Marc Heyneker, Revinate Co-Founder and former CEO
Marc Heyneker, Revinate Co-Founder and former CEO
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 80

Revinate’s origin story and journey through innovation with Co-Founder Marc Heyneker

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen Stephens, Revinate CRO, is joined by Marc Heyneker — Co-Founder and former CEO of Revinate, now Chairman of the Board. Heyneker takes us back in time to share what technology was available for hoteliers in the early 2000s and why he felt compelled to fill the gaps in the hospitality industry. He also describes what it was like leading a global tech company through a worldwide health crisis and how it ended up strengthening Revinate’s core mission to serve hoteliers.

Listen in to learn more about how Revinate evolved over time, how data has always been at the heart of the company, as well as Marc’s special connection with Revinate’s new CEO, Bryson Koehler.

Red, yellow, and blue lines to indicate soundwaves.
Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

Karen Stephens is Revinate’s Chief Revenue Officer and runs the sales, marketing, and customer success teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry alone.

On the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen speaks with leaders to draw out their experiences and insights. She is also a Francophile and Prof K — a coach, a mentor, a guide to the people who work with her.

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Intro – 00:00:02: Welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast, presented by Revinate, the podcast where we talk to leaders in the hospitality industry. If you’re looking for trends, perspectives, and stories from leaders in travel and hospitality, you’re in the right place.

Karen – 00:00:21: Hello, and welcome to Revinate’s Hotel Moment podcast. I’m your host, Karen Stephens, the Chief Revenue Officer of Revinate. And once again, for this podcast, we have a unique guest. So, hopefully you had a chance to listen to our last episode where we introduced Bryson Koehler. our new CEO of Revinate. But here with me today is the man who built Revinate from the ground up, former CEO and Co-Founder, and now the Chairman of our Board of Directors, Marc Heyneker. The best way to describe Marc is as a relentless adventurer. He pioneered industry-changing technology when hospitality was in desperate need of data-driven solutions. For over 15 years, Marc has been solving problems for hoteliers around the world. Even during a global crisis, Marc led Revinate through two major company acquisitions without wavering in his commitment to providing hoteliers with the highest-performing, highest-quality solutions. Marc is the reason we are where we are today. Here’s Marc Heyneker.

Welcome, Marc!

Marc – 00:01:19: Hey, Karen, how are you doing?

Karen – 00:01:21: I’m doing great. I am so excited that I have you on the podcast. I’ve been doing this for about two years, and I finally got the big kahuna on the show.

Marc – 00:01:29: On the pod. Well, I love your podcast. I think you’re doing an amazing job. And it’s so cool to see how many folks have picked this up around the globe. Great job. And thanks for having me.

Karen – 00:01:38: You know what? It is a pleasure. So I want to start, Marc, yesterday was a big day. So, you know, we obviously record this podcast — it’ll be out in a couple of weeks — but the day that we are recording now is the day after you handed the keys to the kingdom. You gave your baby over to a new leader, Bryson Koehler. So how are you feeling today? Take me through that.

Marc – 00:01:56: Well, I feel tremendous. I’m in the Revinate-issued Hawaiian shirt. It feels really great, Karen. Obviously, it’s been almost 15 years since the founding of Revinate. Looking all the way back to the very beginning, being in a room with our Co-Founder, Jay Ashton, and then kind of all that’s happened between that moment and this moment now, it’s been a tremendous run. And I’m so proud of our team and our company. And I’m super excited about Bryson Koehler, our new CEO.

Karen – 00:02:24: Yes. So take us back to 2009. You mentioned being in a room with Jay Ashton. Yeah, you know Revinate started as an online reputation management company. But really in 2009, nobody even really knew what that was. Today, everybody’s got an ORM solution. But really in 2009, can you just take us through what it was like to kind of identify that pain point in the industry and then build a company around it?

