hospitality
April 6, 2016

Cornell University Hotel School Competition Recognizes Two Student Companies

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Judges for the Cornell Hospitality Business Plan Competition have declared the contest’s first-ever tie between two winning teams — Last Second Beach and Maidbot.

The two teams will each receive $25,000 for their business plans and entrepreneurial ideas in travel and hotel operations, according to the University.

Although the competition’s funding only provided a $25,000 prize for one team, Dean of the School of Hotel Administration, Prof. Michael Johnson, hotel administration, matched the prize for the other team, according to Maidbot founder Alex Levy ’18.

“I was a little surprised it ended in a tie, as nothing like that had ever happened before,” Levy said. “I was very happy for [Last Second Beach founder Khalid Ladha grad] and his team, though and absolutely thrilled Dean Johnson matched the rest of the money.”

Last Second Beach — co-founded last year by Ladha and Zach Demuth grad — is a software platform that simplifies consumer navigation for travel purchases, according to Ladha.

The platform focuses on one-price or all-inclusive vacations, Ladha said.

“It is a mobile-first aggregation platform, designed for value-driven consumers seeking to book short beach vacations like all-inclusive resorts and cruises,” he said. “ It also offers distributors a new, targeted, lower-cost distribution channel.”

Demuth added Last Second Beach is unique because it focuses on one-price vacations, which is an underdeveloped segment of the travel industry.

“While it’s never been easier to book travel online via the proliferation of online travel agencies, the one-price vacation industry has lagged significantly behind, with much of the distribution still controlled by travel agents and wholesalers,” Demuth said. “Our business solves this problem, as well as brings awareness to an industry that’s fundamentally under-served.”

Ladha said he was inspired to create Last Second Beach after his experience with booking an all-inclusive vacation online, according to Demuth.

“Khalid approached me last June with the idea, as I have experience working in the leisure hotel industry in the Caribbean and Mexico, where much of the one-price vacation inventory exists,” Demuth said.

The Maidbot team created a robotic vacuum cleaner, which Levy said he believes could “revolutionize the hospitality industry” by reducing room-cleaning turnaround times.

“We were inspired by the technology in The Jetsons and after working as a room attendant as part of the SHA curriculum,” Levy said.

Although the company is about a year old, most of its progress occurred within the last eight months, according to Levy.

Levy added that he was “very impressed” by all the teams that presented at the hospitality competition and plans to compete again next year.

“It’s great to see so much support for entrepreneurship in the Hotel School and at Cornell,” he said. “I’m absolutely humbled to have had this experience.”

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