Eu Jin Song Dishes All – How the CEO Steered Staydilly to Becoming One of Southeast Asia’s Rising Startups

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Picture of CEO of Staydilly - Eu Jin Song. Image source: Staydilly

Staydilly is a mystery hotel booking site that only reveals the name of the hotel upon customers booking it. Users will be provided with property pictures, general location and facilities description prior to making their decisions. On average, Staydilly is between 35% to 70% cheaper than other hotel booking sites. Offering only premium hotels for booking, Staydilly gives customers 3 star hotel pricing for 5 star hotels booked. Newstream Asia talks to Eu Jin Song, CEO of Staydilly on his entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to thrive in the business ecosystem.

“Well for starters, my co founders and I come from different backgrounds but with one thing in common – we have experience in the travel and hospitality industry,” he says. Prior to co-founding Staydilly, Eu Jin used to be an investment banker, fund manager and equity analyst but spent the last 12 years in senior level strategic planning roles in the area of travel space, most notably for Malaysia Airlines where he was the Vice President of Strategic Transactions.

The multi faceted entrepreneur, courteous and unassuming in his ways, lends credit to his partners –  Julian Lim (CFO of Staydilly), Daniel Tay (COO), Sofiane Hemici (CIO) and Cheryl Wong (Head of Revenue) for collectively contributing their brand of philosophies and talent towards driving Staydilly forward. Eu Jin indulges in their respective backgrounds:

CFO Julian Lim is an ex-auditor and investment banker who has previous experience leading companies from start-up stages to achieving IPO standards. Incidentally, he also owns the 2nd largest backpacker hotel in Kuala Lumpur which gives him a unique insight into the hospitality industry as a hotel owner.

COO Daniel Tay, is himself a serial entrepreneur having been with start ups in the US and China in the past focusing on advising and outfitting hotels on their fixtures and fittings, items ranging from bath tubs, light fixtures to operational products.

Sofiane Hemici, CIO of Staydilly was previously the CTO of GE Transportation in the region. Having left that position, he went on to own his own IT consulting company where he was instrumental in building a hotel booking platform for a Malaysian hotel chain.

Rounding off the impressive list of high profile executives is Head of Revenue Cheryl Wong, who is a lifelong hotelier having previously worked in similar roles at Shangri-la, Genting, and Tune hotels.

Like a father would be proud of his brood, Eu Jin had the following words to say: “We have been told that we have an experienced super-star management team which is not common for startups.”

Eu Jin Song (centre) pictured here together with his team. Image source: Staydilly

The inspiration behind Staydilly sprung from personal experience. “Quite simply, we’re frequent travellers too, and budget permitting we would love to stay at quality 5-star hotels. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, we cannot afford premium hotels – or at least, we used to think so.”

This spurred the conception of Staydilly as a premium brand outlet in getting the best bargains for hotel prices.

We thought, why not put the travellers who want to stay at excellent hotels but not pay the usual high price, with hotels, who want to fill as many rooms as possible, together. There is a natural demand as well as a natural supply. Staydilly is here to facilitate the benefits both sides want,” explains Eu Jin.

Picture of one of Staydilly’s mystery premier hotel sites, offered on discount. Image source: Staydilly

Eu Jin informs us that premium hotels in the Southeast Asian region has an average occupancy of 65-68%. That means on any given night, hotels have more than 30% of their rooms empty and non revenue generating. In order to achieve breakeven, these premium hotels end up discounting heavily on their rooms and this is detrimental to their brand reputation. Intelligent travellers will also wait till the last minute to snatch the best discounts. This causes brand dilution amongst luxury hotels.

As Staydilly sells these rooms up to a year in advance, hotels now have better ability to forecast and price their rooms. Thus as Staydilly provides incremental occupancy, over and above what the hotel receives from other booking channels, the hotels are able to increase prices as the stay date approaches, similar to the airline industry, thanks to the higher occupancy rate brought to the hotel by Staydilly.

Picture of Staydilly’s logo together with its brand presence across 8 Southeast Asian countries. Image source: Staydilly

On the challenges faced by Staydilly since its dawn of beginnings, Eu Jin points out that it has been an uncharacteristically smooth ride. The key formulae lies perhaps in its differentiated business model – although not too uncommon but nevertheless separates itself from other conventional hotel booking platforms such as Agoda, Trivago and Booking.com. Eu Jin is happy that Staydilly’s mystery hotel booking concept is well received and supported by both travellers and the industry because of the shared mutual benefits for all.

Objectively, he points out: “We do face challenges in getting more travellers to know about our business model and how we are different from other hotel booking sites. The more established sites have created anchor points and we are often painted with the same brush – until we are able to explain how we are different, and what benefits we bring to travellers.”

Staydilly is currently seeking its first round of external investments and have received very encouraging responses from venture caps so far. Most of the funds raised will go to marketing and educating travellers on Staydilly’s business model as well as to fund future growth.

“As a budding entrepreneur myself, I think it is important to not only plan but also to execute these plans. Ideas are cheap, it’s the action to make these ideas happen that would make the ideas valuable. I would strongly encourage those thinking of embarking on a startup to carefully plan and assess the risks. Plan for the worst and pray for the best.”

Judicious words indeed. Here at Newstream Asia, we wish you all the best in charting the course for Staydilly across SEA and in reaching greater heights! Bon voyage!