What does it mean to be a winner of HFTP's Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) start-up pitch competition? For Hoick, the start-up that won Judge’s Choice Award winner at the debut E2OX Dubai competition in 2021, it is about showcasing passion. "The reward lies in learning that others see value in the innovation [and] understand its capabilities," says Vladan Pantelic, co-founder and CEO of Hoick. For TraknProtect CEO Parminder Batra, it is about validation for "all the hard work that we have done over many years to bring the best safety solution to the hotel industry. TraknProtect received the Judge's Choice Award at HITEC Minneapolis in 2019.

Winning E2OX all comes down to a four-minute pitch, delivered to a panel of industry expert judges and a captivated audience of HITEC attendees. Opportunities like this – for hospitality technology start-ups to shine a light on their innovative solutions in front of CIOs, angel investors, serial entrepreneurs and industry insiders – are what help propel the industry's ambitious, fledgling companies from an interesting idea to a successful, sustainable business.

Since its debut at HITEC Austin in 2015, 13 start-ups have received an award at E2OX competitions held during three global HITEC events — HITEC North America, HITEC Europe wand HITEC Dubai. E20X participants compete for two awards: the Judge's Choice Award and the People's Choice Award.

Get to know some of the winning start-ups through the years and get ready for the return of E2OX at HITEC Orlando 2022, taking place 29 June 2022 on the HITEC Headliners stage and at HITEC Dubai on 25 May 2022. HFTP is now accepting applications for start-ups that would like the chance to pitch their cutting-edge business concepts, as well as industry experts who would like to mentor participants one-on-one prior to the competition. Apply online by 1 May 2022.


Won the Judge’s Choice Award at the Debut E20X Dubai in 2021

Last year in Dubai, Hoick presented its Mining Experiences (MX) software platform, a modern software platform that unlocks experience potential and helps organisations to continually assess the quality of their two core experiences: customers and employees. The company moulded cutting-edge technology that eliminates the experience gap and allows service-oriented companies to discover, understand and develop actionable insights to drive the performance forward.

“We recognised an uncatered market – namely, SMEs who do not have comprehensive support in the fi eld of CX and EX,” says Pantelic. “At Hoick, we empower businesses to listen to customer and employee feedback, understand and analyse what they hear, and take actions to improve experiences and design new ones – all in real time.”


Voted People’s Favorite Start-up at E20X Toronto 2017

Based in Lima, Peru and San Francisco, California, Arrivedo is a booking engine that integrates Neighborhood Guides to guests so that you can be their local hosts. Arrivedo co-founder and CEO Alonso Franco, following their win of the People’s Choice Award at E20X Toronto in 2017, said: “After E20X, we experienced great momentum with hundreds of hotels starting to use our technology.” By early 2018, more than 500 hotels in over 100 cities had published a Neighborhood Guide with Arrivedo.

The idea for Arrivedo came from Franco’s own passion welcoming visitors to Peru as a local host. “I want travellers to discover our country’s beauty beyond the conventional route,” he said. “Not only will our digital platform allow hosts to share their local insights with current and future guests, it will also help travellers identify a complete experience when researching which hotel to select when travelling to a new destination.”


Received the Top Prize at E20X Mallorca in 2019

The judges at E20X Mallorca were excited to meet Sam, an AI-based chatbot designed by Finnish hospitality start-up Hotelway. Sam engages with hotel guests by providing automated customer service, answering questions and even upselling additional hotel services. If Sam gets a question too difficult to answer, it is immediately forwarded to a Hotelway guest care specialist.

“There are so many companies out there that now provide chatbots, but no one actually provides the chatting service on behalf of the hotels,” said Hotelway’s CEO Hannu Vahokoski. “A good chatbot can only take about, say, half of the questions. There is still another half that the hotel needs to respond to, and they usually don’t have the time to do that…and we do. We do the chatting for them – that is how we are unique.

“Our team is made up of experienced hospitality and travel professionals,” Vahokoski continues. “And we have an advisory board that is in very close contact with us; they have international service design and business development experience.”


Won the Judge’s Choice Award at E20X
Minneapolis in 2019

“The inspiration to create TraknProtect was to provide safety to employees who are vulnerable when working alone,” explained Batra, “and to do it in a way that removed the friction points for hotels to deploy such solutions by making the solution easy to use and easy to deploy, while not being extraordinarily expensive.” TraknProtect accomplishes this goal with its IoT platform, which utilises a network of BLE/Wi-Fi gateways that continuously gather real-time data from safety buttons and sensors to triangulate and provide accurate locations of those devices in a hotel.

Since the company’s E20X win two years ago, “TraknProtect has grown substantially both in reach and philosophy,” said Batra. “We have secured vendor status with several of the largest hotel brands, we have secured many hotel deals and had an impact on the lives of hotel workers across the United States and most importantly, we have increased the visibility of the issue of human trafficking through our partnership with the AHLA.

“Our future goals are simple…grow our install base, continue to have an impact on the hotel industry, and do our best to ensure the safety of hotel employees everywhere.”


A Dual Award-winner at E20X Amsterdam in 2017

Hyre, a Canada-based event staffing start-up, won both the Judge’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award at E20X’s debut in Europe five years ago. The idea behind Hyre originated from the company’s CEO Eropa Stein and her time working at a staffing agency, where she observed daily inefficiencies caused by obsolete practices and outdated technology. “I also noted the lack of quality control and low motivation among staff,” said Stein, in an interview following Hyre’s E20X experience. “Having studied organisational psychology, I sought to find a business model that would alleviate the issue of low motivation and quality.

“Overall, I realised that event staffing agencies charged hefty fees and provided little value.” From that realisation came Hyre, which offers an online platform designed to connect event staff with event organisers without the need for a “middle-man” staffing agency.


The Judge’s Choice for E20X Amsterdam in 2018

KITRO is a Switzerland-based start-up company designed to bring an innovative digital solution and actionable insights to the issue of food waste. Their technology is integrated into hospitality kitchen operations to measure, monitor and report on food waste.

“KITRO provides the hospitality industry with a fully automated product that helps them measure and understand their food waste,” KITRO co-founder Anastasia Hofmann explained. “Based on the data, customers are empowered to adapt their work practices and use resources more efficiently. By reducing their avoidable food waste, they are able to save costs while lowering their environmental footprint.”