Grayson Brulte

Grayson Brulte

@gbrulte | @gbrulte

Grayson Brulte is an Innovation Strategist and Co-Founder of Brulte & Company.

Brulte & Company is an autonomous mobility advisory and consulting firm headquartered in Florida. The firm provides strategic counsel to the world’s leading companies by applying our strategic thinking and political insight to help clients navigate what’s next.

As an innovation strategist and strategic advisor, Grayson builds trusted relationships with organizations, working together with internal teams to prepare clients for what’s next.

From developing strategies for autonomous vehicle programs to helping companies become the go-to resource for technology innovation, Grayson empowers clients with the foresight and intelligence to take on the world’s biggest challenges.

Sharing his insights into what’s next, Grayson hosts The Road To Autonomy Podcast and the SAE International Tomorrow Today Podcast, where he interviews high-caliber guests and leaders across industries, sharing his own unique perspective to deliver one-of-a-kind discussions.

Harnessing his in-depth knowledge of diverse markets, economics, politics, and technology, he and the guests tackle topics from autonomous vehicles and mobility trends to the financial effects of innovative breakthroughs and their impact on society.

Grayson understands the intricate relationship between politics and innovation, expertly navigating between these worlds and facilitating the impactful conversations between the two.

His comments have appeared in numerous publications, including: The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, and Forbes. Grayson has enabled forward momentum and transformation from a city to a national level.

As a former Co-Chair of the City of Beverly Hills Mayor's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force and member of the city’s Smart City/Technology Committee, he helped Beverly Hills become one of America’s digital capitals chosen by Google.

With his perspective, insights, and opinions being used and shared by leading organizations and publications, Grayson continues to be a leading voice in innovation and autonomous mobility.

For speaking engagements, editorials and media enquiries please email [email protected].

Unlocking the True Value of the St. Regis Brand

The current value of the St. Regis brand is weighed down by associating the St. Regis brand so closely with Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

In 1904 Colonel John Jacob Astor IV founded the St. Regis brand with the opening of the St. Regis in New York, NY which at that time the was declared “the finest hotel in America” by The New York Times.

When John Jacob Astor founded the St. Regis it was known not only for it’s luxury, but for the new technology that was featured in every room. Each room had it’s own telephone along with central heating and an air-cooling system that allowed each and every guest to control the temperature in their room.

The hotel also featured one of the first central vacuum systems and a central fire alarm system which would improve the safety of the guests. These technological advancements under the leadership of Mr. Astor cemented the St. Regis’ brand as a leader in innovation and hospitality.

The St. Regis New York would stay independent until ITT Sheraton purchased the property and the naming rights to the St. Regis brand in 1960 for an undisclosed amount. In 1998, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc purchased the St. Regis New York from ITT Sheraton and launched the St. Regis brand in 1999 with the debut of The St. Regis Aspen Resort and The St. Regis Houston.

Today in 2014 the St. Regis brand is over 100 years old and is wholly owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. with 31 properties in 20 countries with 21 future St. Regis openings planned in 5 new countries.

As Starwood embarks on their expansion of the St. Regis brand it would be prudent for them to take a step back and rethink the brand while channeling the innovative leadership of Mr. Astor. A rethink of the brand should start with a discussion about creating value by spinning out St. Regis as a stand alone luxury brand that is not part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program or central booking system.

The current value of the St. Regis brand is weighed down by associating the St. Regis brand so closely with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. As technology companies such as eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Symantec split into two publicly-traded companies, Starwood Hotels & Resorts would benefit by following the trend of creating value by spinning St. Regis out as a stand alone brand.

As famed investor Carl C. Icahn said about eBay spinning out PayPal “it is almost a no brainer that these companies should be separated to increase the value of these great assets and thus to meaningfully enhance value.” Mr. Icahn is correct. PayPal’s growth was weighed down by eBay and by spinning out PayPal, eBay is creating value for their shareholders.

While Starwood does not need to spin St. Regis out as a separate publicly traded company, they should spin the brand out as a stand alone brand that highlights the deep and rich history of the St. Regis dating back to 1904.

By spinning out St. Regis as a stand alone brand Starwood would be creating value for not only shareholders but also guests. A stand alone branded St. Regis would be able to command higher room rates and better directly compete with privately held Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Inc.

