Business Plan Challenge

Software created by hoteliers for hoteliers is primed to scale

Juan Carlos Abello and his team won first place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge FIU Track for Nuvola guest management software for hotels.
Juan Carlos Abello and his team won first place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge FIU Track for Nuvola guest management software for hotels. pportal@miamiherald.com

Florencia Gariboldi said as soon as she started using the Nuvola software that helps hotels monitor property issues and respond to guest needs, she could tell that the creators had worked in hospitality.

“These people knew exactly what they were doing and that is so gratifying to people like me,” said Gariboldi, a former general manager for SBE Hotel Collection and Morgans Hotel Group properties and now president of Diverse Management Group. She implemented the software in properties she managed in South Florida, and said it connected the entire staff and allowed her team to respond to incidents and guest requests more quickly and efficiently.

That’s exactly what Juan Carlos Abello envisioned when he and his team created Nuvola, a platform that connects hotel staff and guests to solve issues promptly. Abello had worked at hotels, from Doubletree to the Delano, when he attended Florida International University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international business, and later at Emory University earning his MBA in general management. After graduating he worked for two years at an RFID technology company that tracked productivity.

Nuvola (mynuvola.com) combines that hospitality and tech experience to solve pain points for both hoteliers and guests, said Abello, who is the founder and CEO of the Miami-based startup. Hotels need a way to enable staff to respond to guest issues rapidly. Guests don’t want to have to use the phone to report a problem with their TV. And while Nuvola’s cloud-based platform does all this for hotels, it also collects behavioral data, so hotels can understand consumer patterns and preferences and better structure their services and promotions, Abello said. “That data is really where the value is, not only for the hotel but for the chain.”

Nuvola, which means cloud in Italian, emerged the winner of the Business Plan Challenge FIU Track, where judges rated Abello’s submitted business plan and a live presentation.

“What made Nuvola a winner was the combination of the founder’s deep category expertise with a focused sales effort that has generated revenue for the company from early on. That fueled growth without the need for outside investors and legitimized the need for the product and the willingness of customers to pay for it,” said Ricardo Weisz, an investor in early-stage companies and one of the judges.

The startup is a team of 10, all with hospitality experience. “Our collective hospitality experience allows us to offer the most intuitive quality assurance software in the market for both our desktop application and hotel staff,” Abello said. “Our competition is really paper. Eight out of 10 hotels we are visiting, they are using paper.”

To acquire customers, Abello started out the way many startups do: pounding the pavement. But after knocking on office doors at many hotels and being rejected, he created a digital marketing strategy. Once Nuvola’s website, social media and blog posts brought in traffic from hotels and piqued their interest, live sales calls were made, he said. And instead of pitching large hotel corporations, Abello and his team focused on franchise owners, hotel general managers and boutique hotel groups. Once a hotel’s owner or manager likes the product at one property, he or she is eager to use it in five or 10 other properties, he said.

But now the startup is ready to scale across a global market of more than 400,000 hotels, with an initial focus on the U.S. and the Americas.

“Miami is our farm area, and 35 percent of our clients are serviced here. However, we’ve been able to grow and tap into new markets. Today we work in 12 countries,” he said in his plan. Already, Nuvola is being used by hotels in some of the world’s largest chains: InterContinental, Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Marriott, plus a number of boutique hotels.

Nuvola’s intuitive platform includes sections for service requests, lost-and-found and package delivery, along with surveys and social feeds.

To date, the revenue-producing company has been mostly self-financed, but now Abello plans to seek outside funding to accelerate growth and expand his sales and product development teams.

Nuvola’s intuitive platform includes sections for service requests, lost-and-found and package delivery, along with surveys and social feeds. The service includes an accompanying guest app called Angel so guests don’t have to pick up the phone or be at the hotel to connect with the concierge or check-in desk.

Key benefits for the hotels include improved incident response time, enhanced internal and external communication and standardized guest service processes. Happy guests lead to better reviews and repeat business. Hotels pay a monthly subscription for Nuvola, which includes 24/7 support and unlimited users among its hotel staff.

Gariboldi said she implemented the product in hotels she managed during the last two years, including the SLS Brickell, Redbury and SLS South Beach, and “it was always a seamless experience for the staff, for the guests and for the management team.”

Implementation was done in a day and the staff was trained and able to use the features in an hour, she said. She could monitor incident reports in real-time too, and the manager-on-duty reports would pop into her phone every morning, she said.

“By giving the right tools to the staff, the staff is really eager to submit issues and participate in hotel operations. ... Nuvola is extremely affordable, too.”

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