Pass the remote: GCBEA September 2010

Written on the 2 December 2010

Sep 2010

What started as a conversation over a backyard fence quickly led to an innovative business partnership between neighbours Ross Coldwell and Tony Hayes. Around $3.5 million in development later and the duo are on the verge of signing up two major hotel chains for their world-first ‘all-in-one’ hotel entertainment and communication systems.

Ross Coldwell admits it has been a ‘hard road’ since founding Lifestylepanel with Tony Hayes in 2008.

After discussing their frustrations with the lack of cohesive technology available in hotel rooms, Hayes and Coldwell embarked on an IT mission to develop the world’s first ‘all in one’ system.

The pair has since been joined by three additional co-owners and a total investment of $3.5 million has been pumped into the business.

“We were absolutely amazed that this didn’t already exist. We did some homework and found that people have tried similar systems but nothing very professional or user-friendly,” says managing director Coldwell.

“Most four or five-star hotels will have cable internet or wi-fi and a TV that may or may not have ‘movies on demand’. We’ve created a platform where all these technologies could exist in one simple system.

“For example as a hotel guest you can easily use Skype to say goodnight to your children – they can see you and you can see them and all you have to do is talk to your television.”

Coldwell says initial technology challenges included movie distribution rights and copyright issues but the units have been tweaked to state-of-the-art and are easily upgraded when required.

With the systems now found in eight hotels including Ramada, Quality Hotels, Millennium (NZ) and Best Western properties, his immediate task is to convince two interested major hotel chains that the systems are the best option on the market.

“The hotel industry was very sceptical at first. Most hoteliers couldn’t believe that we could do it and didn’t want to be the ‘guinea pigs’ for a new technology,” says Coldwell.

“The other problem we encountered is that most hotels had existing contracts that would have to be completed before they could even consider our product. So this isn’t a business where we can meet with a hotel owner and sign a deal the next day.

“We’ve taken the business as far as we can go in this stage and we’re now finalising negotiations with two major hotel chains that can’t be disclosed at present.

“The first chain however has more than 300,000 rooms across 25 hotels in Australia and eight hotels in New Zealand. The second chain is a major US-based hotel group which will give us our opportunity in that market.”

Each Lifestylepanel system generates $2.66 per occupied room per day on a consignment-based partnership. The systems in use generate $360,000 in annual revenue for the company but naturally Coldwell expects that figure to blow out if negotiations with the major hotel groups go according to plan.

“The business model we have set up means that we enter into a partnership with the hotels rather than sell them a product,” he says.

“Because of this we have had to choose carefully so we align ourselves with hotels that further our business strategy. For example, some Gold Coast hotels are owned by many members of a body corporate and can be more hassle to deal with than it’s worth.

“At the moment there are quite a few hotels that we expect will contact us when their current tech contracts expire. But if we sign these major chains up for the Lifestylepanel systems we won’t need to be chasing contracts anymore.

“It has been a long, hard road for us to be honest, but now we are starting to see the confidence in the technology and the company pay off.”

Lifestylepanel has taken out the August Gold Coast Business Excellence Mayor’s Innovation Award.

Lucy Cole Prestige Properties

AS one of the Coast’s leading independent real estate agencies, Lucy Cole Prestige Properties is always seeking fresh ways to stay ahead of the market through innovation and creative thinking.
Company founder Lucy Cole has enjoyed 20 successful years in the highly competitive South East Queensland property market and forged a reputation for providing enthusiastic, tailored service and total commitment to each client’s needs.

Lucy Cole Prestige Properties is the only Gold Coast agency to be granted membership to the exclusive Leading Agents of Australia.

Elco Solutions

ENGINEERED Land Coastal Oceanic Solutions (Elco Solutions) manufactures geosynthetic solutions for various environmental purposes including erosion prevention and landfill containment.

Elco is Australia’s first non-woven geotextile producers supplying Australia, New Zealand and South East Asian markets with innovative, environmentally responsible products and solutions to protect the environment and further sustainability.

Elcorock, one of the company’s marquee products, comprises sand filled geotextile containers manufactured in answer to the growing need for environmentally
friendly marine, coastal and estuarine solutions.

Creatures On Tour

CREATURES On Tour is the company behind the design, creation and touring of the internationally successful travelling exhibition ‘How to make a Monster – the art of technology & animatronics’.

The business is the brainchild of John Cox, whose Creature Workshop is internationally acclaimed as a leader in the design and manufacture of fantasy creatures, monsters and realistic animals; and wife Julie.

Cox won the 1995 Visual Effects Academy Award for his work on family favourite Babe. The hands-on exhibition is becoming one of the most successful Australian exhibits to tour Australia and the US.

Smartprint Fleet Management

BOASTING 1500 technicians and offices on the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Smartprint Fleet Management work to simplify and reduce the operating costs of businesses printing needs nation-wide.

Smartprint is one of the fastest growing managed printer services companies in Australia that specialise in MPS (managed print services) for laser printer and photocopier fleets.

Its business model encompasses all service, equipment, maintenance and consumable requirements.

The company prides itself on being 100 per cent brand independent and aims to improve return on investments, reduce operating costs and simplify the supply and maintenance of network printers and copiers.

San Diego Tortilla Factory

BURLEIGH-based San Diego Tortilla Factory makes fresh and healthy authentic Mexican tortillas using Australian-sourced ingredients.

Its tortilla range is sold in domestic and international supermarkets and has the tick of approval from both the Healthy Kids School Canteen Association and the Coeliac Society of Australia.

The family-owned business is driven by the desire to make sure consumers receive the freshest products and to continue researching the best methods for producing high-quality tortillas that remain fresh
while keeping the longest shelf life possible.

Funky foto booths

MOTHER and son business team Susie and Cam Christie launched their brainchild, Funky foto booths two years ago and has since opened operations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The company is now the largest photo booth supplier in Australia and market the products as the perfect addition to weddings, formals, birthdays, corporate and charity events.Funky foto booths takes four different poses and duplicates every picture taken so one strip can be pasted into a memento album or two guests can each have a strip to keep. The print time is around 15 seconds and the photo strips land dry.

Reynolds Soil Technologies

REYNOLDS Soil Technologies (RST) has more than 25 years experience providing comprehensive, environmentally friendly dust, earth and water solutions to the mining, construction, civil and agricultural industries globally. RST has experienced unprecedented growth and global recognition for innovative products, technical excellence and service.

The company identifies problems associated with haulage and dust and develops a solution to achieve outcomes utilising products and systems tailored for individual projects.

inTechnology Distribution

InTechnology Distribution supply high density wireless hardware, computer forensic, laptop tracking, PC asset management and remote control software to the Australian and New Zealand markets.
The company’s head office is in Varsity Lakes with additional sales offices in Melbourne and Auckland. InTechnology Distribution attributes its success to its reputation for superior customer service, ethical practice and dedication to honouring commitments.

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