Marc – 00:02:43: Yeah, the founding of the company was an interesting time period. Jay Ashton had started a company in the hospitality space. And after he sold that business, he moved back to San Francisco and we connected. And he said, “I find hotel technology, antiquated, so siloed. There’s got to be a way to bring modern Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions to this industry to solve today’s problems and future problems.” And probably the main thing that dawned on him, and dawned on both of us, which became our thesis for starting the company, was that the hotel industry really, at the end of the day, is all about managing guests, not just rooms. And looking under the hood, this industry had been running on effectively, Property Management Systems (PMS). And you’ll always need one of those to run your property, but that technically is an inventory management system for rooms. But we really couldn’t find a true platform that was all about guest data, guest information, unifying that guest information, and leveraging that information to power communications and experience, and direct revenues, and help hotels really own their customers. And so that became our original thesis. And as we spoke to a bunch of hoteliers, we wanted to have an entry point, and online reputation management was that entry point. It seemed at that time, content online was exploding, review sites were exploding, social channels were exploding, hotels couldn’t easily get their arms around all that unsolicited feedback, but it was super important and impactful in their bookings. And we found that to be a relevant and smart entry point as we work towards our longer-range mission. And that proved to be a great call. Online reputation plus surveys really became the cornerstone of customer experience management in this industry. We became the leader in that, and that was a perfect parlay into the world of CRM Marketing, CDP, and omni-channel solutions.

Karen – 00:04:44: Thanks, Marc It’s interesting when you say it like that, because it just sounds like through the years, it’s just been this smooth transition. It’s always been the vision that we thought about, but having a SaaS company is really hard, and having one in hospitality? Even harder. So can you talk about how you maintain that persistent vision to get us where we are today from those early roots back in 2009?

Marc – 00:05:05: Thanks for that. I think the main thing that’s always been on my mind is if there’s any industry that’s about managing customers, it’s hospitality. And surprising and delighting guests happens to be what hospitality is all about. And so I think, you know, unwavering — we always felt and knew that guest data, information about that guest, things that guests were saying, preferences of guests, communications by guests and with guests, all of that, is signal and data that ultimately needs to be kind of unified and then power a future of hospitality. And so I think we’ve seen this happen in a lot of other industries, Karen. So I think most other industries have shifted to become customer-centric and at the centerpiece, kind of the core operating system, if you will, of those industries is their customer and is their customer data. And so Customer Data Platforms (CDP) have really started to now emerge on the heels of verticalized CRMs, but now it’s vertical CDPs are emerging in every industry and are really becoming that core operating system if you’re in the business of managing customers, which I think most industries are, and if any industry really is — hospitality. I think the future of hospitality — we’ve always thought about hospitality. We want to make travel more awesome. We wake up every day. Everybody at our company loves the travel space, loves to travel. We promote that. We have amazing customers around the globe that we encourage folks to go see and visit and spend time with. And this industry, we think we can make it a ton better by being that future core operating system to help them manage guests and frankly, take back control and ownership of their customers, their distribution. They’re certainly elevating their guest experience in personalized ways. That all starts with this data. So I think that since inception has really been the unwavering vision for our company and everything we’ve done since that time has been in service to that.

Karen – 00:07:07: So Marc let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about 2020. Because I know that COVID was definitely a trying time for the entire world. It certainly impacted hospitality and tech companies like Revinate that serve hospitality were also impacted. But I think what was striking for me as a Revinator is that we actually emerged out of that time with two acquisitions under our belt. So we came into COVID as the leading email marketing CRM platform, and we exited COVID as an omnichannel platform. So can you talk a little bit about the acquisitions that we made in 2021 and how that further bolstered our vision?

Marc – 00:07:43: Yeah, the acquisitions were really important. We had an opportunity to partner with two fantastic companies. One was NAVIS — that was the leader in voice channel solutions and services. And then GoMoment, which was the leader in messaging commerce solutions, specifically for hospitality. Two great companies. And I had gotten to know both those leaders. And as we’re all emerging out of COVID, again, our vision hadn’t wavered. And we just said, “We’ve got data powering best-in-class email channel for guest lifecycle communications and do that well. And that’s very robust.” And we knew that we wanted to add the best voice channel solutions and the best messaging channel solutions and connect that to the data as well so that off of a single platform, customers could easily leverage their data and power all their omni-channel communications on their best-in-class solutions. And it just worked out perfectly. NAVIS was excited to partner with us and shared our vision. Same with Raj over at GoMoment, shared our vision that all of these best-in-class channel solutions belonged as part of a single company in a single platform. And so we were very fortunate. Those were wonderful companies to bring into Revinate and combine with Revinate. Through a great process, became #OneRevinate with three great teams and cultures. But I think we shared a lot of the same, similar values. and so that made it really important. It was one thing to have the leading technology and solutions to bring together, but beyond that — the shared vision, the shared values — that was really crucial.