Isadore Sharp, Founder of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts understood and still understands the value of a single brand with a single level of quality and how it reflects on the brand. In Mr. Sharp’s biography Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy published in 2009 he openly focus on the strategic advantages of managing only medium-sized hotels of exceptional quality and to make service the brand’s distinguishing edge.

What is the St. Regis’ distinguishing edge? Perhaps it is the brand. However, it is diminished by the close association with less stellar hotels that are included under the Starwood Hotels & Resort banner.

The time is right for Starwood Hotels & Resorts to have the discussion around the St. Regis brand as the competition for the global high-net worth traveler is heating up. Aman Resorts recently announced their first city hotel in Tokyo, Japan and The Peninsula Hotels recently unveiled The Peninsula Paris and the soon to be developed The Peninsula London.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Aman Resorts and The Peninsula Hotels all have one thing in common. They great brands that are not weighed down by association with less than exceptional quality hotels.

St. Regis could too be apart of this elite group of hotels, but it is up to Starwood management to make the decision to spin St. Regis out as a stand alone brand.

By spinning out the St. Regis brand Starwood would increase the value of the St. Regis brand. A stronger St. Regis brand would be able to command higher room rates which would in turn lead to increased revenue per room night.

Now is the time for Starwood to follow the tradition of innovation started by Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and spin out the St. Regis brand to create value for guests and shareholders.

Unlocking the True Value of the St. Regis Brand is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte.

Rethinking The Wi-Fi Strategy of Fine Hotels & Resorts

The hotel industry is the the midst of disruption from startups such as Airbnb who are re-imaging how you can book and experience lodging.

What Airbnb lacks is the hotel industry’s greatest strength: hospitality and consistency. While Airbnb is creating value for their customers, you cannot replace the experience of a true five-star hotel or resort.

A true five-star hotel or resort understands the needs and wants of their guests, but time and time again they tend to overlook Wi-Fi and it’s benefit to the guest experience. A guest booking a room, house or even a treehouse on Airbnb have come to expect unlimited complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi with their stay.

A guest booking a treehouse in Cooper, Alajuela, Costa Rica on Airbnb for $85 per night are offered complimentary Wi-Fi with no bandwidth restrictions. But when staying at most five-star hotels or resorts around the world paying an average rate of $600 per night, guests are limited with their Wi-Fi speeds and their bandwidth consumption is capped.

Airbnb hosts are creating value for their guests by offering complimentary Wi-Fi, while some five-star hotels and resorts are devaluing their brands by not offering complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and limiting the experience. Travelers are used to airlines limiting their bandwidth and blocking services such as HBO Go and Netflix due to the current state of the in-flight wireless infrastructure, but not hotels.

The in-flight wireless infrastructure is currently being upgraded as AT&T announced plans in April to launch a high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight network in late 2015. The upgraded in-flight wireless infrastructure will come to the relief of 9 out of 10 users globally complain about the current state of in-flight Wi-Fi service being slow and inconsistent according to a Honeywell Wireless Connectivity Survey.

John Stankey, Chief Strategy Officer of AT&T summed up his thoughts on in-flight Wi-Fi  by stating; “Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet”. Mr. Stankey’s comments are correct and they should serve as a guide for owners and operators of five-star hotels and resorts.

The recently announced four-star Virgin Hotels Chicago opening in 2015 is following Mr. Stankey’s lead by offering “the right to faster, free Wi-Fi ” in every single guest room. Virgin Hotels Chicago is not capping the bandwidth, instead they using the no-bandwidth limit as a marketing tool to encourage guests to lodge at the hotel.

Virgin Hotels Chicago property is even taking it two steps further by moving away from the iPad in the room model to a bring your own device, control the room model. The control your room, bring your own device model will save Virgin Hotels Chicago an up-front charge of roughly $124,750 for adding the new iPad Air 2’s to each of the hotels 250 rooms plus monthly software licensing fees.

Another idea that Virgin is attempting to re-invent is the in-room TV experience by allowing guests to “watch your stuff on our TV”. This is a huge step forward as the hotel TV of today is outdated and does not enhance the overall guest experience. A smart TV that a guest can program with their own content will create value for the guests.

