Episode Topic: In this episode of TravelPreneur, we dive into the world of contactless tipping in the hospitality industry with Amaan Dosani, the CEO of Hifive. We explore the journey of Hifive, a contactless tipping platform, from its inception during the pandemic to its evolution into a cutting-edge platform for digital gratuity acceptance and employee performance tracking. The episode also provides insights into Hifive’s mission to enhance the wellness of hospitality employees and its commitment to fostering a sense of community within the industry.
Lessons You’ll Learn: Discover how Amaan Dosani, turned the challenges faced by his family’s hotel business during the pandemic into an innovative solution. Explore the hurdles hoteliers encounter when managing tips and motivating employees, and understand the key role of trust and transparency in digital tipping platforms like Hifive. Learn how Hifive seamlessly integrates contactless tipping payment into various travel industry segments, from valet services to cruise ships, and gain valuable insights into Amaan’s entrepreneurial journey, highlighting the importance of resource utilization, mentorship, and community building. Also, find out how Hifive is committed to improving the well-being of hospitality employees while fostering a strong sense of community within the industry.
About Our Guest: Amaan Dosani, the CEO of Hifive, previously known as TipX, shares his inspiring journey from managing a family hotel to co-founding Hifive. With a focus on innovation and a passion for addressing industry challenges, Amaan has become a thought leader in the hospitality sector, driving positive change through his contactless tipping platform.
Topics Covered: In this episode of TravelPreneur, Amaan Dosani discusses the inception of Hifive and its journey in the hospitality industry during the pandemic. Amaan highlights the challenges faced by hoteliers in handling tips and the importance of trust and transparency in digital tipping platforms like Hifive. He shares how Hifive seamlessly integrates into various travel industry segments, from valet services to cruise ships, and underscores the significance of creating a sense of community within the hospitality industry. Amaan also reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, emphasizing the importance of resource utilization, mentorship, and leveraging university resources.
Our Guest: Meet Amaan Dosani, CEO of Hifive
Amaan Dosani is a dynamic hustler who has been making waves in the world of travel and hospitality. Hailing from the vibrant state of Texas, Amaan’s journey has been nothing short of inspiring.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Entrepreneurship from the renowned Texas McCombs School of Business, Amaan has always had a knack for turning his ideas into reality. He’s not just an ordinary CEO, but also the man behind Hifive, a groundbreaking web application that is all about recognizing and celebrating exceptional customer service.
Hifive replaced traditional travel payment processing with contactless tipping. Born from a noble mission, this ingenious company is all about empowering hourly service heroes to earn those well-deserved extra bucks and bask in the recognition they truly deserve. Whether it’s a heartfelt gesture of gratitude or a nod to the remarkable dedication, Hifive makes it a breeze to send cashless tips through the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. It decreases the hassle and embraces a future where showing appreciation is as simple as a scan and a smile.
But Amaan’s journey to success wasn’t a cakewalk. He is a true example of dedication and perseverance. Despite facing numerous rejections, he never gave up on his dreams. From being a Summer Fellow at Blackstone to making his mark at Texas Momentum and Convergent, Amaan’s diverse experiences have shaped him into the visionary leader he is today. His journey has been marked by his willingness to learn, adapt, and grow especially in the field of travel payment processing. He’s not just building businesses, he is building dreams, one at a time.
Amaan Dosani: I’ve always wanted to create something and I always had certain ideas. My co-founder and I, this was actually, our third idea. Our first two ideas technically failed didn’t even get to market because we just realized it just wasn’t that cost and there was no success. We were just going to raise money and not make any money. Let’s just put it on the back burner. And then in the middle of the pandemic, when all that happened, it was just that light bulb, one phone call, and all we did was start with the Google document. We met at a Starbucks. We put Project X and we just started writing and documenting everything about tipping. We had like 64 pages of notes.
Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist Megha McSwain. In each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on TravelPreneur.
Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Amaan Dosani, CEO of Hifive, a contactless app that uses QR codes to accept tips electronically and conveniently, tracks employee performance through customer ratings and reviews. Hifive is a major player in the hospitality sector. Hello Amaan. Thanks for joining us.
Amaan Dosani: Yeah, thank you for having me, Megha. I really appreciate the opportunity to be on the show.
Megha McSwain: For sure. So let’s dive into Hifive. Now I know we want to clarify. Hifive was TipX, right? That’s probably what we want to get off. Okay.
