets a pass.

Francois Gouelo:

The thing is, I think it depends on the experience you had before, quite frankly. And you're right, that data is going to be different. Some are way more successful at email campaigns, and others and so on. I think there's trends as well. People get fed up about a certain way of doing things over a certain amount of time, like emails in general, now we're starting to get so many emails about this promotion, that company this that, you know, cold calling is coming back for a lot of content, direct mail. Direct Mail is exactly like we're shifting between different strategies. But my overall take would just simply be that, you know, there's not a single path, there's multiple paths, but there will be a path towards shining brands and driving more direct bookings, for a lot of companies. And I'm, I'm really hoping to see these brands become big staple names in our industry and in the world for people to know that they're booking, you know, hospitality accommodations from professional operators. Yeah. So I think that's, that's what excites me the most.

Annie Holcombe:

I agree. I agree. Yeah. I share some data. You can come back next year, and give us some data. This is great. So I'll just I could talk to you. You're like we say we could talk to people all day long. But you just your energy is infectious. Your passion is evident. We were just so fortunate to meet you finally at VRMA. And I just hope that we can connect again throughout all of the, you know, the coming months and years. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to reach out to you.

Francois Gouelo:

If you want to learn more about Enzo Connect, you can go on our website and book a demo. Super simple. There's a big book a demo button. If you want to reach out to me personally, feel free to send me an email it's first name dot last name at Enzo connect.com. And I'm always open to having chats with anyone in this space. So feel free to reach out.

Alex Husner:

Awesome. We will include that in the show notes. And thank you again so much for coming on this is we've been waiting for this episode. And it just was everything we imagined and more. So our listeners felt the same. And I'm sure they did but wish you a very Happy Holidays and we will see you soon. For anybody who's listening. If you want to reach out to Andy and I you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com If you're enjoying the show, we'd love for you to leave a review on Google or Spotify or Apple or wherever you listen to your podcast and until next time. Thanks everybody.

Francois GoueloProfile Photo

Francois Gouelo

Co-Founder & CEO Enso Connect

Francois is the co-founder & CEO of Enso Connect, a dynamic AI-driven guest experience platform for hospitality professionals.

Together with his co-founder Peter Sorbo, Francois started Enso Connect a few months before the beginning of the pandemic.
Since then, Enso Connect has scaled from 68 listings to over 17,500 homes in 45+ different countries, and processed over 485,000 guest profiles, helping operators monetize and digitize the guest experience.

The company is backed by VCs and angel investors in Europe and North America, including Mantella Ventures, Mistral Ventures, Michael Hyatt, and Andrew Kitchell.

Francois was recognized as the City of Toronto Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneur’s Organization (GSEA), voted the most innovative Proptech CEO of 2020 in the UK, was a finalist for the Royal Bank of Canada Innovation Award, and represented Canada at the G20 Summit for the Young Entrepreneur's Alliance group. In 2022 Francois was nominated as the Rising Star of the short-term rental industry by The Shortyz Awards.