Pandemic Contactless Check-In Demand Leads to Milestone for NVC Alum Lynx

Lynx has distributed one million digital keys.

Cofounded by Chicago Booth School of Business alum Dipen Gala, MBA ’16, Lynx makes it easier for property managers to rent out a short-term vacation rental. A business-to-business enterprise solution, Lynx provides property management systems and booking sites, such as Airbnb, with integrated keyless entry, contactless check-in, and home automation services. Lynx also supports fast check-out processes by alerting cleaning services and providing them entrance into the rentals.

Gala and his cofounder Resha Shroff, CEO, came up with the idea for Lynx while working as property managers in Chicago. According to Gala, the arrival of Airbnb affected his portfolio of properties. To compete, he was turning long-term rentals into short-term. Both Gala and Shroff wanted an easier way to manage their properties. Their solution was a digital key that could be exchanged between property hosts and guests, making it unnecessary for owners to be present.

(Image credit: Lynx)

Originally, the company was called VirtualKEY. With just the idea, Shroff and Gala applied to be part of and went on to be a finalist at the 2015 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), the Polsky Center’s nationally ranked accelerator program. VirtualKEY, Gala said, benefitted from the mentorship and the professors through the NVC, who helped him and Shroff narrow down the focus of the company.

VirtualKEY went on to participate in the 2015 Polsky Accelerator, a summer-long program to focus on the venture, and that fall, the Polsky I-Corps, a program specifically designed for participants working on projects related to the STEM fields. During this time, VirtualKEY completed customer discovery, refined the idea, built out its minimum viable product prototype, and got its first pilot customers in Chicago.

With the company expanding beyond virtual key exchanges for vacation rentals, Shroff and Gala changed the company’s name to Lynx in 2019. “The name VirtualKEY was putting us in a corner,” explained Gala, “where people thought we were just a lock company or we were just an access company, which was nowhere near true. We provide a more holistic solution.”

They decided on Lynx, Gala said, because “we link all different smart devices and bring them to one enterprise dashboard.” Lynx is capable of pairing with over 300 smart devices in the home. This includes elevators, garages, intercom systems, thermostats, noise and leak sensors, among other things. The platform operates in five countries and more than 200 cities.

This past year has seen a spike in demand for contactless check-ins, Gala said – leading Lynx to a milestone: one million digital keys distributed. “Before COVID-19 we still had to convince people about this technology,” Gala explained. “Now, it’s just become a no-brainer to people. With social distancing, contactless check-ins are an absolute must.”

Article by Julianne Lorndale, marketing coordinator at the Polsky Center. Julianne recently graduated cum laude from the College at the University of Chicago, where she divided her time between Creative Writing and Italian Studies. Reach Julianne via email, on LinkedIn or on Twitter @jlorndale.

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