Elevator Pitch: CLASS

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Sam Lee from CLASS.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

CLASS helps frequent travellers book 4-star and above hand-curated hotels in less than 6 seconds. Not only that, our app learns our customers preferences so we can provide personalised upgrades, rewards and bonuses no matter which hotel you stay at!

It's super easy to use — simply drop a pin on a map where you need to be (whether it be your office, meeting place or favourite restaurant) and our patented algorithm quickly chooses the perfect hotel at the perfect priceā€¦ personalised just for you. With its world-class technology, Class is able to laser focus on an exceptional experience for the user. And as an added bonus, a surprise rewards package is awarded with every single booking.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

Travel is a crowded space with some of the most expensive AdWords. The team at CLASS are hustling and thinking outside the box to overcome this issue and gain exposure. Publicity is our number one goal on the marketing front. With publicity comes exposure, users and people wanting to learn more about our app. Most founders launch their tech companies from behind a laptop. However at CLASS we do things differently. We decided to showcase ourselves as founders and what we were prepared to do for exposure — so after a pub-brainstorming session we challenged Mark (the CTO) to prove his tech by jumping out of a plane and booking a hotel in free fall! Safe to say it worked and we are still a whole team.

In addition The Wizard (as our CTO prefers to be called) has designed and built a beautiful app. We are aiming to get featured on the AppStore in the coming weeks.

We were initially financed by AngelCube, a Melbourne-based incubator. After that we were invested in by a VC (whose money we are spending jumping out of planes — shhh!) We have recently relocated to the US. Our short term aim is to prove traction metrics and get into YCombinator or 500Startups.

What's the biggest challenge facing your business?

As with any double-sided market place, you will always have a 'chicken and egg' dilemma. However user acquisition is our main focus. It is our on-going challenge to identify a scalable user acquisition channel.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

Hotel Tonight and Booking Now are the two big players of the current landscape for hotel booking apps and while they're great companies, I feel that every hotel app these days seems to be a race to the bottom — all about saving a few dollars and having to book super-last minute. This is stressful and not to everyone's taste. And as frequent travellers will tell you the room you get is never like the picture, usually one next to the ice machine or the fire exit.

We made CLASS because we wanted to put the experience back into hotels and make them relevant again, as hotels are quickly losing ground to AirBnb. Think Reserve for hotels with an in-app loyalty scheme.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

As a small team consisting of an Englishman, an Irishman and an Aussie currently transitioning the company from Australia to the US this question is easy — Slack. The team is able to communicate globally, across timezones and filter our chat into subjects. Previously we used a combination of email and Whatsapp. Slack for iPhone, Android and Macbook has replaced this.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

"Do whatever it takes to get in front of your customers. Everything else is secondary."

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