Operto raises $15M in funding to help property owners ride wave of tech automation
CEO Steve Davis talks about the “perfect storm” that’s led to 400 percent year-over-year growth for his company.
As the pandemic-driven need for digital tools infiltrates homes and hotels, a Vancouver property tech company is seeing its prospects grow—as well as its bank balance. Operto Guest Technologies today announced the completion of a CAD $15.3 million (USD $12M) Series A round of financing.
The round was led by Seattle’s FUSE, with follow-on investments from Watchfire Venturers, BlackPines Capital Partners and other undisclosed groups. The company said it would use the funds for product development and geographical expansion.
Why it matters: The experience of discovering and booking short-term rentals has transformed over the past 10 years. But there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to streamlining the guest experience to make it safe and frictionless with digital technology. This is where Operto’s property automation comes in.
“We've got the absolute perfect product that everyone's looking for right now,” explained Operto CEO Steve Davis a few weeks ago to Vancouver Tech Journal. He said property owners are grappling with the COVID-influenced need for contactless technology and are struggling to hire because of the tightening labour market. “So how do you run a remote front desk without having to have anyone really checking people in and all these kinds of considerations?” Davis asked. “Not only that, there are changing consumer needs. I don't really want to stand in line when I go to a hotel. I want to walk through the lobby and go straight to my room and use my phone to open the lock and it just opens, right?”
Changing enterprise and traveller expectations have created a “perfect storm” for Operto, Davis said. “There are so many different sales angles to talk to depending on what the pain point of the owner-operator is,” Davis says.
But it’s not just small and medium-sized properties that are being forced to upgrade their systems, Davis argues. Larger organizations like the Marriotts and the Hiltons of the world are also being forced to lean into innovation. “Those guys are starting to go, ‘You know what, we have to get on board here.’ It's exciting—the tsunami hits, and then [businesses] go, ‘Shit, I wonder if we have the right surfboard?’”
Operto hopes to be the surfboard of choice for scaling property businesses.
Intensifying tailwinds: Operto’s financing news comes eight months after it acquired VRScheduler, a startup based in Leavenworth, Washington, which automates back-of-house scheduling workflows for housekeeping and maintenance. It also comes on the heels of hypergrowth, according to Davis, who said the startup has seen a 400 percent increase in sales. “Now is the right time to double-down on our growth plans, and working alongside our new incredible partners at FUSE, Watchfire and with our broader investor consortium, will allow us to build on this momentum,” he said.
FUSE’s Brendan Wales told Vancouver Tech Journal his firm’s goal is to support entrepreneurs who are first and foremost customer-obsessed. Lately, that’s meant that the Washington-based investor has been looking north. Last July 6, he led a $6 million investment into Vancouver startup Visualping. This isn’t Wales’s first time swimming in B.C. waters and probably not his last.
“The Operto team works relentlessly to support the global set of property managers and owners who make the travel experience for us all the more comfortable and accessible via short-term vacation rentals,” Wales said in a statement. “It’s a dream to be able to partner with them at this stage.”
Operto was founded by Michael Driedger in 2016 as Slickspaces Technologies before rebranding in 2019. Current CEO Davis joined the company in late 2020 and hit the ground running. Soon after, he was named to the Most Influential People in Vacation Rental Technology list by VRTECH.