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Meet the founder: Christian Gaiser wants to bring soul to travel

Starting and expanding a hotel business during a pandemic takes a mix of courage and skill, but Christian Gaiser brought both to NUMA, his innovative model. At a time when other brands were struggling, NUMA has seen 500% revenue growth and occupancy that was 230% above the European market average.

And it has resulted in the German digital hotel operator raising $45 million in a Series A round led by DN Capital Group, with existing investors Cherry Venture, Moravia, Kreos Capital, TruVenturo and Scope Hanson also contributing. DN Capital’s founder, Nenad Marovac, noted the brand’s ability to succeed in a difficult market, as well as its potential for post-Covid growth, offering “a completely new travel experience for modern travellers.” He added, “we believe NUMA’s disruption technology will fundamentally change the hotel industry.”

At NUMA’s heart is an offer designed to appeal to the Millennial and Gen Z who likes the comfort of traditional hotels but were less keen on queuing in the lobby or navigating worn and tired corridors. It aims to bring some soul to hotels, to match a changing type of traveller.

TFN spoke to Christian to find out more about his background, how NUMA is different, and his plans for the future.

Is this your first hotel business, or is it in your blood?

I graduated from the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management and HEC, Montréal and have worked in various positions at Goldman Sachs Private Equity and at McKinsey & Company.

I founded Bonial Group, the leading drive-to-store platform in Europe serving more than 25 million users, that I also led as Group CEO for more than nine years. I sold the company to Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest internet holdings. In addition, I have been involved as an early investor in more than 20 technology companies in Europe and Latin America.

I also grew up in a family of hoteliers!

What sets NUMA apart from its competitors?

NUMA is a European travel brand that offers a “home away from home” paired with the standards of a hotel. We manage close to 2,500 units in major metropolitan areas such as Berlin, Barcelona, and Milan. Our ambition is to rethink the accommodation industry from scratch. Our main success driver is our own technology stack that improves every aspect of the stay.

Our product has a mass-market appeal, and we mainly focus on leisure use cases and the Millennial and Gen Z target groups. They are used to the simplicity of Amazon, Spotify, and WhatsApp and expect the same seamlessness in the physical world, which we provide to them.

How has the partnership with DN Capital worked?

We’ve built a relationship over the last one-and-a-half years, so the overall process was very pleasant. DN Capital is a very data-driven investor, which matches our DNA.

But the fundraising process itself was fairly quick — about three months from start to finish.

What are your goals and mission for NUMA in 2022 and beyond?

Long-term — we want to build the most iconic brand of our generation in hospitality, and the most efficient operator driven by our proprietary tech stack.

We have two main short-term goals: Number one is to expand our NUMA brand to all the major European metropolitan areas and build a strong brand for our core target group — Millennials and Gen Z.

In addition, we have recently launched a product offering called NUMA Go. NUMA Go enables independent third-party hoteliers to benefit from our tech stack — we empower their operations with the same tools we develop for ourselves. Our goal is to expand this across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

I would highlight two main things:

First, there is a shift in demand from traditional hotel use cases to more hybrid ones, such as the need for a “home away from home”. People travel less but stay longer. Trends such as work-from-anywhere reinforce this phenomenon, which also requires a different take on supply.

Second, there is a major need for automation. The industry generally has a huge challenge: lack of personnel. The only way to respond to this is to rethink the entire value chain. About 70% of hospitality operations can be improved via technology. This starts with the guest experience itself, though automated check-in/out solutions or a virtual concierge, to demand generation, like dynamic pricing, distribution, CRM, and ultimately operational efficiency with housekeeping apps.

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