Amaan Dosani: That is correct. TipX was originally TipX that transitioned over to Hifive at the beginning of this year.
Megha McSwain: Okay. So when we go back and forth with our questions and talking about it in case we mention one or the other, it’s the same concept company, but it’s just changed names and maybe rebranded. I guess?
Amaan Dosani: Yes, correct. We always say that TipX was the original idea and evolved over to Hifive.
Megha McSwain: Okay, so we don’t want anyone to get confused. So wanted to clear that up right away. Let’s talk about the inception of TipX and what kind of interest did you in this domain and just the foundational idea behind it.
Amaan Dosani: It all goes back to the beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, my family decided to open and build our first hotel here in College Station. It was three months before the pandemic that we actually opened our doors. And as the pandemic got to its peak, you know, we lost our entire management team, our staff, and was left with me, my mother, my father and sister to run this 91 room hotel with no experience. It happened overnight to where, you know, we didn’t my father, my mother and I didn’t even know how to check somebody in. My sister was the only person that was qualified to run the desk. The rest of us had no experience whatsoever, I’m sure have the assumption how chaotic it was at the time, but it gave me the opportunity to come in and have to be forced to learn the industry and learn hospitality. Right from checking rooms to cleaning beds to running a whole operation with again, not even knowing how to check a guest in.
Because as you know, in business, when something happens, you know, your life doesn’t stop for the business, the business keeps going. And so we had to adapt and learn. And as I was basically putting out all the fires so that our business could operate, I came to an idea where from an example that a guest came down to me and actually gave me an envelope while I was running the desk and I said, well, what is this? And she said, well, it’s a tip. And I said, well, who’s it for? And she was like, it’s for your housekeeper. And I was like, oh, you know, I really appreciate this. You know, thank you so much for giving this to me. I’ll make sure I get it to the housekeeper that cleaned your room. And she said, but how do I know you’re actually going to give it to her? How do I know that you’re not just going to keep it? And so when she said that, you know, I kind of had that lightbulb where how many people are having that idea that they want to show appreciation for an employee or anyone on the property and don’t have that ability to feel comfortable enough that they know that those funds are going to get there. And so when she told me that, I told her, well, ma’am, this is my family business. This is the highest reward an employee could receive. And me, as an operator, that shows that my housekeeper is exceeding her expectations and making sure that a guest is having a great stay in a clean room. And so this is positive for me. I assured her that the employee was going to get that tip.
And so as I started realizing, you know, how many people were having that problem, I was also faced with the ability to how do I incentivize my own employees to feel encouraged in the workspace? Because, as you know, in the pandemic, hiring employees even till today is a big problem. Turnover is so high and so I’m trying to find certain ways to be able to come up with a successful way that could help me as an operator, but also help my employees at the same time. And that’s where TipX kind of came to its own.
I had reached out to my co-founder, who is also my older cousin and said, hey, this is the problem that I saw. You know, let’s try to come up with something. So we originally started with Venmo and Cash app to try to prove out our idea that our people are willing to leave digital tips. And we let it out for the first time. We actually didn’t see a success. We saw a few, but not to a point where it could be scalable or successful. And we realized that people don’t want to download an app to kind of send tips or they don’t need to have their phone number or email information that makes it for the person to send the monetary funds. So we tried different ideas like Squarespace. Again, the process wasn’t as great. And then we finally transitioned over to Shopify where we were able to then validate our idea that this was working. And so we went on to Shopify. It was a way of a quick checkout using Apple Pay, using Google Pay, and we were done. The guest was able to not share any information. They were able to use their digital wallet and that is how we created our MVP. We were just trying to find a way to solve this issue at my hotel. That way I could be like as a hotel owner and operator, I’m able to do this. This is what I solved and go out and try to help others in the industry as well.
Megha McSwain: So what sets it apart as far, as I mean, it’s hard to say because, you know, this was back in 2020 and look at how much life has happened in these last three years. There are probably other people doing the same thing. But what sets apart or what was your goal for TipX to be different than other apps maybe doing a similar thing?
Amaan Dosani: Yeah. So originally we were focused on creating the platform for individual employees. An initial idea was that let’s capture reviews to help employees build their own resumes where they could have this type of reviews to take and actually provide themselves an advantage in the market when they’re trying to be recruited by other hotels or other industries that they have credibility from guests. But what we’ve seen is when we started implementing and started seeing the growth of our business, we recognized that guests were using our platform to share their opinions about their in house experiences.
