I was working as a digital marketing intern at a Philadelphia-area sports marketing boutique. My main task that summer was to help coordinate and orchestrate a client conference in Philadelphia. In the end, the conference cost well beyond the planned budget, and that overshadowed all the work and effort our team put into the event.
What pushed the budget into the red was an inability to fulfill our promised room quota with our contracted hotel. Our clients who attended the conference used third-party sites to find hotel rooms, rather than booking through our pre-paid rooms. The company was left on the hook for the unused rooms.
Room Champ, an online service for event planners to create custom hotel booking pages, was created to prevent companies and event planners from coming up short on their contracted sales quotas.
By creating custom hotel booking pages, event planners can curtail the use of third-party sites that cost them money.
Tech Cocktail asked Room Champ cofounder Dan Ebel about his company and his experience as an entrepreneur.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the best entrepreneurship book you’ve read and why?
Dan Ebel: I love The Method Method by Adam Lowry and Lucas Conley. It’s the story of two friends who challenged the consumer products industry’s biggest players and found their place in consumers’ hearts. I enjoy it because they share their struggles and successes, but most importantly, they show that any industry is ripe for innovation.
Tech Cocktail: If you had an extra $1,000 to spend on marketing, what would you do?
Ebel: I’d try to work out an advertisement or sponsorship with IMEX, a convention for meetings and events industry professionals, or another event where we could get Room Champ in front of the eyes of the people who need it the most: the event planners.
Tech Cocktail: What trend are you excited about as a user or consumer?
Ebel: I’m most excited for the sharing economy. With companies like Zipcar, Airbnb, and many others, we as a society are optimizing the use of what used to be non-performing assets and creating fewer wasted resources in the process. We’re similar in that we’re trying to leave no empty hotel rooms, at least for event planners.
Tech Cocktail: What personality trait has served you best as an entrepreneur?
Ebel: Receptiveness to feedback. I thrive on every kind of critical feedback: positive, negative, and everything in between. It is so valuable! Good communication is critical in a startup situation, and so pursuing that feedback, and then giving it, are equally important.
Tech Cocktail: If you weren’t doing this startup, what idea would you be working on?
Ebel: I’d be working on bringing pedicabs to Downtown Las Vegas. I went to Austin, TX, with the rest of the #VegasTech crew for SXSW. Pedicabs were crawling the streets and were on every corner. It was fascinating to see the wide adoption of such a cool alternative to the car.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the most encouraging sign of success you’ve seen so far?
Ebel: A lot of people who attend events identify with the problem of finding the right hotel room for their convention or event. It needs to be close, affordable, and comfortable. Event planners want to provide a great overall attendee experience - from the initial purchase of event tickets to booking a hotel, to attending the event, to finding additional fun things to do in the city. If that whole process is housed within the event brand, it provides an experience that keeps attendees coming back.
Tech Cocktail: What’s your crazy, long-term, huge vision?
Ebel: Long term, huge vision: Event-based travel search. Being able to just start typing in the search field and find travel for an event by name would be awesome. So for example you just type ”CES” and it knows the location, dates, nearest hotels, special rates, all the information that an attendee would want to know for booking a hotel for that event. On a smaller scale, it could help groups, such as family vacations, find nearby hotels in the same destination.
Tech Cocktail: Why should I use your product, in 140 characters or fewer?
Ebel: Event planners can now help attendees compare rates, book rooms, and enhance their experience without ever leaving their official website.
Tech Cocktail: If your startup were an animal, which one would it be and why? And, if your startup were a cocktail, which one would it be?
Ebel: A koala bear. Koalas understand what it’s like to get a good night’s sleep; sleeping 18-20 hours each day. We want attendees to sleep well while at their event, and we want the event planners to sleep easy knowing Room Champ is going to fill their room block. [And the cocktail we would be is the] Eucalyptus Martini…koalas love Eucalyptus.
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?
Ebel: A lot of people know me as “Angry Dan.” The nickname comes from an interview where I said that, “Everyone is as equally happy as they are angry. They just choose what to show.” A friend jokingly remarked that because I’m always happy on the outside, I must be really angry on the inside. The name stuck, and so I always write it on my nametag when meeting new people. It’s an amazing ice breaker.
Room Champ was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail Week mixer in May and won the hottest showcasing startup in the live poll.