Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP ®) introduced its hospitality technology start-up pitch competition Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) on June 15, 2015 at HITEC Austin. The inaugural event gathered nine competitors to showcase their products in four-minute presentations to a panel of expert judges with backgrounds in hospitality, technology and entrepreneurship. After the event, the judges determined which technology was the most disruptive and game-changing to the industry to award the top prize: the Judge’s Choice award.
The winning company in that first year was Whistle, a service that aggregates customer communications into minimalistic web and mobile admin panels and allows businesses to respond to or triage incoming messages via a real-time chat interface to and from the customer’s preferred app.
"The most valuable element of Entrepreneur 20X for Whistle has been the validation and exposure to industry leaders and professionals," said Christopher Hovanessian, Whistle’s co-founder and president. "Being the winner of the first E20X competition is definitely a very exciting accomplishment for us and it feels great! It’s an amazing feeling to find out directly from the industry experts that our hard work is recognized and paying off."
In addition to the competition, the participating companies were given a space in the E20X pavilion in the HITEC exhibit hall. This allowed them to speak one-on-one with HITEC attendees about their technologies.
Following the initial success of the competition, HFTP continues to produce E20X as part of its HITEC program. In 2017, HFTP added another annual E20X competition at HITEC Europe, when it debuted in Amsterdam that March and once more at HITEC Dubai in 2021. Other features added to the competition include a People’s Choice award selected by votes from HITEC attendees and a mentorship program where company representatives meet with experienced hospitality professionals to hone their pitches prior to presentation.