For many hospitality technology entrepreneurs, being selected to participate in HFTP’s Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) innovation competition is a milestone accomplishment on the road for their startup’s successful endeavors. It is no secret that E20X participants gain exposure to a global network of leading industry professionals including: c-level executives, hospitality CIOs, angel investors, serial entrepreneurs, industry insiders and more.
Last year, Hello Scout CEO David Temple competed in HFTP’s second annual E20X event at HITEC New Orleans and was selected by a panel of 11 expert judges as the grand prize winner, or “Judge’s Award” winner. After competing in E20X, Hello Scout, a text-based travel concierge app service, is currently available in six major U.S. cities: San Francisco, New York, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles – with new cities coming every month. ALICE CEO Justin Effron recently stated, “We’ve been impressed by Hello Scout since they won the E20X most innovative startup award at HITEC last year.”
The second E20X award winner from last year, Daylighted, an online art gallery, was selected from hundreds of HITEC New Orleans attendees as the People’s Startup Award winner which served as the crowd favorite.
This year, HFTP is bringing its successful E20X event to Europe for the first time – coinciding with the other pre-conference events on March 28 – at the inaugural HITEC Amsterdam taking place from March 28–30 at the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. HoReCa.digital will serve as the exclusive E20X sponsor; HoReCa.digital GmbH is METRO AG’s newly established subsidiary focusing on helping independent hotels, restaurants and caterers – with innovative digital tools and solutions to improve their business. Follow HoReCa.digital on Facebook, Twitter (@HoReCa_digital) and Instagram (@horeca.digital). Also, HFTP is currently accepting applications for those who would like to participate in E20X at HITEC Toronto.
Despite how good any new product or concept may be – no investor is willing to write a check without complete confidence in the team behind it. Dave Berkus and Prakash Shukla, two recognized hospitality veterans who served on last year’s E20X judge’s panel at HITEC New Orleans, reveal behind-the-scenes information for future E20X participants and attendees.
Berkus is president at Berkus Technology Ventures, LLC as well as a long-time HFTP member and HITEC aficionado. He is also an author, entrepreneur and sought-after speaker as well as one of the nation’s most prolific angel investors. Shukla is a managing partner at Solarex where he manages a $45 million USD seed fund for early stage tech startups and chair of the HITEC Toronto Advisory Council. Both are inductees into the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame.
What did you look for when selecting the Judge’s Winner at E20X last year?
- Berkus: Usability in the hotel environment. Growth opportunities for the company.
- Shukla: Team, market opportunity and ease of scaling.
What did you find surprising about the event?
- Berkus: The high quality of presenting companies.
- Shukla: How quickly within a span of several minutes one can assess viability of a company.
What kind of information were you able to share to last year’s participants that they might not have known before participating in E20X?
- Berkus: Whether their sector seemed overflowing with other candidates for investment and future competitors.
- Shukla: Insights on what will work and what will not work in the industry due to deep donation expertise.
What do you think about HFTP bringing E20X to Europe for the first time at its inaugural HITEC Amsterdam next month?
- Berkus: I think it is a great idea.
- Shukla: As HFTP expands globally, E20X also becomes a global platform. We will see new ideas with international nuance.
What advice would you give to any companies participating in future E20X events? What advice would you give to the judge’s panel?
- Berkus: This is an excellent way to expose the company to important decision-makers internationally. For the judges, remember that we must appraise these companies by both their potential to attract business and investors.
- Shukla: E20X gives companies global exposure and is a great recognition just to be selected as a participant. To judges, I would say try to look for edges and intersections where new opportunities may manifest and try to remove biases or blinders of industry status quo.
To view more photos from HITEC 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana USA, visiting the HFTP Flickr account. View photos> To watch pitches from last year’s E20X event, visit and subscribe to the HFTP/HITEC YouTube channel. Watch videos>
Jessica Blankenship is the HFTP Public Relations Manager. Contact Jessica at Jessica.Blankenship@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4038.