Renee Welsh is a trailblazing visionary in attractions technology. As CEO of Solutions Group, she oversees two companies that deliver technology solutions to the travel and entertainment industries. A serial entrepreneur and industry visionary, she has changed the way that companies do business forever
You’ve made game changing a pillar of your career. How do you identify opportunities and respond to them so successfully?
I am one part executive, one part entrepreneur, my passion lies in the grit and glory of business. I’m ambitious, always have been. I believe in the power of discipline and hard work. I work through my vision to bring organisations together to transform industries.
What were the biggest lessons from your time at lastminute.com, Monster and your other roles; are there a unifying thread that has defined your work history?
Given my experience in the travel and tourism industry, I have observed a growing problem. Namely, that too many tourism businesses were still working from diaries and spreadsheets. I knew that with the shift to online businesses, many of the companies would struggle. The travel industry shifted almost exclusively online, it also expanded beyond flights and hotels, to offer attractions, tours and activities, but the method of booking and administrating them didn’t evolve with it.
There was a need to streamline this process and this realisation led me and my husband, Andy Welsh, to create Booking Boss. This cloud-based reservation software is designed specifically for attractions, operators and activity providers. The web-based solution is able to manage ticketing and bookings centrally. This means operators can reduce queues and streamline processes. It helps make the guest experience more positive.
Are the key traits a leader in disruptive tech needs different to more traditional business models?
Whether you are leading disruptive tech or traditionally-led businesses, it is important for leaders to embrace a ‘maverick mindset’ and create organisations that are agile, committed, dynamic, and adaptable to change and always up for integration. Continuous learning, development and innovation is key.
What are some of the ways Embed has altered the attractions industry?
Embed is the first-to-go-to-market with The Mobile Wallet. This development is unlike anything in the market. Embed is the only FEC business solutions provider to partner with Google and Apple. There’s no download of apps required at all. All in the name of easing the customer journey.
Moreover, we have just launched a new series of gamecards and wearable media that are unlike anything currently in the industry. We’ve been in the design lab working on these for some time. Single-minded in our focus on the guest (the consumer), designing the type of wearable media they want to keep, collect and reuse. This ultimately drives repeat business for our Embed Operators, which gives them an edge over their competition, strengthening their business. Ultimately, these design innovations are about elevating the entire media category in this industry.
Technology has changed how consumers purchase, experience customer service and interact with brands at all levels. What future trends are you anticipating?
Our ‘customer first’ approach focuses on solutions that enable the optimum guest experience and it’s the driver behind the ongoing development efforts in our tech lab. We know consumers don’t want to use cash, or fumble with tokens, they use their Mobile Wallet to pay for everything (millennials being the largest demographic and growing uptake across all demographics) and expect they can use their mobile for everything.
Embed’s Mobile Wallet has been this year’s top-secret development project. Embed worked with an FEC giant on the Mobile Wallet with their internal and external teams, as well as Google and Apple to gain compliance approval for Embed’s smartTOUCH readers. This significant breakthrough is a result of a collaborative effort with our partners and customers (the Operators, Apple and Google).
The Mobile Wallet development makes Embed the only non-banking finance-payment or loyalty-card business and brand card that sits in the mobile wallet. This breakthrough enables any business currently using the Embed TOOLKIT system (Kiosk, game cards, smartTOUCH readers and range of business solutions) to simply add the Mobile Wallet (Mobile Portal) module to their existing business solution and offer it to customers.
Embed seeks to ease the processes of those in the game and entertainment industry. How does it do this?
Embed is designed to deliver a superior guest experience, the integrated software solutions platform enables business owners to achieve greater operational efficiency while reducing costs and increasing profitability.
Embed increases profitability by enabling, empowering, and easing the Business of Fun.
Embed is not just another cashless solutions vendor, we are a partner. We provide integrated cashless business solutions and also partner with Operators on technology development, including technology partners like Apple and Google, who have long term roadmaps to supporting our vision for transforming the business of fun.
Embed specialises in cashless business management systems for the entertainment and leisure industry – are there plans to evolve the business to respond to demand in other industries?
We take the business of fun seriously which is why we put people at the heart of everything we do and how we do it. Embed is a mix of industry insiders and next generation IT, familial high tech with a conviction that is tied to the universal belief in the transformative power of our solutions and the impact on the guest experience. We are committed to the evolution of our industry, as it results in everyone winning, the Operators and their Guests. Because when the Operator thrives, we thrive.
Female CEOs and entrepreneurs are still in a minority, but the large gap seems to close a little each year – is this something you personally work towards?
I take pride in our diversity metrics. And you’ll see this reflected across all our social media channels. Thirty-three percent of our leadership team is female, when half of start-ups have no women on their leadership teams*. Only 17 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women** and only one in four start-ups has a woman on the founding team.*
It is a widely known fact that women are underrepresented in the-tech sector. Raising capital is harder for female founders. Start-ups with female founders are more likely to tap small investors* or risk not securing funding at all. I consider myself highly motivated and resilient. But going through the high-tech start-up experience served to build a resilience that is not easily shaken. I hope my entrepreneurial experience with Booking Boss (as founder) and now CEO of Solutions Group serves to debunk myths about women in tech.
Attitudes are changing. We’ve seen it happening across all industries but the numbers are not climbing quickly enough. So, clearly there’s slow progress towards gender parity. With that in mind, I am honoured to helm this company and brand. We are pioneering and trailblazing this movement in the family entertainment space.
We are proud to be closing the gender gap: 60 percent of start-ups have programs to increase women in leadership.* With 33 percent of our leadership made up of women, we are living the example that others aspire to achieve. It is a testament to our value system, our culture and organisation, who we are and how we do things. Our GM of Europe & Middle East is female. Our Head of Sales in the Americas is female. Our CMO and Chief of HR, based in Singapore, are females. We are a high-tech firm employing people from 24 cultures of which 38 percent are female. Closing the gender gap in tech is hard. But I believe we are on the right track and have many exceptional role models to be able to continue this momentum.
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