Finding the unicorn at the Future of Travel Tech Summit

webimage-46808EC6-0985-4641-A03CEC6CD83BD626Sun, flip-flops and finding the next unicorn in travel tech. At this year’s Future of Travel Technology Summit, people from all over the world gathered to share technologies and ideas to create and redefine the future of travel.

The road to funding

The day kicked off with the Investor Panel. And I was honored to share the stage with Jetblue Technology Ventures, Thayer Ventures and Plug and Play Travel & Hospitality.  We had great discussion around exciting new opportunities in regional travel, alternative accommodation, transformation of loyalty, urban mobility and linkage to smart cities.

And in the growing age of digital disruption, we as investors, look for the “unicorn” to invest in. We’re seeking startups with legs, vision and a deep understanding of the technology their bringing to the industry. And with the speed of travel technology and changes in business models, it’s paramount for a startup to be agile enough to pivot when necessary. And even in the landscape of a startup deciding on a B2C or B2B model, Matt Zito of Travel Startups Incubator chimed in, “ Make your decision to pivot to B2B sooner rather than later.” And to add, as investors we are all more focused on B2B enterprise software model because they’re more robust and at the same time, more synergistic to the strategic investors.

Getting down to business

We also had an amazing panel on business travel combining the “old guards” of Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Egencia, and the disruptors of Rocketrip and TripActions.  The question is:  how can you provide a better business travel experience? TripActions believe they can be much more proactive than a traditional TMC by calling you at the time of disruption rather than waiting for you to reach out. They also run an incentive program similar to Rocketrip to engage employees to save on travel costs. But can an established TMC fix travel management, or should corporations just let business travelers book wherever they want?  At the end, it was a great debate and we can only expect to find the answer via customer purchasing decisions.

Startups bring smart conversations & smart tech

The Expedia Group sponsored a startup pitch competition where nine companies from all over the world presented their innovations in front of “tech sharks.” From AI / NLP, to revenue management, parking aggregator, to corporate travel, they inspired the audience with how new technologies can be applied to the travel industry and how it has already impacted travel. The winner of the People’s Choice Award went to Pruvo, an Israeli startup that monitors hotel prices post booking. The Judging Panel’s Award went to Destygo, a French startup that focuses on providing natural language interface for travel providers.

Overall, it was a great event! As one who interacts with so many new companies, I still enjoy the exploration and discovery of what’s new and next in travel.

 

What travel tech would you like to see disrupt the industry this year?

 

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