Sam Shank, CEO & Co-Founder of HotelTonight, is a travel-obsessed serial entrepreneur. He HotelTonights at the Ace Hotel New York, pictured above. Sam has been a FoundersCard Member since 2011.
1.) What was your inspiration for starting HotelTonight?
In the past few years, I found myself spending more time at home on my iPhone than my laptop, and simultaneously wondering why all the legacy online travel agencies (OTAs) weren’t doing a great job bringing their products to mobile. I thought that a company focused entirely on mobile from the start would be able to deliver a superior app and booking experience. Smartphones and tablets offered a new way to tap into truly last-minute, on-demand booking, and I wanted to build a brand and service around this.
2.) What is the biggest challenge that you faced when beginning this venture?
Convincing investors that the market for same-day booking was large, and that we would be able to grow the market by giving people convenient access to great hotels at a great value. We eventually raised money from great investors, but we were practically out of cash before it happened.
3.) What is your favorite part about your job?
Working with an amazing, diverse team, doing things no one else has done in travel, and seeing how much joy HotelTonight gives to others by helping them travel more and be more spontaneous.
4.) How much time do you spend traveling?
Around 20 days for family travel, and 40 days for business travel. I try to visit at least three new-to-me cities and one new country a year.
5.) Apart from the success with your company, what are you most proud of?
My family, especially now that my sons are old enough to travel internationally (they went to 4 new countries this year).
6.) What has been your most interesting hotel or travel experience?
I went on a guys’ trip to the UEFA 2008 Euro Cup in Vienna. I’m pretty sure we were the only Americans there. Imagine a group of Europeans at, say, the Indy 500 – we stuck out like sore thumbs!
7.) Who is the most fascinating person you have ever met in a hotel bar?
Rod Stewart – he knew more about European football than anyone I’ve ever met!
8.) Aside from HotelTonight, what is one app that all FoundersCard Members should be using?
What goes hand-in-hand with a spontaneous hotel stay? Something to do when you get there. WillCall (SF and NY) and YPlan (London and soon NYC) are great for finding concerts and other fun events at the last minute.
9.) Give us your best plug on what you’re working on now.
The new iOS 7 version of HotelTonight is sure to impress! We’ll also be launching in some exciting new destinations (for vacation and business travel) and have some really impressive new hotel partners coming on board. And, of course, a few surprises I can’t talk about… yet. 🙂
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