HB on the Scene: ILC hosts INDIE Cultivate  

Investing, design and the future of food were all on the mind of attendees as the Independent Lodging Congress (ILC). Hosted by INDIE Cultivate, its second-annual event focusing on hospitality, start-ups and innovation at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“Our recent Indie Cultivate event was really a celebration of all of the creativity and energy in Independent Hospitality and travel,” said Andrew Benioff, founder/chairman, ILC. “From ‘The Future of Food’ to ‘Crypto and NFTs in Hospitality’ and ‘Investing in the Next Wave of Innovation,’ we covered a lot of ground, and our attendees left with a lot to think about and incorporate into each of their current projects.”

During the “Investing in the New Wave of Innovation,” moderated by Shannon Knapp, president/CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World, panelists Kurien Jacob, principal, Highgate Tech Ventures; J.P. Bowgen, investor, Camber Creek; and Romil Patel, head of biz ops & strategy, Bridgeton Capital, offered insights into trending technology and what they look for when investing.

“This morning certainly helped us see that hospitality is certainly one of the most fertile industries in terms of innovation and start-ups,” said Knapp.

Bowgen said there are a number of technologies that are trending right now and they can be categorized into two different buckets: guest-centric and asset-centric, adding, “I think there is a focus on, especially as we move past the pandemic, guest-centric technologies—how are hotels going to better engage their guests?”

He pointed out that hotels are using tremendous amounts of data to figure out just who their guests are and technology that is helping hotels better engage them, including smarter messaging apps that might translate into various languages. “Right now, the investment continues to put that focus on those guests,” he said.

In terms of asset-centric technology, Bowgen said that there is a focus on how hotels can reduce their carbon footprint, and he believes that will be the next wave of technology.

When asked about what they look for when they invest in new technology companies, Jacob said it is the team behind it. “One of the most important factors that we look at is the founder and the team because many of these businesses start out from one idea…,” he added. “You have to recognize the fact that each company can pivot and its team is right there able to do that and not just give up. You need the team to be fully engaged. We like companies where the founders and the teams are invested to grow the business and not have a low stake in it doing well.”

Patel, whose company is an early-stage investor in companies, always looks for what the “edge” is that they bring in, “whether that’s partnerships…or technical skill set. It also their ability to raise capital, not just from us, but in the future. Also, [it is there] ability to build a world-class team. Can they attract talent? Can they attract good people around them?”