With mentors including former Air New Zealand deputy-chief executive Norm Thompson and NZ Technology Industry Association chair Bennett Medary, budding entrepreneur Amelia Gain is keeping good company.
The 28-year-old former hotelier has launched accommodation booking start-up Preno and wants to see it used in accommodation providers across the globe.
Designed for small to medium establishments with less than 30 rooms, the app is designed to manage reservations, creating profiles to help remember guests' preferences - such as whether they prefer pinot noir from the Wairarapa or Central Otago and what style of restaurant they like when eating outside of the hotel.
The app also integrates with booking sites and is integrated with Xero, automating the accounting side of the checkout process.
Gain said the idea came from co-owning Queenstown hotel The Spire with her sister Lucy and not being able to find a suitable program to run the 10-bedroom property.
"If I was travelling I couldn't just look on my phone to see what reservations we had in-house or [if we had] any reports." At Spire they used an outdated desktop-based system, which did not reflect a growing trend in the industry for guests to have a more informal approach to the front desk, Gain said.
"They connect with the customer a lot more rather than just staring at a screen, so the faster the systems can work and the easier they work, than the easier for the operator." Xero was an inspiration in the way it let them run the books without needing an accountancy background, she said.
"I wanted Preno to be just as intuitive, so that you didn't need to be an experienced hotelier, or have a background in technology or tourism to be able to use it effectively.
"I really like procedures and making systems really efficient, I also like creating experiences for guests that are quite different.
"I think we did that quite well at the Spire, but that takes a lot of time, you can't really spend time on that unless you've got everything sorted in your back end." Early adopters - including a hotel in Auckland and a charter yacht in Turkey - have formed a customer advisory group, helping to refine the app and decide which new features to bring on.
"We've done some tests for our users and they're saving about four hours a day in tasks." Gain developed the app with former university classmate Max Podolian while based at start-up hub GridAKL and the pair benefited from start-up accelerator Lightning Lab, which exchanges investment and intensive mentoring for a stake in the company.
Some of their initial mentors have since gone on to join Preno's board, including Simpl founder and NZ Technology Industry Association chair Bennett Medary, Gain said.
"He's amazing, he was our lead mentor through the Lightning Lab programme and he's also becoming an investor as well as the chair of our board." Former Air New Zealand deputy-chief executive Norm Thompson had also come on board as an investor, Gain said.
"He's been in the tourism industry for so long, he's got amazing connections ... it's been great working with him.
"It's good having a mix [of investors and mentors]. Bennett's background's obviously technical and business strategy, and then Norm is very much tourism focused. "There's so many [mentors] we've almost got an advisory team around us."
Due to the limited size of the market in New Zealand, Gain said they were already looking overseas.
"We can't really [just focus on New Zealand], we've got to grow.
"First markets are New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands ... we've got goals that we want to meet along the way - in the next 12 months we want to be established in each of those markets, from there we're also looking at the UK as well because they have a strong boutique market." Gain said she was interested in how Airbnb was changing the accommodation landscape, disputing fears that it was a threat to the industry.
"I think it's quite a different customer - I think the hotel and accommodation industry will stay strong, because people that want the extra services that go with staying in a hotel or motel will continue to do so.
"I went to the Air BnB meet up here in Auckland and they do such amazing experiences for their guests, like they cook them breakfast and take them to the beach or whatever.
"I would really like to almost integrate Preno with Air BnB, we're talking with them at the moment, but nothing's confirmed."
• Developed by 28-year-old former boutique hotel owner Amelia Gain.
• App manages reservations and creates guest profiles for small to medium hotels.
• Integrates with booking channel managers.
• Name derived from the Italian word prenotazioni, meaning to book or reserve.