Get to know Xenios Academy, who won the Judges’ Choice Award with their gamified hospitality training app for frontline employees at HFTP’s Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) competition, co-located with HITEC Dubai this past summer. The technology works to improve staff skills and increase overall efficiency for hospitality businesses with an app that combines engaging game mechanics with comprehensive training content to provide an effective (and enjoyable) learning experience. Xenios Academy Global Marketing Director Igor Besermenji shares details on the company’s experience pitching at E20X, the inspiration behind their stand-out hospitality technology solution, and advice for startups who will participate in future competitions.
E20X returns in 2024 at three different locations across the globe including Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Dubai, UAE and North Carolina, USA. Learn more on the E20X website.
What was the overall E20X experience like for Xenios Academy?
Participating in the E20X competition in Dubai holds a special place in the hearts of Xenios Academy team members. It marked a significant milestone as it was our inaugural major competition. It also marked the first occasion for both our chief operating officer, Marco Corallo, and me to present Xenios Academy's platform in a live speech in front of some of the most accomplished professionals in the hospitality industry worldwide. In terms of the competition's outcome, while we hoped for a favorable result, winning the top prize was not something we initially anticipated. So, when we were declared the winners, it pleasantly surprised all of us. From the very beginning, we were confident that we had developed a platform deserving of recognition at the highest level. However, as newcomers to the competition arena, our primary objectives were to network with industry peers and enjoy the experience to the fullest. We remain eternally grateful to HFTP, E20X, the esteemed panel of judges, the audience who supported us, and all those who rallied behind Xenios Academy on our journey to securing the Judges' Choice award in 2023.
What did it mean to you personally to be an E20X winner, and what did it mean for Xenios Academy?
Winning the 2023 edition of E20X in Dubai was so important for the entire Xenios Academy team. It gave us the vital boost of confidence during our inaugural year of operation, serving as a great validation that our journey to create a platform benefiting hospitality professionals worldwide was indeed well-founded. I have enjoyed both the time I shared on the stage with other bright minds from the industry, as well as networking and getting to know them a little bit better behind the scenes of the competition.
Tell us more about your company. What was the inspiration behind it? How has your company evolved since its inception? What are your future goals for the company?
Xenios Academy program was created with the idea of becoming the world's first fully gamified training app for hospitality professionals. Leveraging the synergies of gamification, artificial intelligence and neuroscience, our platform is designed to cater to the evolving demands of the modern-day hospitality industry. We are committed to providing the most exceptional learning experience available in the industry. Our app represents a departure from conventional learning methods that revolve around textbooks, extensive printed materials and lengthy videos. Instead, our approach prioritizes quick, fun and engaging hospitality education. We achieve this by delivering informative content through game-like elements, interactive quizzes and engaging challenges, thereby ensuring that learning is not only effective but also an enjoyable experience.
Regarding your question about the source of our inspiration, it all commenced last year when our co-founders, Zeljana, Marco and Filip engaged in numerous brainstorming sessions, contemplating the notion of providing innovative avenues for knowledge acquisition tailored specifically for hospitality professionals. Since then, we have steadily made significant progress.
Most recently, Xenios Academy achieved a notable milestone by winning the "Future Tech" award at the "Women in Tech" competition, which was organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization during the 2023 World Tourism Day event held in Riyadh – triumphing over 143 startups from 13 countries. Additionally, our efforts have attracted the attention of esteemed media outlets, including CNN, where we were recently featured in a September episode of their widely-followed program, "Startup Trail."
Our journey has been marked by substantial progress since the inception of our application's development. Looking ahead, our aspirations extend beyond serving as the primary educational hub for hospitality professionals worldwide. We are actively working to expand our platform's availability to other industries, enabling them to harness the potential of gamified education tailored to their specific needs. In fact, we have already begun receiving a multitude of inquiries from diverse industries expressing keen interest in our platform, which makes us very excited about the future.
What led to your decision to participate in E20X? What kind of impact do you believe this competition has on startups?
When we initially learned about E20X, we considered it a remarkable opportunity to engage in the exchange of ideas and experiences with fellow hospitality peers and experienced professionals. Right from the outset, we recognized that participating in the competition would be a valuable reward in itself, regardless of the eventual outcome. It was evident that all the other finalists shared our enthusiasm and excitement for being a part of the E20X event in Dubai, affirming the significant importance of the platform E20X provides to startups. This platform serves as a pivotal gateway for those seeking to introduce their innovative and distinctive concepts to the industry.
What was the best piece of advice you received at E20X?
E20X served as a great affirmation of the rapid evolution within the modern-day hospitality industry. From my point of view, the entire competition and all the great platforms presented by our peers resonated very well with the ever-changing demands of not only the industry's workforce but also its guests. I also remember one of the judges offering a valuable piece of advice, suggesting the incorporation of gamified elements into our future visual stage presentations. This really resonated deeply with us, given that our entire platform is centered around gamification in education. I would say that our continued progress and development since that moment serve as a testament to our commitment to taking every piece of feedback seriously and implementing it effectively.
What tips would you give to other hospitality startups, particularly those who will be participating in E20X next year?
Embrace each moment of the E20X experience, not solely the on-stage competition segment, but the entire journey. Dedicate time to genuinely connect with your peers and delve into their motivations, as well as the contributions they aspire to make within the industry. True change is inevitable if we collectively commit to actively listening to one another's ideas and extending our wholehearted support to every individual looking to make an impact on the industry.
E20X returns in 2024! Startups are now invited to apply to participate in three E20X competitions taking place next year: