They say a picture paints a thousand words, and in the case of Snapfix, this adage is certainly true.
Snapfix is the brainchild of Paul McCarthy. Paul is obsessed with not wasting time, and it’s a mantra that has stayed with him throughout his life, from his childhood days in Co. Cork to his current role as CEO and founder of Snapfix.
Growing up as one of 12 children on a farm in Co. Cork engendered in Paul a sense of teamwork, keeping things simple and making do with limited resources from a very early age. After studying Computer Ccience in UCC, he spent 15 years working in computer companies in New York, the UK, Australia, and Germany before returning to Ireland to settle down and raise a family. Living in Dun Laoghaire, he worked in the family business of property management and development.
About five or six years ago, Paul had the opportunity to bring his experience in IT and property together to create Snapfix. As he explains, “I was managing a number of commercial and residential of buildings, and I was getting very frustrated with the number of emails, post-it notes, WhatsApps that I was getting from tenants, and then I was WhatsApp’ing to engage with contractors. The insight was that everybody seemed to be gravitating at that time to WhatsApp.
“I saw that the world was gravitating towards using photos and messaging for communication. And I did actually look to the market to see if there was a solution for managing buildings, that was similar to WhatsApp or Instagram, and I didn’t find anything simple enough. So, I set about on a mission to create the simplest solution on the planet for managing buildings, infrastructure and equipment using simplicity as my North Star. Essentially to use all the techniques from WhatsApp and Instagram and bring that into the business space.”
He continues: “And I was walking by my house one day and I literally just looked at the traffic light and said that’s it. The traffic light is the universal symbol of teamwork. I set about to combine a WhatsApp type interface with the traffic light – Red means something needs to get done, Yellow means it’s in progress, Green means it’s done. It’s that simple!”
And with this ‘traffic lightbulb moment’, Snapfix was born.
When developing Snapfix, Paul met with Cathal Greaney, now the company’s CTO. Cathal instantly understood Paul’s vision of what he was trying to build, and they went through a series of prototypes. They secured some early customers in 2019, raised seed money and in September 2019 founded Snapfix. Cathal joined the company and brought a number of his technical team with him, and the company got off to a fast start.
“We hit the ground running, and decided to focus on hotels from Day One”, says Paul. “Hotels were a wonderful environment for Snapfix because they demand high quality, they operate 24/7 and they have a large multi-lingual team, and that was a really amazing proving ground for Snapfix until the middle of March 2020, when every hotel in the world was forced to close down due to Covid”.
During the Covid period, Snapfix worked with industries including office and residential, engineering and construction and mining, as well as working with their hotel base who were still managing valuable but empty buildings at that time.
Towards the end of 2022, as Covid abated, the company pulled its focus back into hospitality, with a core focus on Ireland and the UK. “We wanted to achieve what product designers always want to do which was to get to PMF (Product Market Fit), which is that this is the no brainer solution for all hotels in the world, and we’re iterating pretty quickly toward that”.
The Snapfix concept is a simple one, using a Red, Yellow and Green traffic light system with an emphasis on photos. As Paul says, “One photograph literally speaks a thousand words, and speaks every language. And leveraging the eyes and ears of people with a phone in their hand, is just unbelievably powerful”.
The use of photos makes Snapfix hugely accessible for a multi-lingual workforce. As Paul explains: “Some of the most emotional feedback we’ve received is members of housekeeping teams who wouldn’t have English as their first language where they can now communicate super efficiently. For instance – they’ll take a picture of a leaking tap, walk to the front door and take a picture of the room number, so two photographs gives the details of the issue itself and the location of the issue, with no typing or no verbal communication.
The issue is communicated in Snapfix to the appropriate person, to be fixed. The person who report it can see it moving from Red to Yellow to Green, so they don’t even have to check that it’s been done or re-engage, they can see everything on Snapfix.”
Being able to see issues being resolved in real time on Snapfix also gives assurance that people have been alerted to issues. “A live example would be if there’s a negative Trip Advisor review and they’re trying to see which department may be responsible for it. Well housekeeping reported it, maybe somebody didn’t attend to it quick enough, so it just helps tighten up the communication process. None of this is about blame allocation or anything like that, it’s about making the teams super-efficient, and improving the guest experience”.
The Snapfix interface is designed very similarly to WhatsApp, meaning that it’s system that’s very familiar to everyone and can be used in a similar way. Paul outlines how it works: “Because we designed it to be very like WhatsApp, you can have as many groups as you wish, so our customers have evolved to using Snapfix their daily walkaround inspections, and their daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual Fire Safety checks: I’ve got something to do, it’s in Red. I’m doing it tomorrow, it’s in Yellow. It’s completed, it’s in Green”.
The company now has customers on five continents, communicating using photos and collaborating using traffic lights.
Paul is focused on keeping the features on the app as simple as possible. “We try to keep the features to an absolute minimum, because we normally deal with a lot of customers who have a large volume of things that just need to get done quickly. And there’s nothing faster than taking a photo, and there’s nothing easier than moving something from red to yellow to green without any messaging or talking. It speeds up the process immeasurably”.
Snapfix can be used in a range of departments and areas in hotels, such as guest requests, lost & found, package deliveries, health & safety inspections, maintenance, asset management, fitouts/renovations and snagging. It can also drive innovation into the business, using Snapfix as the conduit to drive it.