Karen – 00:09:27: So Marc, one of the things you mentioned there was #OneRevinate, which is one of the seven values that we have as a company. So can you just talk a little bit about what culture means to you and how you feel about how that translates to Revinate as a company?

Marc – 00:09:42: Yeah, well, culture, as you know, is super special at Revinate. I think it’s happened organically, but I think we put some pillars in place early on to try to cultivate it. And I think our general philosophy is, number one, it starts with hiring amazing people. The people are your company. I think we feel very strongly about that. Certainly we have great products and services and all sorts of other things that we do as a company, but I think it starts for sure with people. And we talk a lot about people being the company. And so hiring amazing talent is number one. Then making sure that you give them incredible places to work and take great care of them with awesome benefits. And then empowering them to solve really exciting problems — putting them in position to innovate, to deliver, to execute — giving them challenges to overcome that are aligned with our vision and making an impact on the business. And then ultimately celebrating those wins. So we like to do a lot of celebrating when we win.

Karen – 00:10:40: We really do.

Marc – 00:10:41: Yeah. We’re pretty good at celebrating. So you wrap all that up. That to me is great culture when you have all those elements in place. And I think we’ve got that in spades and really is at the very core of who we are as a business.

Karen – 00:10:56: You know, there’s been a lot of Revinators in my tenure over the years. A lot of folks who have been in the business and gone on to do great careers after they’ve left, but they always remain “true blue” to the core because we do have such a good time and we do have such an awesome company. And you mentioned great places to work. We had, of course, a spot in the Presidio in San Francisco, but we also have offices in Singapore and Amsterdam. And we also have a boat in Amsterdam. So, you know, you’re Dutch. Can you talk a little bit about why the HQ in Amsterdam, and how much fun we’ve had there?

Marc – 00:11:26: Oh, I’m glad you brought up the boat. I am Dutch by birth and spent a lot of time in Holland. I love it there. And, you know, it was always kind of a hope and a dream that one day we’d be going global, and that happened pretty quickly. In fact, because hotels were everywhere and we worked with a lot of major brands, and that pushed us around the world to Asia, to Europe. And deciding where to be in Europe, I certainly had high hopes that we could park it in Amsterdam. And when we started our business there, we said, “Hey, look, when we really get this thing off the ground, another dream is to have a boat in the water that we can have some fun with the employees.” So sure enough, a few years in, I think we had about 20 or 30 folks. Martin Plessman, the CRO at the time, who was based in Amsterdam, had the brilliant idea of he and I buying a boat, surprising the team. And so the Revinate boat showed up and it was awesome. And it was really fun for the team. We had folks being able to captain that, sign up to be a captain, get trained to be captain. And so the Revinate boat, you might see it on the waterways of Amsterdam. It’s still out there doing well and people are having fun, but just a nice fun perk for the team. We’ve got about 50 folks in Amsterdam today. And I think we’ve got probably 15 folks, I’m guessing, in Singapore at this moment. But yeah, our international offices are awesome, and we’ve got Revinators around the globe in many countries. But yeah, those are our main hubs. Love them all.

Karen – 00:12:53: Love them all. We’ve also had a lot of fun. Not many people know this who aren’t Revinators, but if you’re a Revinator, you know that Marc Heyneker loves a good costume party. So we’ve also had several events. And when we acquired NAVIS, it was fun to learn that they also take Halloween to the extreme. So I don’t know how you find two companies that take it that seriously, but you, my friend, are the master of all. I mean, you have your own closet full of these things.

Marc – 00:13:18: Yeah, my wife jokes around that my costume closet might be slightly larger than my street clothes closet. They’re starting to become blurred lines a little bit. You know, sometimes you just got to throw a wig on or have some fun and get into your costume. I like to have a lot of fun, Karen. As you know, I think we’re going through this journey together. We work this special place together with all these amazing people. Let’s accomplish amazing things, but let’s have a lot of fun doing it. Let’s celebrate the wins. Let’s keep growing and building. I think that’s been a key ingredient to building the special company and folks just, I think, loving it here. I know we’ve won a bunch of awards for great culture and great place to work, and all that’s awesome, but at the end of the day, I think folks really feel connected to each other, to the company, to the vision, to the mission, and you know, we just like to have a good time and we like to win and grow, you know, make it awesome for customers and make it awesome for ourselves.

