When John Staley first got into the timeshare business with his wife, Delaina Probus-Staley, 15 years ago, the technology being used by the specialized segment of the travel industry was decidedly less digital.
Computers were big and boxy. Screens were limited in color, pictures were often fuzzy and “mobile” was a term people used to describe flip-open cellular phones the size of a brick.
Into that void the Staleys launched Triton, a software company for hotels and resorts that helped electronically revolutionize the way hotels managed their properties. The software allowed hotel staff to both make and monitor reservations and property management issues, like when rooms were checked out of and which ones still needed to be cleaned.
A decade and a half later, they say their Sarasota-based computer software company’s product is the “standard” in more than 170 resorts worldwide.
John Staley declined to provide sales figures, but said the company is still growing into new markets.
Because the industry is still evolving, Triton is, too, Staley said.
“It’s not all about just computers anymore,” he said.
Reflecting those changes, the Staleys last year embarked on a new software project — one with a funny but unforgettable name and a furry yellow creature of a mascot that looks like it should be part of a children’s cartoon or a video game.
But Oombaga — pronounced “Ew-m-BAH-ga — as the Staleys new venture is called, is meant to be serious business for owners of individual timeshare units.
The Sarasota-based mobile application company is at its heart a software platform that runs together with Triton’s existing technology.
With Oombaga, timeshare unit owners — and not just resort managers — can download an app on their iPhone, iPad or Android device and book a room, trade their allotted weeks with others or manage their timeshare’s finances.
“We realized that Triton helped resort staff stay organized, but the resorts still had to go the extra mile to constantly feed information to timeshare owners,” John Staley said.
“This app is a way for us to manage that information for the resort, and keep the owners up to date with everything they need to know, too.”
To perfect his ideas, he reached out to his alma mater, the University of Dayton Research Institute.
“Coming from the academic arena, we know more about aero propulsion than timesharing,” said Daniel Curran, president of the institute.
“But when John, a valued alumnus of the university, shared his grand plan with us, we saw great possibilities,” Curran added. “So far, the results are very impressive.”
The software officially debuted late last year during the industry’s largest conference event of the year — the American Resort Development Association’s World Annual Convention, held in Las Vegas.
Oombaga is used in 42 resort mobile apps today, but is expected to reach over 2,000 hotels in two years, Staley said.
Dale Goodman, president of GOODMANagement, which runs 20 resorts along the East Coast from its base in Newport News, Va., first met the Staleys, he said he was impressed by and drawn to John Staley.
“We met through events in the industry, and he’s quite a fellow. Hard to miss,” he said.
While Goodman missed out on Oombaga’s launch party in Vegas — an event attended by two-time Heisman Trophy winner and former Cincinnati Bengal Archie Griffin and other celebrities — he’s attended several Oombaga- or Triton-hosted events at industry meetings.
The events included an elaborate Super Bowl party that Oombaga sponsored at an industry conference earlier this year. The Staleys bought drinks for everyone who voted for Oombaga in six out of 25 annual timeshare GNext award categories.
Goodman first worked with Staley during the development of Triton, which he uses for day-to-day operations at all of his timeshare and condominium resort properties. More recently, he has signed on for Oombaga services, too.
“We always say that if a maid goes into a unit, we can manage it. The same is true for the Oombaga software,” Goodman said.
“There’s no one else doing anything like Oombaga on the market right now,” he added. “They’ve created a competitive advantage for the entire industry.”
Staley, who has run his businesses out of Sarasota for the past 15 years, considered moving the company’s headquarters to Orlando — the hub of the timeshare business — but ultimately decided against it.
“We’re comfortable here in Sarasota,” he said. “Orlando is the place to be, but we’re not far and we bring more attraction to the Sarasota area.”
Oombaga will garner even greater exposure next year, when GNext, a global timeshare industry conference, comes to the Ritz Carlton-Sarasota in February 2014.
Staley’s company is a major sponsor of GNext, which will bring around 250 of the top senior executives from 110 different hotel brands, such as Hyatt, Disney and Wyndham, here for a week.
“They’re all coming to our house this time,” said Staley, who added that the conference will be held in Europe for the next several years.
Events will take place across Sarasota area destinations, including the Ringling museum and Siesta Key Beach.
“To have it in our own backyard is going to be memorable,” he said. “All of these executives get to see Sarasota as a destination firsthand.”