Megha McSwain: For example, they can leave gratuity, but they can also leave a review or a comment about that person.
Amaan Dosani: Correct. That was our original theory. But what we’ve seen is that comment section. People have been really focused on writing reviews about their in-house stay. So amenities, guest experience, whether they had a good stay, the bed wasn’t comfortable, the pillows weren’t comfortable, and we were able to now identify which room is having that issue. So if a shower drain is broken or the TV doesn’t work. Our platform is able to identify that specific room and let the management know, hey, this is what issue this guest is having and helping them identify it ahead of time before it goes to their post stay reviews, which is Google’s TripAdvisor, where the guest then shares it and it affects the franchise fees, it affects the scores, and it also gives a bad impact on the hotel itself.
Megha McSwain: And did you face any challenges as far as bringing this idea to other obviously, you wanted to use it for your family business and figured out pretty quickly that it was working, but bringing it to other people, this idea, did you face any challenges where people were like, because there’s a lot of old school people and they don’t want to change the way they do things specifically when it comes to paying tips and cash and giving them directly to the person and all of that stuff. And they don’t want to sort of move forward with the time. So were there any challenges that you faced when you brought that into the market?
Amaan Dosani: Fundamentally, we did because challenges at the beginning was trying to educate the customer what our platform was and what was meaning behind our platform. It wasn’t we’re going to keep the tips and then not give it back, right? It’s that trust funds. And so creating a more seamless and more transparent way of how funds are being transferred from us to the business, how each tip was being documented. And so giving that clarity and understanding was where we needed to really focus on what we were talking to our preliminary customers. It wasn’t much the idea, but how was the money being transferred and how was getting notified.
So one of the challenges we were facing is like, how do we notify the hotel or the employee that they got a tip? And then how do we notify the guest that it’s been received to our funds and it actually got to the employee? And so we at the beginning had to manually do this. We created a dashboard which was actually a Google Sheet for the business. So anytime we received a tip, we would go in and manually enter it into the Google Sheets that we shared with the business. So anytime the business was able to log in or check their Google sheets, they’d see those lists of tips. And then when they see the day of payroll, they’re able to make it equal and equal, and it would show that transparency. And then the employee would have their own Google sheets where they’re able to see what tips they received as well, so that now all three parties know how much each person got and what was the total amount of tips?
Megha McSwain: Wow. Hearing that sounds very complicated or like there’s a lot of steps, but I could see how in the long run it’s easier for the customer to get that money. Do you have any success stories that you can share of someone that maybe was thinking this is not going to work and then they kind of move forward with it?
Amaan Dosani: One of our proudest moments was whenever we actually implemented with a valet in Austin, we had an opportunity to collaborate with a ballet company in Austin where they were able to have multiple locations around the city. One of the best locations that they had was in a medical center in Austin. It was a complimentary valet. And so we thought, let’s go ahead and put a large sidewalk sign to where when people are waiting for their car, they can scan this QR code and they can leave the tip. A lot of people were skeptical first, which had like 30 to 40 of their employees and only 5 to 10 signed up. A lot of them were very suspicious about what we were doing. But I said, hey, look, just give us a try. Let’s see how it goes. So out of those 5 to 10, only two employees actually gave us their photos because we allow them to optionally add their photo if they choose to with their consent. So two of them did. And when they did that and we started the first day, you could see the influx of tips. But for the individuals that had their photo, it.
Megha McSwain: Let the customer know that this is the person the money is going to like. It’s like a double confirmation, correct!
Amaan Dosani: And so after that, our emails are just popping up. People are asking to get signed up. They’re asking to add their photos. We’re getting text messages. So like as soon as we proved it with two employees, we were able to bring on the rest of the staff. And that’s what we tell a lot of our customers. Look, just put it out there. It’s all optional. It’s just an ability for them to participate. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. But what we’ve seen is once 1 or 2 participate, they see the value that we’re bringing. Then you have the ability to go ahead and sign up yourself and you can just see that increase every time we bring on a new property or a new business.