Karen – 00:14:11: Right. It’s been an amazing run. It’s been 15 years with you at the helm, and now you’re moving over and up into the Chairman of our Board of Directors. So we are all so excited for that evolution. And we’re really excited as well to have Bryson Koehler step in as the CEO. So I know that that was quite a process to get somebody to fill your shoes, but now we have Bryson. So can you just talk a little bit about your friendship and relationship with Bryson over the years and why you felt like he was the right person to take us forward?

Marc – 00:14:42: It’s amazing. So many things happen for a reason at Revinate. We’re blessed. I think we got angels on our shoulders, but this story is so cool. Bryson and I have known each other for 17 years. Prior to even starting Revinate as a founder, we were looking at the space and doing our research. And I said, “Hey, you know what, Bryson, you’re one of the most senior leaders I know in hospitality.” He was the VP of technology at IHG at the time. And I flew out to see him, and I spent two hours with him. And I said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea to start this business. What do you think”? And he’s like, “Oh man, this industry absolutely needs that. I think it’s a great story, a great vision, and I love it.” And so he really was a catalyst to us even starting Revinate in the first place, which is so awesome. And then he’s been really a great technology advisor. He’s been a mentor. He’s been an inspiration. I mean, his career’s just been incredible — going on to be the CTO of the Weather Channel, CTO of IBM Watson, which is really the first commercial AI platform. And then ultimately over at Equifax, arguably one of the larger Customer Data Platforms in the world. And so he’s got all this cool experience. He’s infused that into Revinate throughout the last 15 years that we’ve been building the company and evolving. And now we’re at this exciting inflection point where everything he’s worked on and everything we’ve worked on have come to a perfect confluence. And it was just, he’s the perfect guy to take us forward. So I am thrilled he’s here. He’s such a people leader. He’s a trusted friend. He’s already making an impact, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for our company, for our customers, for everybody involved with Revinate that Bryson’s at the helm and that I get to move over to Chairman and focus my efforts on that important work.

Karen – 00:16:28: Well, Marc it’s been an absolute pleasure. I want to really encourage all of our customers out there to know you can bank on Revinate even more than ever with Bryson at the helm and Marc Chairman of the Board — looking after us as always. So, not going anywhere in terms of you’re always a phone call away, but I’m excited for you that you’re actually going to get to take a break here and do some fun things. So what’s up on the roster for you now that you’ve cleared the decks? Just need to be around for board meetings and fun things like that?

Marc – 00:16:56: Thanks, Karen. It’s been blessed and honored and humbled to be the CEO and build this company to here. And I’m super excited. I think our brightest days are ahead of us. I really strongly continue to believe more than ever that Revinate will transform the hospitality industry for the better, make travel more awesome, and really put guest data and the power of guest data into the hands of hoteliers to transform their guest experience and their direct distribution, and ultimately, you know, next levels of hospitality. So Bryson and the team are going to make that happen. That’s going to be awesome. And I’m looking forward to contributing as Chairman for sure. There’s plenty of work to do there. So I wish it was all fun and games and off into the sunset, but that’s actually — I’m eager to continue to help and contribute and work on a variety of things to further strengthen the impact of our board on our company and our future. As it relates to fun, I mean, you know, no lack of fun here. I’m certainly a fun seeker. My hobbies are love to play golf, love to fly fish, love to ski, love to travel, love to go see music, love to be with my family, friends. So I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of those things and still being a phone call away. I guess at certain locations, I might be off the grid and the gone fishing sign might be up, but hey, I will be not far away — always eager to help. And we’ll be rooting for our awesome team to continue to drive towards our vision and our mission and create what’s possible ahead of us.

Karen – 00:18:28: Awesome. Well, thank you, Marc. I want to thank Marc Heyneker for the conversation — my mentor, my friend, my Chairman of the Board. So thanks for everything, Marc, and best of luck. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Marc – 00:18:40: Awesome. Thanks, Karen.

Outro – 00:18:41: Thank you for listening to the Hotel Moment Podcast. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’re watching on YouTube, please like the video and subscribe for more content. For more information, head to The Hotel Moment Podcast is presented by Revinate.


Revinators embrace every aspect of travel and hospitality

Revinators embrace every aspect of travel and hospitality

Founding Revinate to revolutionize antiquated hotel technology

Surprise and delight guests with data-driven communication

Surprise and delight guests with data-driven communication

Customer Data Platforms as the future of hospitality

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