The content streamed to the TV will require Wi-Fi which is in-part by why Virgin Hotels Chicago is offering unlimited bandwidth. Industry sources have told me that Virgin Hotels Chicago is going to operate at break-even to build the brand and disrupt the marketplace.

While Virgin Hotels very well might disrupt the market, Airbnb has been a true disrupter to the hotel industry in a good way. Hotel owners and operators should look at Airbnb as a friend rather than a foe as they are encouraging individuals to travel and see the world.

Airbnb can also teach the hotel industry why venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s theory that “software is eating the world” is correct and why software will only continue eat away at industries. In 2007, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal took a 95% stake in Four Seasons Holdings Inc., owner and operator of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts with Bill Gates at a valuation of $3.8 billion USD. Today as software has eaten the world, Airbnb has a valuation of $10 billion after a $475 million USD round of financing led by TPG Growth.

Airbnb does not own or operate a single property, but they have 800,000 listings available for rent in over 190 countries. While Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts owns or operates 93 hotels and resorts in 38 countries.

Airbnb was started out of necessity as Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were having a hard time paying their rent back in 2007. To fix this issue they hatched an idea of renting out three airbeds on their living-room floor and cooking their guests breakfast and launching airbedandbreakfast.com.

Fast forward seven years to 2014 and Airbnb is a thriving business that is growing daily. The Airbnb story is one that five-star hotels and resorts should take to heart when they are thinking about their Wi-Fi strategy.

Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky found a way to create value for guests paying $80 a night for a air bed, including breakfast. While Airbnb lacks the overall hospitality and consistency of a five-star hotel or resort, they do offer value. Five-star hotels and resorts can do the same by offering unlimited complimentary high-speed in-room Wi-Fi.

Will five-star hotels and resorts follow the model that is being pioneered by Airbnb and Virgin Hotels or will they continue with the status quo? Only time will tell what decision the owners and operators of the world’s finest hotels and resorts choose to make as it relates to Wi-Fi.

While not every five-star hotel or resort has the budget or flexibility to re-think their Wi-Fi strategies, the ones who do would be creating long-term value for their guests, which in turn would lead to an increase in paid room nights per year.

Travelers have come to expect complimentary Wi-Fi in hotels and public spaces, now it is time for the world’s finest hotels and resorts to not only live up to their guests expectations, but to exceed them in every imaginable way.

Rethinking The Wi-Fi Strategy of Fine Hotels & Resorts is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on SocialSign.in.

Revisiting the Doctor Visit

Today we are more in tune with our health than any other time in history. This new focus on health and change in consumer behavior is largely being driven by startups in Silicon Valley and innovative tech companies around the world.

The innovators are disrupting and consumerizing healthcare to the benefit of all of us.

As tech companies consumerize healthcare and create more frictionless experiences, it would behoove doctors to take notice and implement certain technologies and services into their practice to improve the patient’s overall experience.

Focusing on user experience, many tech companies are developing healthcare products that consumers want to utilize on a daily basis. This is resulting in higher engagement rates, which means users are more likely to take their health more seriously, focusing on exercise and diet.

While doctors are clearly focused on the health needs of their patients, many haven’t adjusted to the consumerization of healthcare by taking into account the whole user experience.

Take the doctor’s visit. When you visit a doctor, you have to sign in, fill out paperwork, share your insurance card, then take a seat in the waiting room. Wait times now average 21 minutes before seeing your doctor, an increase of 6 percent since 2012, according to healthcare data analytics firm Vitals.com.

To improve the patient experience, doctors and employees of medical practices should start to consider how to create value for their patients. “The value experience is unknown in the medical field,” says Dr. Daniel E. Thompson of Commonwealth Orthopaedics, the official orthopedic and physical therapy partner of the Washington Redskins.

While creating value is a relatively new approach in the medical field, it is the bread and butter of the hospitality industry. César Ritz, founder of The Ritz hotels, had the famous saying, “The customer is never wrong.” The staff at doctor’s offices could learn a lot from Ritz and his focus on providing excellent customer service.