But this success story is so personal because my co-founder and I went and like watched the tips happen. We sat like the valet. We sat in the back and just watched it happen. We went and talked to the employees, what was working, what wasn’t working. So they knew us by face and they were always excited to see us. And out of all that, the best day ever was our first $100 tip because that first $100 tip really justified that there is a chance that somebody will do that at the valet. And then you is what was even more impactful. The review was written that she was in a wheelchair. The valet driver took the wheelchair, opened it up for her, got her in her wheelchair and walked her to her appointment. As an owner, how do you know that your valet is stepping out of the way to do that? Out of just good manners, good etiquette, because his client is in the hospital. So what he did, he took all the reviews that were written from our platform and he presented it to the hospital to show, hey, this is what your guests or your customers are saying about our valet service. So it’s giving him an opportunity to justify his business as well and why they should their relationship. That’s amazing kind of how we evolved, realizing how much more value we can provide as just a tipping platform at the time.
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Megha McSwain: In what other ways has it become kind of more integrated?
Amaan Dosani: We actually have gotten a lot of interest from travel companies. One of our recent clients is actually out of Alaska. They do Alaska tour companies. They have about 4 or 5 boats. They have two drivers that bring them to the boats. So they implemented us for their drivers and those using the boats. We’ve had interest from white water rafting companies. We’ve had interest from bicycle companies. So I don’t know if you’re a bicycle valet and so there’s interest there as well. We are always looking for the ability to find markets that may offer tipping at cash but don’t have the point-of-sale system. We’re trying to come in and say, hey, let’s not put in this whole system. Let’s just stamp a QR code and we can do the rest on the back end.
Megha McSwain: What about something like because I’m now I’m starting to think all the times we tip, it’s a lot, right? Especially these days. It’s just more and more. But what about like cruise ships or because there’s so many people when you’re traveling or on vacation that you encounter that you want to offer your gratuity?
Amaan Dosani: Most definitely. Cruise ships, airlines, they have the speedboats that people give even on the beach, you know, like excursion, I mean, our market can really evolve and adapt as a product. But our focus right now is in hospitality because as I mentioned before, it was more educating the customer. Now that two years later the customer is educated, it’s really about creating those relationships and developing those and continuing to grow in hospitality, then going out and growing. Because my background is in hospitality, I’ve been in operations, I understand the market and I think that also creates a huge value when presenting this to other hoteliers is that I was in your shoes. I am in your shoes. This is what I did to solve those issues that I was having.
Megha McSwain: Funny that you say that because it just makes me wonder. You are in the business, your family business of the hotel, but to take from going from that to building this sort of new system of tipping is quite a jump. Did you always have this entrepreneurial spirit? Was it something that you thought would happen or it just kind of unfolded the way it did because of Covid?
Amaan Dosani: I always wanted to create something. I considered myself a very creative person. I always had certain ideas. My co-founder and I, this was actually our third idea. Our first two ideas technically failed and didn’t even get to market because we just realized it just wasn’t that cost and there was no success behind it. We were just going to raise money and not make any money. Let’s just put it on the back burner. And then in the middle of the pandemic, when all that happened, it was just that light bulb and one phone call and all we did was start with a Google document. We met at a Starbucks. We put Project X and we just started writing and documenting everything about tipping. We had like 64 pages of notes of just the being contactless, whatever came up to mind. We put it in that document and we just grew from there.
Megha McSwain: Can you share any challenges that you had as far as like, okay, wow, I know I need to do this, but I don’t know how to do this. So who do I ask or where do I go from here? Because that happens a lot when you have this great idea and you don’t know how to get from A to B sometimes Yes.
Amaan Dosani: And you know, it goes back to having a co-founder, because I was always thinking, you know, we need to put money in and build this product and build this product. But he said, let’s take a step back and say, okay, how do we validate it one and two? It’s like, how do we create that process that we are imagining at the most cost-efficient way? And so at first, it was we could have two options. One, we spend money on building an MVP or two, we use Google Docs and we use Shopify and we just run with it and we see if people are willing to pay for it. What’s crazy is option two worked. The challenge was, is like, okay, we’re going to go with the harder challenge. It’s going to be manual, but are we able to successfully roll this out and implement some hotels and let it run? And that’s exactly what happened. The challenge was just maintaining it because as I was building the product, not only I was still operating the business, I was also in school. So I had like a lot of things on my plate and I was in school building this and operating. So but building this was a priority because any tip that came in, I needed to make sure I was able to post it or put it on the Google sheet. I’m creating that experience for my customer. Juggling all those hats was the challenge was how do I make time to do everything, or how do I sacrifice certain things?
Megha McSwain: I’m asking you: What is your advice for young entrepreneurs? But you’re a young entrepreneur, but someone getting into this or someone wanting to kind of, you know, because look at this. It all happened in three years, just a few years ago. Codes were not as commonplace as they are now. But during COVID, when you had to scan the QR code to see a menu at a restaurant. Now it’s just something that is so mainstream for really everybody. So things can happen really fast. What advice would you give to someone who kind of wants to enter this sort of industry with something really cutting edge and modern, something that would help the customer?
