Max Shepherd-Cross

November 14, 2023

This may sound familiar: You fly from New York to Vienna, get out of the taxi in front of the hotel at 7 a.m., and the recep- tionist politely but firmly points out that your room isn’t available until 3 p.m. I have travelled a lot in my professional life, stayed in hotels around the world, and have been faced with this situation many times. The company I used to work for often booked me on the earliest possible flight to save on accommodation. That usually meant departure from London at 6 a.m.; arrival in Vienna at 9 a.m.; the meeting inconveniently scheduled at 1.30 p.m.; accommodation only available after 3 p.m. All I wanted to do was go straight to my hotel room and rest for a few hours so that I wouldn’t show up exhausted to the meeting. Instead, I was killing time in the lobby or some coffeeshop, thinking about how I could simplify such an inefficient hotel-guest relationship. The idea that guests must follow arbitrary hotel schedules in the 21st century seemed old-fashioned to me. That is how the idea for HotelFlex came about: a system which scans the booking plans of hotels and automatically offers guests the option of early check-in or late check-out. As a result, both parties win. The hotel generates additional revenue while guests no longer have to wait for their room or check-out in a hurry. We consolidate the fragmented $17.4 billion hotel industry, and our customers are enjoying this new form of inventory, which allows both guests and hoteliers to be incredibly flexible. That’s the reason why now, when I’m sitting in a hotel lobby, I’m more relaxed and can think about other things. What future travel will look like, for example. I imagine checking into an accommodation where I can arrive at any time of the day and check out whenever is most practical for me.

Your hotel stay should match your travel plans and not the other way around.

The travel industry has seen lots of up and downs and is currently in the middle of a severe crisis. That said, the basic need to stay somewhere other than your home will persist in the upcoming decades. But the way we travel will constantly change. It is already changing. Many people long for the "wow factor," they want to dine in spectacular restaurants, stay at unique accommodations, and have authentic experiences that reflect the culture of the place they visit. That is a challenge for big hotel groups who have created sterile, standardized hotels where you wake up in the morning not knowing where in the world you are. I also think of my father who went to Australia when he was 18. It took him five days to get there. When I was 18, I did the same. I arrived on the other side of the world within 24 hours. When I think about how much the comfort and speed of global travel have improved in only one generation, I wonder about the next big leap.

Elon Musk wants to fly people to the other side of the planet in less than an hour. Imagine what an impact this could have, how this opportunity would change people’s lives. Projects like Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are taking the first steps in commercial space travel. In light of recent developments, there is hope that our generation will see people spending their vacation in space or traveling to the moon. Possibly in an oxygenated environment where they can breathe and walk around or put on a spacesuit and go on safari. Maybe a combination of the two. Each of these scenarios seems exciting to me, as long as I don’t have to sit in a hotel lobby for hours.


An office & team scheduling tool for the hybrid workplace that runs on Slack

Max Shepherd-Cross

Co-Founder & CEO Officely