With a fresh new attitude and approach to customer service by staff, doctors should focus on eliminating friction with the office visit. Instead of filling out paperwork, patients should be able to wave their smartphone in front of a near-field communication (NFC) device, which would enable the staff to instantly view their patient history and insurance information on a tablet.

Staff checking in patients would know their required co-pay and whether they hit their deductible. This data would allow the provider to charge the correct amount for the office visit, without overcharging or incurring any friction, since the patients’ credit cards would be on file.

A receipt would instantly be emailed to patients, notifying them about complimentary Wi-Fi and encouraging them to post a review of their visit online. The receptionist can send opt-in updates via iBeacon technology, informing patients about their remaining wait time and their exam room.

By staying in constant communication with patients, doctor’s offices can help reduce stress level. Even after a 21-minute wait, patients will be more satisfied with their visit if they’re kept in the loop. Once the appointment ends, patients could receive any additional paperwork via email, eliminating the risk that they could misplace important health documents.

Technology will only enhance the doctor’s visit, enabling doctors to focus on what they do best: providing care for those in need.

Revisiting the Doctor Visit is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.

Wi-Fi Opens New Distribution Opportunities

With the rapid growth of global WiFi hotspots comes an opportunity to take a step back and rethink what WiFi does and what it can do in the future.

A lot has changed since 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the top grossing movie of the year with over $924 million in global revenue. The Backstreet Boys were on top of the charts with their Millennium album that sold over 11 million copies, and Excite CEO George Bell made one of the worst investment mistakes in history when he failed to buy Google for $750,000. In August of that year, the term WiFi was used commercially for the first time in history. The inaction of George Bell to acquire Google and the introduction of the term WiFi would end up changing the technology landscape forever.

Fast forward fifteen years later and it’s 2014 and Google has a market cap of $369.26 billion. The Walt Disney Company now owns the rights to Star Wars after buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion, and global WiFi hotspots are projected to grow to 7.1 million by 2015.

With the rapid growth of global WiFi hotspots comes an opportunity to take a step back and rethink what WiFi does and what it can do in the future.

A WiFi network currently creates value for individuals by allowing them to connect to the internet from a mobile device without having to pay for a data plan. In the future, a WiFi network will become a distribution platform for brands and content owners alike that creates value for users of the network. In London, MasterCard has partnered with public WiFi provider The Cloud to offer free WiFi access for MasterCard card members at over 22,000 hotspots. MasterCard is using the WiFi promotion to build brand awareness for their MasterCard Priceless Cities campaign.

Right now, free WiFi is only available to MasterCard cardholders who download the MasterCard Priceless London WiFi app prior to connecting to the free network. MasterCard has the right idea in mind, but in my opinion they didn’t completely think through the large opportunity presented in front of them. Yes, MasterCard is creating value for cardholders, but they are also creating friction by requiring users to download the MasterCard Priceless London WiFi app prior to traveling in order to connect to the network. This friction filled experience devalues the value proposition.

To truly execute a frictionless branded WiFi experience, brands have to take one step back and ask themselves;

Does this only benefit our brand or does it create value for our customers too?

If the answer only benefits the brands then the campaign was a non-starter. If the answer is this creates value and I would want to use this, then it’s a win for the brand and the user.

In Italy, Italian lawmakers have put forward a proposal to develop and launch a free WiFi network in thousands of public places. When Italian lawmakers start to think through the free WiFi proposal, they shouldn’t lose sight of the cultural importance of Italy and what WiFi can do to enhance the cultural experience for tourists. Sergio Boccadutri, a member of the ruling Democratic Party and sponsor of the proposal recently said, “Free WiFi would have a big cultural impact and help the economy recover, starting from industries such as tourism.”

While Mr. Boccadutri is correct, lawmakers must not get lost in the details of developing and launching a free WiFi network. Instead they should outsource this proposal to a firm with a proven track record of developing frictionless software that lives on top of WiFi networks. The software layer on top of the network will provide the true value to tourists in Italy, as it would grant them access to geo-targeted content based on their location that might be of interest to them from an Italian cultural perspective.

The operators of the WiFi network would then be able to offer value added services such as private tours and fast passes for museums. The data gathered from WiFi networks can create tremendous value for those individuals who choose to interact with the network. In Austin (TX), travelers waiting in the security line at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport are now told how long the wait is in real-time on screens thanks in-part to data gathered from the WiFi network.

