We spoke with Roy Friedman, the Founder and CEO of EasyWay.ai, a contactless communications SAAS platform for AI-powered guest personalization for hotels. It provides customizable online check-ins, 2-way translation on all major messaging apps, customer support bots while using data-driven insights and alerts for hotels.
EasyWay has experienced immense traction and growth down the pipeline, with hotels navigating the current pandemic and embracing contactless innovation. After speaking with Roy, it is clear that he operates with genuine integrity and ethics in life and work. Here's what he shared with us.
Which values and beliefs are important to you and have shaped you? You want to provide top value, and you want to be fair. This is the baseline of the business. Core values are honesty and integrity in practice. If a client is 30% or below occupancy during this pandemic, we won't charge them. We are in this crisis together. You ought to see a customer more as a human being than a mere business transaction.
What made you go into travel, tourism, and hospitality? I was a student at Tel Aviv University studying engineering, and the F8 conference was happening. They announced that they would embrace their third-party integration into their platform (Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger), which made me realize this would be a massive shift in the industry with business & communications. This made me want to improve the experience that people have when communicating with companies. When I traveled the world for a year, I felt connected to tourism and hospitality and what it represented. I decided to combine the two worlds…obviously, I was very naïve back then! But there was a gap in the hospitality industry I realized needed solving.
What challenges and struggles shaped you in this industry? When I was 14, I had a tumor in my leg and was an athlete growing up. I was told by the doctor that I would never be able to run again, which I refused to accept. With that, after the surgery, I started to walk every day for 6 hours. By the end, I was able to run, finished a marathon, joined Israel Defense Forces Special Forces (commander), and have participated in several operations. This experience shaped me as a person and taught me that through consistent work ethic and resilience; eventually, the world breaks, and things shift. And I think that in our company, we are practicing this principle a lot. We're the smallest company that ever got the WhatsApp approval API (when we were just the three founders); we also managed to partner up with booking.com. The other companies that managed to get this back then were much more mature, with hundreds of employees. With booking.com and WhatsApp, we acted by the same approach - we couldn't accept a "no" answer. Persistence with partnerships creates opportunities. This is an important quality to fight for your place in the world, especially when you don't have as many resources as a startup.
Which professional achievement are you most proud of and why? Our company's defining moment has been the traction arising from the pandemic with restrictions and the hotels' closing worldwide. We were unsure of what was going to happen after this. After a few weeks, we received a call from a hotel headquarters asking for a demo. After the call, they asked us to send them a quote for their 2000 hotels. That was the tipping point for the pool we were into the potential of our company's recently becoming.
What do you think is the future of travel, tourism, and hospitality, given the pandemic and where things are going? Adaptability is the key. Don't have the common tendency to fall in love with your product or your ideas. The ability to read the signs from the market and act on time will dictate your success. Oh, and trust yourself; you will figure things out along the road.
What do you think is the future of travel, tourism, and hospitality, given the pandemic and where things are going? On the traveler's side, we see on our data mass demand for contactless tech. Our usage rate and volume of the messages has skyrocketed. With the Intercontinental TLV, we've started with a 20% usage rate and an average of 4 messages per guest, and today they have an 82.2% usage rate and 16 messages per guest. On the hotels' side, we're going to see three significant trends - A) Embrace contactless technology - many hotels are becoming contactless hotels and will provide the option for their guests to do everything digitally. B) Automate everything - this is inevitable after embracing tech on a scale. Automated check-in/outs are already doing it today. C) Get personal - As you take off the face-to-face part out of the stay, hotels still need to provide a warm host experience and will have to do it also digitally. It is imperative to understand the small details about the customer experience, and which parts you should keep personal, and which you can skip.
What made you want to be a founder? What were the consecutive events leading you to where you are now? I have gravitated to the idea that you can make and shape your reality, where you have your autonomy. That's something that takes real responsibility. Sometimes it's heavy, but it's worth it. For example, when I'm snowboarding, you have this ultra-focus when you know if you make one wrong move, you can crash and fall, but you have no one to blame for that mistake but yourself. It's all you. You have no limits. The only limits you have are in your head and imagination. When you're working for someone and not building your own, you always have that company's limitation. And if you're not, you can create your own limits and shape them yourself.
What Sci-Fi tech could we use in this world that doesn't yet exist? If the human race survives, we are going to see this exponential growth in technology. We follow the law of accelerating returns, meaning that the better tools you have, the more progress you'll receive. And with all the tools we have, we'll be able to eliminate many of the diseases we face as a race and improve quality of life. I think we're going to see many more embedding and more human-computer interfaces starting with AI improvements. I believe we will also see many tasks and jobs automated soon (5-10 years). Regarding the climate crisis, this is something very dear to my heart. I see it is if we have a change, most of the solutions will come from technology. I can't see humans coming together globally to collaborate because we operate country by country. We see that with the pandemic where we are not acting as a global unit. There are more likely chances to see technology changing the situation on a more radical scale. It's our responsibility to leave the planet better than we got it. Humanity is failing in doing so, in my opinion. And you can see it in nature where humans are continuing to disrupt. As humans, we can't just think about profit in certain areas, like the planet. We don't have another planet, so we must treat it with respect.
What do you like to do in your free time? And what helps you recharge from the busy days (wellness wise)? I live on both ends of the spectrum in terms of lifestyles. I'm drawn to thrilling sports that get my adrenaline going, like snowboarding, motorcycles, surfing, sky diving. But also calming activities such as meditating twice a day, reading, and being outside. I start each day with meditation, followed by adrenaline focused sweat to get my heart rate high, a cold shower, and a green smoothie. That is my reset routine. With being a founder and continuously in flux, I think it's essential to make time to do something that balances you.
What types of investors do you look for and value most? It's crucial to me to understand and get the sense that the person in front of me is honest. I'm a true believer in honesty and direct communication. This value follows with employees, investors, and personal relationships (I follow my "gut" with people and investors). A few months ago, I had an opportunity with an investor to close a round but felt a bad feeling in my stomach about it and had to debate whether to take the deal or not. Eventually, I sat down with the team and explained that it didn't feel right to continue, so I trusted my intuition. To this day, I think it was the right decision. When I consider investors, I investigate them, and if they aren't good people, I don't take money from them. I only look for honest and ethical people - it's as simple as that. I want my investors to enjoy the success of the company.