Operto co-founder and CEO, Michael Driedger [Credit: Operto]

“A solutions-focused brand”: Operto CEO Michael Driedger

ShortTermRentalz spoke to Operto CEO and co-founder, Michael Driedger, about the company’s rebrand from Slickspaces Technologies, the launch of its next-generation operating dashboard and the tightening of short-term rental regulations worldwide.

As we started to grow, we wanted a brand that was less descriptive, and more solutions-focused. The emphasis needed to be on the managers who are liberated by the automation system rather than on the spaces they manage. Operto is a derivation of the Italian word “aperto” which means to open. It conveys our focus on opening opportunities through automation that enrich the lives of guests and property managers.

  • How does this reflect your expansion since 2016, having also been named in the PhocusWire Hot 25 startups for 2019?

It simultaneously reflects our growth internationally and our expanded offering with an operating dashboard that gives property managers real-time insight and control over their inventory. As we mature into a company that offers a full suite of property automation, we are really creating a category that didn’t previously exist. We wanted a brand that grows with this paradigm shift.

  • Can you talk to us about the next-generation software operating dashboard that you have just launched? How will this transform the short-term rental industry from a property automation perspective?

To date, smart home automation has been very app-based and consumer-focused. Even the term “smart home” tells you that the technology wasn’t designed for vacation rentals and short-term stays. Our software is purpose-built for accommodations and we’ve automated (with great PMS partners of course) the entire process from booking to arrival, check-out to turnover. We believe the next generation of tools will require fewer interactions with apps or software – as much as possible should and will be automated.

  • How will the dashboard be able to cater for hotel and serviced apartment owners as well as vacation rental property managers at the same time?

The lines are blurring every day, with hotels and short-term rentals behaving increasingly alike. For instance, we recently worked with a boutique hotel in Toronto that has no front desk and is purely self check-in. Meanwhile, many of our vacation rental properties are more like guesthouses with individual guest rooms. We’ve also had to create permission levels for vacation rental managers with teams of booking agents, cleaners, pre check-in inspectors, etc; which is surprisingly similar in team size and complexity to a full-service hotel.

  • How are you looking to expand further beyond your North American base into Europe and other parts of the world?

We have found some great partners in Europe both at a hardware and service/onboarding level. As a software IoT company, having strong partners in new markets is really critical. We are really excited about the opportunities in Europe and beyond!

  • Speaking more generally, have you noticed any particular smart-home technology trends that are becoming prevalent in the space?

Since our managers are turning homes into commercial accommodations, our core hardware package is more purpose-driven than device-driven. We use a keypad smart lock, a controller and a smart sensor for noise and occupancy and tie it all together with intelligent software. It’s all about automation of check-in and check-out with real-time insights into what is happening on site. We can then add very purposeful devices, like thermostats or window sensors.

Adding more devices without focusing on direct results is something property managers need to think carefully about. Alexa and Google Assistant is a popular topic and indeed exciting technologies, but the technology is not mature enough to improve the lives of guests and managers right now. It will be, but it won’t save a property manager time or money today.

  • What challenges are companies such as Operto finding in solving operational issues relating to guest entry?

Like any business interfacing with hardware, device compatibility and reliability are a challenge. Instead of taking an ‘allow all, perfect none’ approach, we work with a curated range of hardware we have determined as ideal for the purpose. We build close relationships with our hardware partners to make sure we have the best possible end-to-end support.

Many people are worried about hardware install, but it typically only takes about 20 minutes per unit and doesn’t require specialised install staff, which is often a positive surprise.

Another challenge is communication, as we are creating a new category. We do property automation, not smart homes. We use many of the same devices so the difference is subtle, but important. We make the existing tech meaningful in a commercial setting. And by meaningful, we mean there are no gimmicks. It’s not about lightbulbs that go purple or a talking TV. Instead, it’s about technology and automation that truly moves the needle in terms of operational efficiency and guest satisfaction.

  • How, if at all, is Operto being affected by the tightening of short-term rental regulations worldwide? Does this apply to how you are dealing with noise compliance?

We serve clients worldwide and across the full spectrum of accommodation so many clients are unaffected. Where homeowner associations are worried about short-term rentals, Operto is often used as a tool to demonstrate compliance and reduce safety concerns (no keys floating around; our system detects noise violations and over-occupancy before complaints occur).

We are strong advocates for better forms of government regulation. Well-intended but poorly crafted policies negatively affect local tourism and business. Short-term rentals are a real, and when managed right, positive force. The current zero-sum rhetoric fuelled by hotels and lawmakers doesn’t seem productive.

For more information on Operto, visit the company’s website here.

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