After taking a personal trip that included a stay at a hotel, Jose Quiros was surprised to find that the hotel industry was still using traditional room telephones to communicate with guests.
This inspired Quiros, who previously worked at a large guest room telephone manufacturer and has years of experience in telecommunication companies, to take his knowledge of guest communications and create F3TCH, a mobile application guests can use to talk to their hotel for services and amenities without being tied to the phone cord.
Developing an app was a suitable project for Quiros, who said he grew up around technology and is largely self-taught.
“At home, we would talk about microwave transmitters and submarine cables, which made me really curious as to how things work,” he said. “I grew up tinkering with mobile radios, programming languages like Fortran, BASIC, C and more recently Swift.”
Quiros, who has degrees in economics and finance and international business management, takes micro- courses around technology and uses the internet as a tool for learning as well.
After his trip, Quiros called Jamie Turney, whom he worked with at the telephone manufacturer, to discuss creating a solution. Turney is now a co-founder of the startup.
“We felt that was a terribly inefficient and antiquated way to address a guest, so we invented F3TCH,” Quiros said.
The startup, which he describes as a connector, provides solutions for both guests and hotels and resorts.
For guests, it offers convenience by allowing them to talk to a hotel anywhere and anytime through voice, text and images. For the hotel industry, it provides a touchless way to better communicate with their guests and consolidate services such as laundry and room service. Highend hotels and resorts can also use the platform to upsell their service and amenities and enhance their loyalty programs, Quiros said.
“If you think about it, the hotel industry is providing a landline solution to a mobile guest. You can buy crypto on your smart device but not order room service? Doesn’t make sense,” Quiros said.
Some technology it uses include Voice over Internet Protocol and cloud solutions, and it integrates the hotel’s existing communications platform and property management system. It has also garnered patents.
The startup began work on its product in 2019, and Quiros is working to grow the business in Wilmington, a location he recently moved to. What attracted him to the city, after he considered Austin, Texas, and Tampa, Florida, were three key points: access to research and development through the proximity of the Research Triangle, size and cost of the city and access to the hospitality industry.
While Quiros had not visited Wilmington before moving, he was pleased to find that Wilmington did tick all three boxes.
In addition to those points, the city also has an entrepreneurial ecosystem that has proven useful, including getting guidance from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington, Quiros said.
Quiros aims to carry the startup through the completion of its beta testing, an official launch mid-year and the start of selling its services.
Beta testing is very important because F3TCH is a third-party application to existing hotel systems. This is beneficial for the company because once testing is done, it makes thousands of hotels compatible with the company overnight.
“It doesn’t mean that they are customers, but it means that if they wanted to be customers it literally is a quick turnaround. Once we get going, we can scale up really quickly which is phenomenal but that tends to be, from our experience, where companies can fail,” Quiros said. “You need to have the infrastructure in place to do that. We want to make sure automation is right with the software, but we also want to make sure our system is right in place.”
In addition, Quiros has started introducing the company to potential customers and investors through a pitch contest.
F3TCH was selected to participate and made the final round of the Out- Pitch 2.0 pitch contest by Outlander VC.
“Outlander was the first time, ever, that we pitched in a live scenario,” he said. “Never in a million years would we have thought we would make the top five (out of 150-160 firms) in that national contest.”
With this new product, Quiros has ambitious goals, including getting 250 - 300 hotels on its platform by the end of the year and capturing 50% of the global hotel market in five years.
The company is planning to do a fundraiser with some small angel investors and is seeking grants by applying with NC IDEA and programs with the Department of Defense, which houses hotels at military bases.
“Maybe if we need anything extra toward the end of the year, we will be doing something more formal and sizeable,” he said.
Quiros said that while it may seem a little “crazy” to move the company sight unsees to Wilmington, the underlying factors were good.
He said, “We look forward to growing here and feel confident we are in the right place.”