ANA & Intel Solving the Hospitality Industry's Innovation Crisis

Image: LDProd / Shutterstock (Person paying tab at bar or restaurant with cell phone app)

Attendees of the 2020 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas will have the very real, very exciting opportunity to shape the future of the industry.

Forty tech-focused startups will be providing real-time, hands-on test drives of their brand-new hospitality industry tech.

Bar, restaurant and nightclub owners, operators, managers and team members will be the first to interact with and provide feedback to the 40 recent graduates of a tech startup incubator and accelerator program.

LA Fund, the innovation arm of the American Nightlife Association (ANA), has partnered with 500 Startups to solve a massive problem within hospitality: the ridiculously—and painfully—slow pace at which the industry “innovates.”

The ANA, LA Fund, 500 Startups, Intel and Nightclub & Bar agree that the industry must overcome its innovation crisis. One obstacle that factors into the lack of viable, easily integrated technology solutions designed for hospitality is cost. Whereas bringing an app to market can be as relatively easy as hiring programmers, much of what’s needed in our space requires the development and manufacture of hardware.

To remove obstacles and bring solutions to our industry, 500 Startups and LA Fund have created an incubator to take concepts from the idea stage to the IPO stage, bringing innovations to the hospitality space, therefore helping operators make more money with new solutions via startups.

We’re excited to announce that the first of these solutions will be present at the 2020 Nightclub & Bar Show inside the NxT Pavilion.

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Many Nightclub & Bar Show attendees are familiar with the ANA, being members themselves. Joining is free, and members will have a new perk after trying out what the 40 startups have to offer inside the NxT Pavilion: access to free trials for the tech-based platforms and solutions.

500 Startups receives around 2,000 applications for support and development every year. According to Lev Filimonov, managing partner for LA Fund, just 22 are selected, meaning only about one percent of applicants go through to the next step. And when it comes to the ANA and 500 Startups partnership, that next step is a big one: intensive real-world testing for three months.

After selection, LA Funds sends startups through their Hospitality Innovation (HI) Lab, activating partner venues in three major markets: Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The startups are tested for three months by the owners, operators, managers and team at real venues who provide valuable feedback and insights. As examples, does the idea lead to more sales? Did the venues make more money? Is this solution viable?

The startups that conceived hospitality industry solutions that are deemed viable must then make it through a weeklong bootcamp. During this step of the process, startup founders are taught by experts how to scale, how to make money, and how to form collaborative relationships with other founders so they can grow.

That last step will take place just one week before bootcamp graduates face their most challenging audience: Nightclub & Bar Show attendees, their hopeful real-world clients.

The solutions that receive the best feedback will become ANA partners, meaning free trials for members, discounts for members who decide to adopt a platform, and support for the platforms’ growth through the association itself.

Nightclub & Bar Show attendees can expect truly innovative solutions. In fact, the ANA and LA Fund have identified 27 separate categories within our industry that need and deserve innovation. These solutions range from “simple” to incredibly advanced.

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For instance, Alex Balaban, also a managing partner at LA Fund, explains that tech giant Intel is interested in guest engagement and other hospitality industry-focused technology such as location-based entertainment and gamification, along with process automation. Such solutions fall into the "simpler" side of things.

Bill Baker, an advisor at LA Fund, explained a pain point to which just about every operator can relate. When he asked an operator what he needed help with, the operator gestured to the hundreds of guests inside his venue. Each one represented a potential credit card that had to be processed separately. The ANA, LA Fund and 500 Startups are on a mission to solve that problem and many, many others.

Filimonov shares much more advanced forms of hospitality tech when he, Balaban and Baker are asked what can be optimized in this industry. In short, everything can and should be optimized at bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

A guest’s entire experience can be tracked and optimized through AI. Just looking at music, datapoints can be collected and analyzed from the moment guests enter a venue. Information can be shared with the DJ or sent to an automated music system to help adjust the atmosphere to an optimal level for most guests. A better experience increases engagement, leading to longer visit times, more orders, more sales, more frequent visits, and an improved perception that increases loyalty.

We share LA Fund’s goal, stated succinctly by Filimonov: “The goal is to identify the problems, talk to Association members and bar owners to locate pain points, and activate bright minds across the globe to work on and solve those problems.”

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With this partnership we’re positive we can improve the statistics of bar, restaurant and nightclub survival, and we’re hopeful you’re excited to help us accomplish this goal at next year’s Nightclub & Bar Show.


American Nightlife Association, LA Fund & HI Lab

500 Startups