Amaan Dosani: The advice I would give is, one, write down all of your ideas because there’s never a bad idea. You just need to write down all your ideas, pick your top three and try to go and validate it, plus ask questions. If you know others in the industry, ask them broad questions. Don’t ask them skewed questions like don’t try to find the right answer with them. Have the answer naturally come to you. So if you have this idea, I don’t want to say, Are you having trouble getting digital tips? Right? It’s like making them give you the right answer. Rather asking, How are you getting tips today? Or what is the percentage of people that leave cash tips at your hotel trying to find those answers within different questions and not make it skewed? Plus, if you’re a college student at the time, there’s a lot of resources that universities offer you and a lot of free money that you can receive from just applying. And third, again, if you’re a student, go and talk to your professors. I always elaborate a lot on that because my success was I would tell my professors, I’m building this company, I’m running my family business and I’m going to school when I let it all on the table. If I had to walk out of class because I had a client meeting or if I had to take care of some business, there was no questions asked because they know that if I’m going to walk out of class, it’s something very important for me to walk out of class, right? And having that relationship then led to intros, then led to even more mentors.
Amaan Dosani: So it’s like really starting from square one. If you’re a young entrepreneur, you’re focused on wanting to do this. Start with the resources that you have. And so if you’re in school, really hone in on those because I promise you, there’s one hotelier that goes to your school, I guarantee you, and he’ll really use your resources. And that’s how we build from the ground up was using all the resources, like you mentioned that one grant, there are about 7 or 8 more that we applied to. We got about five out of the seven that led us to where we were and being accepted. And our biggest milestone again was getting into Techstars, which is one of the biggest accelerators in the country, and getting all the way experienced enough to where we were accepted into. That was a huge win for our company and that’s kind of how we even evolved it more. So it’s really just using all the free resources you get, especially if you’re in the position that I was in.
Megha McSwain: Do you have any service providers or software that is crucial to the company, or is something that you could recommend that other people in this industry could benefit from using?
Amaan Dosani: Not particularly. I really believe that all the platforms that are out there today has been very successful. There’s nothing in hospitality because right now a lot of the brands are coming in and adding their own brand standards and adding their own preferred vendors. So there’s a lot of processes coming, but I just really believe it goes down. And especially in hospitality, the team that you’re building, making sure you create a great team from the bottom up because your hotel in particular isn’t going to be successful if you don’t have a Great Housekeeping team. They’re the ones that are going to clean your rooms. They’re the ones that are going to start your entire business. And without them and them not being appreciated and really honing in on the idea that they matter, everything else will not be successful. And I don’t think software, in my opinion, can always overtake an employee’s heart at a will be able to participate or work in an environment as hospitality. There’s a lot of platforms that can go in, enhance that and help that, but it all goes down to square. One is building your team.
Megha McSwain: So what do you have planned, I mean, it’s been what, now two years since the company started? It’s had its rebrand. It’s called Hifive. What does the future hold for Hifive?
Amaan Dosani: We are just focused on growing our company and expanding as far as we can. We’ve had interest from other countries and continents, but our main focus has been here in the United States developing our relationship, improving our product every day, and making sure that our current customers are happy and excited about what we’re building. We really believe that our story is what creates the foundation of our business. And our story is what got us where we are today. And we just want to continue growing and evolving. And that goes with our clients as well, making sure that we have a great relationship. And if you see our website, it’s Hifive community.com. So it’s really focus on creating a community that’s focused on gratuity but also at the same time improving the overall wellness of an employee in hospitality.
Megha McSwain: So well that leads me to go ahead and let people know where they can keep up with everything that’s going on with Hifivecommunity.com. What about social media? How can they keep up and see Hifive on LinkedIn?
Amaan Dosani: Very active on LinkedIn and always sharing all information that we can. And so if anyone is interested, they’re welcome to go on our website or find us on LinkedIn and we’re happy to respond.
Megha McSwain: Well, thank you so much, man. This was so wonderful getting to hear about your journey and mean what a success story, really. We look forward to speaking with you again here at TravelPreneur and just kind of seeing what’s new with Hifive in the future.
Amaan Dosani: Yeah. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it and look forward to staying connected for sure.
Megha McSwain: Take care.