(Article originally published in The Chronicle Herald on October 22, 2015)
With new products and a recent sales-boosting partnership, b4checkin, a site that creates hotel reservation systems, is feeling good about the future and crediting its Halifax location with enabling its success.
b4checkin is the creator of a suite of cloud-based software that allows hotels to carry out online reservations, check-ins, feedback and other functions.
Saar Fabrikant, the company’s Israeli-born president and CEO, said it is reaping the results of two years of research and development.
“We have just launched a new platform called chameleon,” said Fabrikant.
“We’ve overhauled our core product to launch a new platform that will be the backbone of our suite of products. chameleon allows a hotel to customize the look of its reservation system and modify it as they wish.”
b4checkin is also boosted by the fact its products are being resold by Agilysys Inc., a publicly traded company and a provider of innovative information technology and hospitality software and services.
That partnership, forged last November, has fuelled year-over-year sales growth by 70 per cent.
“Agilysys has been a huge stepping stone for us,” Fabrikant said.
b4checkin began in 2006 when Fabrikant and chief financial officer Martin MacKinnon teamed up to produce a reservation system for hotels overlooked by larger providers. They financed the company first with their own money, then with contributions from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and a group of angel investors.
In 2013, b4checkin received certification from the TripAdvisor website.
“We’ve grown here in Halifax thanks to help from ACOA and Nova Scotia Business Inc.,” Fabrikant said.
“The first money other than our own came from government programs. They were instrumental in our original growth.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get to where we are. (This) has been our biggest year, and we’re aiming at some aggressive growth next year.”
Fabrikant said all the company’s main competitors are large players.
“The challenge we’ve had is to create brand recognition. We’ve spent the last few years building our brand so we can compete. ACOA and NSBI trade missions helped fund our marketing activities.
“We feel absolutely certain we wouldn’t have been as successful anywhere else. We worked with local hotels at first, and our growth has been due to local support. I’m a fan of being here.”
The company has been successful at gaining global sales.
“We’re focusing on North America and the Caribbean for now,” Fabrikant said.
“It’s been an advantage to grow here, but we’re not really selling here. Ninety per cent of our revenue now comes from outside Canada. We have hotels as far away as Africa and Papua New Guinea.”
Fabrikant moved to Halifax in 2008 to attend Eastern College.
“I followed a girl here. I love Nova Scotia. I started another IT company after school and the work snowballed. I’ve always had enough work.”
He said b4checkin’s new products have been driven by clients’ requests.
Other new offerings include integrated casino and hotel online reservations. The company has tied the two together, allowing casino players to input their player number and, if they’re entitled to a free hotel room, use the reservation system to book it.
“We call that product b4ubet,” Fabrikant said.
“Our next products will involve spa services and golf teeing times.”
The new offerings are being built around Chameleon, which can change looks and colours.
“Users can click a few buttons and completely change the look of their online booking engine,” Fabrikant said.
“Websites can be too sophisticated or not sophisticated enough and deter clients. With Chameleon, hotels can play with their site until it is optimal.”