“The encouraging thing for me was people are making up their own uses for the Snapfix groups and what red, yellow, green means in any context”, says Paul. The surprise one for me personally was Lost & Found. Lost & Found is a massive issue in hotels. So now, when any member of staff finds an item, they just Snap it, and it sits in red.. The guest can ask any member of staff then have you found my watch, my ring or whatever, and they can check Snapfix instantly. When they identify the right guest, they move it to yellow and then when it’s returned to the guest it’s green. So we’re one app, infinite uses.”
The simplicity of the Snapfix app is also reflected in the ease in which it can be set up. A lot of Snapfix’s customers around the world use their Self-Serve model to set it up themselves. And when the Snapfix team are helping a customer to set up, they can have them up and running with their teams using it in just 15 minutes. “Everyone’s carrying a phone with them, everyone can take a photo so our training is very close to zero for most staff. If they can use Instagram and they can use WhatsApp, they can use Snapfix. We like to say, if you like WhatsApp, you’ll love Snapfix”, smiles Paul.
The simplicity of Snapfix is also reflected in the cost for customers. “We’re conscious to offer overwhelming value. Other companies in our space charge people by the user and this make things complicated. We like to sell all of Snapfix with unlimited users”, Paul explains.
“We let everybody use it, including sub-contractors, suppliers, everyone. Because obviously you’re going to have people who will use it very frequently, some people less frequently and you just want one simple price so you know what your budget is for the year. A hotel can have unlimited users and unlimited uses for as little as €999 per year, so it’s very attractive”.
Cyber-crime is an increasing challenge in today’s world, and Snapfix is alert to these threats. As Paul says, “I mentioned Cathal Greaney, our CTO. He is years ahead in the design of Snapfix for the decades to come, and a key part of his focus is to keep things simple, and also to keep things very performant, and to keep it very secure. So we’ve built in security protocols literally from day one and performance protocols as well because obviously there is the world of cyber-crime out there, and in today’s world it’s actually part of the design of your product. The beauty of working with something like Snapfix is we limit the number of features intentionally; we want it as simple as WhatsApp so that we can put a lot of effort into all of those disciplines as well.
We have had some cyber-attack attempts (as every software company has) and we defend them successfully. It’s part of our future, so a percentage of our effort will always be around privacy and security”.
All the customer data on Snapfix is private and secure to each customer. It’s held on an AWS EU server in Ireland, and it can be archived, deleted or exported by the customer at any time.
In terms of new products or innovations, Paul highlights the importance of customer needs in the process, saying: “Of course we’re very much customer-led and our customers make requests of us all the time. Integration into their PMS (Property Management System) is important, so that the people walking the floors can know exactly what’s going on in the hotel as well, for example what rooms are occupied or vacant or ready for cleaning or ready for the supervisor to inspect. What rooms are blocked, what rooms are available, that kind of thing. So critical information that’s in the PMS, we make it available to the people on the floor. Again, keeping it simple”.
“Integrating into smart devices, everything from energy management systems where, let’s say a zone of the hotel is getting too hot. Normally those systems send emails or texts and they tend to get lost or misplaced, whereas it now creates a work-order in Snapfix for them to take action, just like any other work-order.”
AI will be an increasing part of our future in Paul’s option. “We are focused on machine learning and AI, and we’ve taken the first steps of that now with a world first, which is you’re able to use your voice to create work-order. You can say ‘Leaking Tap Room 4’ into your phone, and it appears as a work-order in your Snapfix. It will soon also appear with an image of a tap. It won’t be the tap that you’re talking about but it’s a representative image – a helpful visual. In time, it will be the actual photo of the tap.
He continues: “We will also transcribe your voice to text with the option to translate that to any language. So again it’s early days in AI, we’re taking it step-by-step and we’re listening to our customers. And of course our customers will want to be able to use their voice in the future to say ‘Hey Snapfix, where are most of the issues in my hotel today’ and we’ll come back and say it’s in room 21 or whatever. They can use their natural language to make queries and we’ll give back the most accurate information. And that’s an evolving process. ‘Hey Snapfix, give me a report on the room maintenance issues between April 1st and 17th May, and the report will be created immediately”.
For now, Snapfix is on a mission to make every building a smart-building by leveraging people with smart phones. “So as you can imagine, there are people walking around buildings and hotels, and they’ve all got a super computer in the palm of their hand with amazing sensors – the smartphone. With a little bit of simplicity and intelligence, we can gather the information to turn the building into a smart-building, with no equipment to install. The equipment is in peoples’ hands. We want the system to do the work and let everyone save an hour a day”, Paul emphasises.
Snapfix is a tremendous asset to the hospitality industry, demonstrated by the positive response they have had to the product among hotels they are working with. As Paul describes, “The thing that keeps us motivated all the time is we meet hotel teams or people in other types of properties who have abandoned complex systems and have gone back to WhatsApp and Excel and they’ve never seen anything as simple as Snapfix, and that’s what’s really encouraging for us”.
We signed up a hotel chain last year. They had given up looking for solutions, because everything was so complex. Another hotel GM mentioned Snapfix to them and now that chain manage all their properties on Snapfix , and we’re absolutely thrilled to bits.”
We’re on a mission to be the maintenance platform for the world. Every building will use it because everyone can take a photo. When we have a billion buildings on board, I’ll sit back and relax!”