As more users start to connect to WiFi networks and brands such as MasterCard, governments such as Italy and airports such the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport start to use WiFi as a value added services, individuals benefit too. While individuals benefit from the increase in free WiFi access, this creates a business opportunity for brands and content owners to distribute their unique content over a global network that supports Passpoint to a highly targeted audience.

Imagine you take your family to Walt Disney World Resort and after a long day, your child is tired and ready for a nap. You put him or her in the stroller, pull out the iPad and connect to Disney Guest WiFi before handing it over to your child.

When you connect to Disney Guest WiFi, Disney knows that you are in the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland, based on your location and offers up complimentary hyper-targeted Disney content such as the Swiss Family Robinson movie.

You click play, hand the iPad over to your child to watch the movie and you enjoy the park.

Wi-Fi Opens New Distribution Opportunities is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on SocialSign.in.

Creating Value at High Internet Speeds

It has been 66 years since John Walson Sr. invented cable TV in America. Today, about 100 million U.S. households pay for TV, according to research firm SNL Kagan, or approximately 85 percent of all households in the country.

Despite such penetration, the pay TV market is actually in decline, experiencing its first full-year drop in subscribers last year amid competition from satellite and mobile. To capture new subscribers and stop losses from cord-cutters, cable and telecom companies should rethink their business models and focus on building frictionless user experiences that create value for customers.

The answer may be found online. Only 70 percent of American households have an active high-speed Internet connection at home, according to Pew Research. Meanwhile, 93 percent of all American households have access to broadband Internet, according to an NCTA analysis of SNL Kagan and Census Bureau estimates. That gap points to potential for growth.

In the early days of cable, value was created through providing hundreds of channels in the comfort of your home. Today, cable TV is not the value — the value is high-speed Internet access. While broadband speeds have increased for consumers, and revenue has increased for cable and telecom providers, the value of the service has not kept pace.

Value for subscribers can be created by boosting broadband speeds and offering value-added services to the network infrastructure — an emerging business opportunity that cable and telecom companies in the U.K. are starting to explore.

In the U.K., BT has strategically decided to offer complimentary access to BT Sport for free to all existing broadband customers, in order to gain new subscribers and market share. BT has about a 31 percent market share of the broadband market, which totals more than 22 million broadband subscribers, or 78 percent of all households.

Not to be outdone, Virgin Media, with about a 20 percent market share, has focused on complementary international Wi-Fi access for subscribers. Through a Wi-Fi sharing access agreement with Comcast, Virgin Media subscribers will be able to access Comcast’s Wi-Fi network when they travel to the U.S. Comcast is on track to have more than 8 million Wi-Fi hotspots live by January 2015.

Over in France, Bouygues Telecom — whose 2 million customers translates into about an 8 percent market share — recently announced a deal to give subscribers access to Netflix through their set-top TV boxes.Bouygues made the strategic and symbolic move to embrace Netflix, while creating value for their subscribers. After the deal, Bouygues Chairman Olivier Roussat said, “We intend to continue enhancing our offer so that customers can enjoy the best innovative content.”

As Roussat and his counterparts in Europe explore new business opportunities, U.S. executives are starting to take notice. Time Warner has just announced that HBO would unbundle HBO and offer it as a stand-alone service. “It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” said Richard Plepler, chairman and chief executive of HBO, in announcing the move.

As the price of broadband Internet access continues to rise, cable and telecom executives in the U.S. would be smart to follow the lead of their European counterparts and create value for subscribers by offering complimentary value-added services before Apple CEO Tim Cook does it for them.

Cook recently described the current state of TV as “stuck back in the 70s.” Cable and telecom executives should consider the Cook’s statement a shot across the bow. To anticipate a potential move by Apple into the TV business, they should double down on innovation that creates value for subscribers.

For inspiration on the future of TV, look to Europe. The TV/broadband relationship is changing to the benefit of consumers. Cable and telecom companies who put their subscribers first and create value through complementary value-added services will likely be the ultimate winners, and in turn gain revenue and market share.

Creating Value at High Internet Speeds is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.