10 years of hotelkit – looking back on an amazing success story

This year, we are celebrating 10 years of hotelkit. The perfect occasion for our CEO and cofounder Marius Donhauser to take a look back. And just as any good story, the story of hotelkit isn't short of suspense, surprising turns and vibrant personalities. Marius portrays, how everything started and how, after many ascents and descents, we ended up where we are today.

4 founders

When telling the story of hotelkit, it could start off like a classic fairytale: Once upon a time, there was the son of two hoteliers, and he had a brilliant idea…

2012 – Room 404 and how everything started

All good things come in threes: This saying might be true for some people, for me, however, at first it wasn’t. During and after my studies in economics in Innsbruck (Austria), I tried three times to start my own business in the IT sector. But my attempts failed. My ideas were certainly not bad, but maybe too half-baked to convince others. Failure is part of life but in this case, it also cost a lot of money. It was about time that I took care of my finances. So, I decided to move back to Salzburg and take over the family business “Der Salzburger Hof”.

Taking over my parents’ business had, however, never been my intention. It was then that I decided to add my own touch to the hotel and remodel where necessary. In the hotel, the internal communication as well as the collaboration within the team turned out to be major obstacles: Handovers and checklists were written down on paper and collected in massive folders, and the telephone didn’t stop ringing because uncertainties were the rule rather than the exception. The permanent information losses bogged down the hotel’s operational processes. This meant that even the smallest of tasks couldn’t be carried out without causing problems. I did not want to accept this. And suddenly it dawned on me, and I had a great idea: A communication platform that makes all of the essential information available to everyone working in the hotel. This seemed to be the solution to all our problems.

And suddenly all good things did come in threes: My three friends from Dresden, the programmers Hannes Hentzschel, Christian Weihermüller and Stephan Lange, helped me put this plan to action. Crammed into room 404 of my hotel, we gave our software— that would later be named hotelkit — its first form. And suddenly everything took its course. The software which was initially only intended for the internal use at my hotel, proved itself useful and efficient and aroused the interest of other hoteliers. My friends from Dresden and I then recognized the potential of the software and decided to found the software company hotelkit. While Stephan, Christian and Hannes took care of the technical side of things from Dresden, I moved into our first office in the technology park Techno Z in Salzburg with our first employee Gera Bachner.

2013 – The year of all the firsts

I was now cofounder and CEO of a software company. My expertise as hotelier was my big competitive advantage and also served as a sort of compass when it came to the further development of our product, which at that point was still in its early stages. I realized fairly soon: Software that is meant to assist hotel teams in their everyday working life should also be available where hotel employees are physically working. Meaning everywhere in the hotel. Therefore, we created a hotelkit app which made the software available from anywhere and via any device. 2013 was in many respects a year of special firsts: It was the first time that 1,000 users logged on to our software in one day. Moreover, Living Hotels was the first hotel group that decided to use hotelkit to improve the everyday working life of their employees. Welcoming this big client to the hotelkit family, which at that time was admittedly rather small, was a very special moment for us and at the same time a huge success.

2014 – New office in Vienna

Things were starting to go well for our software. In the hospitality industry, hotelkit had already established itself and more and more businesses started to decide in favour of our modern communication platform. As an aspiring start-up business, we also didn’t go unnoticed by the Salzburg Chambre of Commerce and were awarded the WIKARUS, Salzburg’s business award, in the category “Business Start-up”. And as we grew in popularity, so did our team. A new office in Vienna enabled us to create more space for the hotelkit family.

2015 – A new tool and our own barcamp

By now more and more masterminds were developing our software and it became smarter and smarter. We also concluded that an engineering tool was still missing from our digital toolbox and decided to create one. Since 2015, our engineering tool is available which makes taking care of repairs in hotels easy and efficient. We at hotelkit, however, do not just want to promote efficient collaboration in hotels, we also want to encourage the exchange of innovative ideas within the industry. This is why, we decided to create hotelcamp ALPS, the first barcamp in the Alps for experts from the hospitality industry. We organized it for the first time in 2015 and this year it will take place for the 7th time.

2016 – Off to new pastures!

In 2016, a new and special chapter was added to our fairytale: the establishment of our second product medikit. My dear friend Dr. Johannes Gebauer (called Hans by most people) and I share a passion for skiing. On one of our skiing trips, Hans’ brother Dr. Maximilian Gebauer, dentist by profession, told us about the communication problems in his dental practice. This reminded us of the challenges that we had encountered in the hospitality industry and were able to solve with hotelkit. It was there and then that Hans and I decided to present a digital solution to the healthcare industry. Since then, medical practices, pharmacies, hospitals and many more have been benefiting from medikit.

