How a Plano-based Hospitality Tech Firm is Using Innovation to Expand During the Pandemic

From hiring more women executives to inking a new deal with HBO, Enseo continues to thrive by delivering touchless tech and digital communications to make it safer to return to hotels. Next up? CEO Vanessa Ogle is eyeing new markets such as senior living and hospitals.

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Latina-led Enseo continues to thrive by growing its leadership team and expanding its touchless tech offerings—despite the challenges of COVID-19 for hospitality-related businesses.

Touchless Technologist

Vanessa Ogle

Earlier this week, the company celebrated another important measure of success on International Women’s Day: More than half the executive team of the hospitality tech company founded and led by Vanessa Ogle is female, thanks to two recent hires.

“I am proud to look at our leadership team and the awesome talent I get to work with every day. The fact that more than half of the leaders on our executive team are women … that is a milestone worth celebrating,” Ogle said in a statement

Just added to Enseo leadership are Kris Singleton as Chief Information Officer and Lindsay Robertson as Chief Marketing Officer. Singleton has worked as a CIO in the hospitality industry for more than a decade, including stints at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and Dallas-based Omni Hotels. Robertson worked for Enseo from 2011 to 2014, most recently as VP of sales and marketing. 

Other female executives at Enseo include Katy Ericson, Vice President of Human Resources; Helen Jenkins, General Counsel; Kristin Reichert, Chief Financial Officer; and Ogle herself.

Twenty-one years since founding the Plano-based company, Ogle is getting plenty of attention. She was recently named one of the nation’s top women entrepreneurs, per the Female Founders 100.

Enseo’s platform of in-room entertainment, high speed Internet, temperature controls, and more is used, on average, by more than 84 million guests annually.

Expanding touchless tech offerings in hotels during COVID

Few industries were harder hit by the pandemic than hospitality. Steamrolled by stay-at-home orders, Ogle and her “rock star in-house engineering team” had to iterate quickly.

They created a whole new suite of touchless tech products “that make it safe to travel again,” including VERA, a virtual front desk agent; enseoCONNECT, which allows guests to control TVs, lights, and thermostats from their phones; and CheckPoint, a touchless temperature scanning device.

“In the past, the hotel experience was ‘high-touch,’ but now guests want the flexibility to choose how much contact they want—or ‘my touch,’” Ogle said. Enseo’s contactless technologies let guests use their own devices and reduce unwanted contact with surfaces or people.

The enseoCONNECT mobile remote allows hotel guests to control the in-room TV, lights, thermostat, and more. [Photo: Enseo]

Enseo partners with HBO to provide in-room entertainment

Last month, Enseo announced a partnership with WarnerMedia to provide HBO on their in-room entertainment platform by subscription or free to guests where hotels subscribe. With enseoCONNECT, guests can access and control HBO through their smart devices.

Enseo research showed that TV viewership in hotel rooms has gone up by almost 50 percent during the pandemic, showing the demand for more entertainment options.

Ogle said, “I am proud to be one of the first companies to partner with HBO to enhance as well as simplify access to HBO in the hospitality industry.”

The company also developed and deployed new communication systems like MadeSafe, CleanRoom, and LobbyView, so guests could assess cleaning practices. If guests know how and when rooms and common areas are cleaned, they’re more likely to feel safe and develop brand loyalty in this challenging season, she said.

Going from communication to actual cleaning, Enseo is launching an IoT-controlled UV-C clean light that can sanitize a hotel room, classroom, or other space.

What’s next?

In 2020, the company split into three different divisions, with Enseo Holdings at the helm, as the firm looks to expand its touchless tech into new markets like senior living and hospitals.

Meet the innovator

Vanessa Ogle was featured in Dallas Innovates’ Future 50 in Dallas-Fort Worth in the 2021 edition of our annual magazine. We talked with Ogle about recent inventions, the role of technology in travel, and persevering in challenging times. Here’s a takeaway from our interview in late 2020:

On how technology can help people return to traveling:

The travelers that are on the road are increasingly favoring a trusted experience with contactless options that bring more confidence in their health and safety during their travels. Hotels are going to great efforts to use technology that allows customers to choose their level of comfort. In the past, the hotel experience was “high-touch,” but now guests want the flexibility to choose how much contact they want—or “my touch.” Enseo’s contactless technologies such as VERA™ virtual front desk agent, remote check-in, mobile key, and mobile remotes like the award-winning and patented enseoCONNECT™, allow guests to use their own devices and reduce unwanted contact with surfaces or people.

Communication is key to building trust, which builds brand preference and repeat business. Technology is the fastest way to communicate to those guests at every stage of their guest journey. Guests want to really KNOW if the room is clean, so communicating the cleaning procedures, materials, and sanitization time are all essential to making the guest feel comfortable, safe and build brand loyalty. That is why we created MadeSafe CleanRoom™ and LobbyView™ to communicate these procedures.

On Enseo’s biggest innovations from 2020:

My rock star, in-house engineering team put their development minds into overdrive and created a completely new suite of products that make it safe to travel again, and safe to go to school again. The new touchless technologies we’ve developed include VERA™, a virtual front desk agent; enseoCONNECT™, allowing a guest to control the TV, lights, and thermostat from the safety of their own phone; and CheckPoint™, a touchless temperature scanner to ensure that people entering into the building (school or hotel) have masks on and are not exhibiting elevated temperatures. Enseo is also launching an Internet of Things (IoT) controlled UV-C clean light that will sanitize a large room (such as a hotel room or classroom).

On what’s next:

Enseo has split into three companies with Enseo Holdings being at the helm to better assist our customers and the industries we serve. We are expanding to new markets including senior living and hospitals, as well as other industries that need our contactless technologies to protect their people and businesses.  

On surviving and thriving in difficult times:

The single most important part of surviving 2020 has been having a culture that inspires trust and care. Our core industries of schools and hotels were not investing in new tech this year as expected due to COVID. Our first action was to take care of our people. I have a team who cares. They care for each other and our customers, and they know they are cared for by the leadership team. Our people believed in us. They trusted we were doing the right thing for the company, and for them, even when we had to make sacrifices. They trusted my entrepreneurial intuition to take us in the right direction. Only by leading with compassion and vulnerability could we have driven such loyalty and dedication. The team trusts me because I trust them right back. 

On Enseo’s response to the pandemic and social injustice:

Enseo first took care of our people, then the people came back stronger than ever and took care of the problems COVID presented plaguing the industries we serve. As we are redefining home, work, office, and teacher, we also had to take a good, hard look to the internal opportunities we were presenting to our team. I added two more women to the executive team so we are balanced, and as a Latina, led some discussions with our team members of color to ask what we can do differently. I began a direct mentorship with one of my team leaders and gave her a much-deserved promotion. We listened. As this world remakes itself in a post-COVID civilization, I encourage everyone to choose their part in how they want to remake their piece of the world and the realities of social injustice and bias are an important part of that self-reflection. 

Quincy Preston contributed to this report. The Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity. A version of the story was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.

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Our fourth annual magazine, Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue, highlights Dallas-Fort Worth as a hub for innovation. The collective strength of the innovation ecosystem and intellectual capital in Dallas-Fort Worth is a force to be reckoned with.

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