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SODÅ: Maverick Startup Aims to Set New Hospitality Norms

in 2014, Alvaro Moreno was still in the early stages of his hospitality career. His professional journey had taken him to a major hotel in Đà Nẵng where he was helping to build out an operations team and he reached out to his former business school in Galicia, Spain, he was connected with Jacobo Priegue. Their meeting proved serendipitous – they both clearly saw the vast opportunities in Vietnam's rapidly-growing hospitality industry and two years ago, the duo decided to launch a platform that could transform it.

Like most startups, SODÅ reflects the founder’s experiences and personality. In this case, it exists because Moreno and Priegue recognized an opportunity to help owners and their teams power their hotels in a new and more sustainable way.

As is common for startups, the pair’s core idea evolved over time as the initial product grew and matured in response to changes in the market and customer needs. SODÅ offers hotels a full suite of hotel management services both for pre-opening and operating hotels. Ultimately, their most important product epiphany wasn’t about their platform at all, but refining the expectations for who their customers would be.

Where better to begin a new venture than by leveraging years of effort and established trust? Thus, SODÅ’s first customers were their former employers: an international luxury hotel group.

While this initial customer base provided SODÅ a solid foundation upon which to build, new partners are key to scaling. At this current stage, SODÅ is keeping its circle of clients small, so they’ve been focused on identifying hotels that align with their values, express a desire to think outside the box and are perhaps even willing to go out of their comfort zones for the sake of innovation and having a more efficient and better-performing business.

This comes back to the original ethos of SODÅ: going above and beyond what's required with the awareness that success will require operations free of the restrictions that typically confine the hospitality industry.

SODÅ approaches challenges as only those with experience in Vietnam can. The team is familiar with the country’s unique cultural and professional preferences and communication styles. This is perhaps best exemplified when, on a recent trip to Đà Nẵng, they needed to go to the airport to catch a flight, but couldn’t book a rideshare car. To make it in time, they grabbed a xe ôm while wearing full suits, making it with minutes to spare, even passing their client’s car with a wave en route.

SODÅ’s founders know their idiosyncratic approach isn’t for everyone and may be an acquired taste, but for free-thinking hotels that value long-term partnerships and are willing to entrust their business to others, the duo is keen to become part of their family, rather than mere consultants. Such an arrangement involves working with the hotel’s existing stakeholders, their teams and the staff from top to bottom. Instead of bringing in new people, SODÅ wants to empower those already in the organization. To that end, the pair spends weeks listening before they implement any changes or make recommendations.

It may take some time, but eventually, Moreno and Priegue trust that their methods will become more widely adopted standards. SODÅ could be seen not as a maverick startup, but as the first place to turn when opening a hotel in Vietnam.