Meanwhile, our office in Salzburg had gotten a bit too small to house the hotelkit team. Therefore, we moved into a new home in Strubergasse 26 where we could continue working with full vigor. This is also where our passion for table tennis started. Since then, our table tennis table—at that time still a small one—has counted among the most important furnishings at hotelkit.

2017 – Winning an award at ITB Berlin

I also enjoy looking back at the first time we had an exhibition booth at ITB Berlin, one of the most important travel trade shows in the tourist industry. The craftsmanship and creativity that cofounder Christian Weihermüller and his friends demonstrated in constructing and designing this booth were highly rewarded: Not only the exhibition visitors but also the organizers liked our booth and hotelkit took third place at the Best Exhibitor Awards in the category “Travel Technology”.

2018 – A year of great successes

Many people say that after seven years comes the seven-year itch. hotelkit, however, was doing pretty good. We were awarded some more prizes: At the Worldwide Hospitality Awards, we won in the category “Best Digital Innovation” and at the Hotel Technology Forum, we won in the category “Growing Start-up”. The keyword “growing” was characteristic for this year. And by welcoming the Radisson Hotel Group to our hotelkit family, we added a prominent name to our client base. Today, over 200 Radisson Hotels worldwide are working with hotelkit. Another huge milestone was the development of the housekeeping solution through which we expanded our collaboration software by a tool for housekeeping teams.

2019 – Rushing through

Admittedly, in 2019 all of us had their hands full with organizing the onboardings of new clients. Nonetheless, we did not forget to celebrate our achievements and there were enough reasons to do so: Our communication platform was meanwhile being used by 1,000 businesses worldwide. In 2019, our team had also grown substantially and consisted meanwhile of 65 hotelkids. Our office of 180 square meters was starting to get too small for that many people which is why we decided to move again. We moved into a 400 square meters office located just around the corner from our old one. Apart from taking on many new clients in 2019, there were other things to be celebrated: We took first place in four categories at the Hotel Tech Awards and demonstrated clearly that we are among the international leaders when it comes to hotel technology. We were to repeat this masterstroke in the coming year.

2020 – Taking a breather

The year 2020 clearly showed that companies aren’t immune to viruses either. It took us a while to accept this standstill. When we finally succeeded in doing so, we decided to direct our attention to other things. It became clear to us that our company needed a new organizational structure. It was no longer a small start-up and in a company of this size, I could no longer be involved in every department and fulfil my many obligations as CEO at the same time. So, we used this breather to delegate the responsibilities within the team. I now have 7 team leads at my side who take care of the organizational needs of the various departments. I, on the other hand, can now focus entirely on the further development of the company. Nonetheless, I still support all our teams as idea provider and sparring partner. 

During this time of urgent self-reflection, we never lost sight of our clients who were also going through a tough time. What was the best way to support them with our solution during this difficult time? The answer was more obvious than we thought: hotelkit enabled the hotel teams to implement the many hygiene measures in a simple and practical way. Moreover, we also wanted to promote and support team cohesion. Therefore, we launched hotelkit Moments. Via this social stream, hotelkit users now had the opportunity to share special occurrences from their daily work routine and their personal life with each other. In the healthcare industry, we also succeeded in responding to the extraordinary situation and providing support to our customers. In no more than 24 hours, we developed a digital solution for monitoring the capacity of intensive care beds for the Salzburger Landeskliniken (SALK).  

2021 – a year of spectacular growth

When I look back at the year 2021, I am very proud of what we have achieved. The hotelkit team grew again considerably and we now have 100 team members. hotelkit is meanwhile being used in over 2,000 businesses in over 50 countries, by 100,000 users and is available in 25 system languages.

2022 – the fairytale goes on

It is incredible to see, how time flies. Christian, Hannes, Stephan, me and room 404— all of it started exactly 10 years ago. By now, we are 96 hotelkids and many more will follow. A great team that deserves a great workspace: That is also why, we will move into an office of 1,500 square meters at Quartier Rauchmühle come fall.

Coming up with a solution that would solve the challenges encountered by me and my hotel team at “Der Salzburger Hof” — that was the original idea behind hotelkit. Today, the platform is used in hotels and healthcare facilities all around the world. We consider ourselves fortunate to provide a smart solution that creates added value for people all around the world. But most of all, we are incredibly thankful! Thankful for the support of our clients, partners and the many awesome people that work with us. Without them and their support, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

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