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Pivot your business to a SaaS-based model

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Entrepreneur James Richmond hadn’t considered switching to a SaaS-based business until 2017, when Chairman Brian Sargent suggested.

Richmond and his co-founder Ben Clifford founded the company in 2003 and admit that they mainly operated Nevaya as a lifestyle business until Pivot.

“Brian was our first chairman and he helped us grow a little,” he recalls to TechBlast. “Before he joined, he never held a monthly board meeting or created management accounting.

“He asked if he wanted to pivot and consider becoming a SaaS-based business because he could build a lot of value so quickly. He focused our expertise on software and it Said that it can be brought to the global market, not just a UK business.

“We were a little naive, but with greater ambition, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

“With SaaS, we have to make a huge investment in sales and marketing before our recurring revenue can catch up. That was nerve-wracking.

“At the time, we had £ 2m in sales and £ 400,000 in profit, but we reinvested all the profit in creating a SaaS-based business.”

Launch a startup

Nevaya’s technology currently serves hundreds of hotels in more than 30 countries around the world.

It’s far from when the two alumni graduated from college and started business together.

Their first business was called online booking, but the brand name was changed to Hotel Broadband.

“I’ve noticed that WiFi is really popular,” he says. “To be honest, we reached that point when we thought we had to do the right job.

“We didn’t really make any money. Then, through full tenacity, we secured our first deal for £ 20,000. It saved us.

“It was with the Assemblies of God, which was a Bible school when they needed to provide WiFi to students in the company. It gave us some cash to continue.”

First recruitment

After growing the hotel broadband side of the business to millions of pounds of sales and eight staff, they shifted their focus to providing a wider range of guest experience services and renamed it as Nevaya.

“We want to help hoteliers provide their guests with the best digital experience,” he says. “One of the biggest drivers in our market is Netflix and other streaming content.

“People are turning their backs on linear TV, and hotel guests can use our services to easily and safely watch streamed content on TV.”

The decision to move to a SaaS-based model coincided with the beginning of COVID, which devastated the hotel industry.

“It was a worrying and stressful time,” admits Richmond. “We held a daily board meeting to consider what to do next. There was real concern that there might be no business left.”

Significant progress was made in 2020 when Nevaya began a major partnership with Dutch-based hotel developers, investors and hotel chain citizenM.

“It gave us something to focus on,” Richmond recalls. “They believed in the future of hospitality.”

Currently, the company has 15 employees and is affiliated with other major hotels such as Accor and IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group).

During the pandemic, the company, based in Brandsdon near Swindon, deployed the software in tens of thousands of rooms in more than 30 countries.

Sarah Pawson is the first recipient of the TechBlast Star of the Week Award.

Does he regret becoming a SaaS business?

“If you knew how difficult it would be to become a SaaS-based business, would you have done it?” He asks. “Probably not, but in retrospect it was an absolutely right decision.

“In the last 12 months, I think we have created more corporate value than in the last 17 or 18 years. We have a lot to reflect on.”

Pivot your business to a SaaS-based model

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