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Travel Tech Essentialist #42: Breakthrough Builders


Travel Tech Essentialist

November 28 · Issue #42 · View online

Every two weeks, ten insights that explore travel’s new frontiers.

1. The future doesn’t happen to us; it happens because of us
The present has stopped working. We must create a different future”. Mike Maples, Partner at VC firm Floodgate believes that now, more than ever, the world needs more entrepreneurs, who have the courage to step up, in the face of great odds and design an exponentially different future. In How to Build a Breakthrough, Mike describes a method that can be used to create futures with breakthrough ideas. His article is both inspiring and concrete. Read +.
2. Suspend reality and buy despite Airbnb’s objective challenges
I wrote a post titled “Airbnb vs Booking” to compare both players with hard data. Airbnb’s top line is admirable (like Booking’s). Airbnb’s bottom line is not (unlike Booking’s). But it’s the subjective categories that will make Airbnb thrive. All in all, I am optimistic on Airbnb because of reasons that are difficult to put on a graph. It just feels like a new generation of OTA that has its finger on the pulse of a new generation of consumers. Read article.
3. Q3 2020 year on year revenue change: Spot the outlier
Public companies + Airbnb.  Source: companies earnings
Public companies + Airbnb. Source: companies earnings
4. Airbnb is the biggest but not the only home-sharing player in town
Home sharing has taken off during the pandemic. In the land of Airbnb (7 million accommodations) and vrbo (2 million), there are other competitors that cater niche demographics. The WSJ and Forbes highlight some of them:
  • For the value hunter - Sonder - High style, good locations and 24-hour management via an app at accessible rates.
  • For the extra-picky - Plum Guide - They don’t list a lot of homes. Just the top 3% in each destination.
  • For design enthusiasts - Plans Matter - An aggregator of exceptionally designed private homes.
  • For farm lovers - Yonder - Finding a decent farm stay can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Yonder helps improve the odds.
  • For road trippers - Outdoorsy - The Airbnb of RVs, from pop-up campers to elaborate touring vans. 
  • To connect with nature in a more private way.  Hipcamp offers a repository of campsites for rent that are located on privately-owned land.
  • For those who want to enjoy nature without getting dirty - Glamping Hub bridges this gap (more about this in the next story)
5. Camping goes way upscale during Covid: Glamping
The glamorous camping (i.e. glamping) trend has been growing in the US since 2014, after taking root in Europe during the 2008-09 financial crisis.  It provides an escape to the outdoors without sacrificing the comforts of running water, a nice bed, Wi-Fi and good food. This WSJ article looks at the glamping trend and at some of the companies that are riding this wave. Among them: Glamping Hub, a Denver and Seville-based startup with more than 25.000 unique accommodations, which saw Jul -Aug revenue up 250% year-on-year. Tentrr, a New York City-based glamping operator with 630 sites in 43 US states that did as much business in August as all of 2019. The company builds canvas tents on private properties. Luxury hotel groups are seeing an opportunity. Aman Resorts launched its first glamping resort in Canyon Point, Utah (starting around $3,500 a night).
6. Business travel, according to Bill Gates and Amazon
My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel will go away”, said Bill Gates. He mentioned that one downside of virtual meetings vs in-person events is the inability to meet new people, but he thinks that technology could bridge that gap: “More could be done on the software side to allow for serendipitous run-ins after meetings.” Read +.
Amazon’s CFO said the company has saved US$1 billion on travel and expenses as a result of Covid restrictions. He also believes travel costs may remain permanently down: “travel will resume at a later date but maybe not get to the same levels as in the past.Read +.
7. How airline tech startups are adapting
This Skift article looks at how a few venture-backed airline tech startups are doing — Countalytics (inventory management) , Duffel (airline distribution platform), Elenium (airport tech for seamless passenger journey), Flyr (airline revenue operating system), LocusLabs (connected mapping), Unicoaero (baggage tracing), and Volantio (incremental profits post-Covid). Some have diversified their customer base outside of aviation. Some have used luckily timed funding to fine-tune their products. Others have tried to stay relevant by launching new products or reviving old ones. 
8. How to spinout your scientific research out of a university and into a startup
For those of you who are doing scientific research at a university and are considering starting a company to commercialize it, this YCombinator article provides good practical advice. YC has funded 75 companies in this situation and this article covers the most common topics founders ask. 
  • Who should spin out
  • When to spin out 
  • How to split up the equity
  • Negotiating with tech transfer offices
  • After the spinout
9. Deals and funding
  • Skyscanner launched Covid travel insurance in partnership with Cover Genius, the NY-based startup that recently raised $12 million (following a $10 million round in November). Other travel partners that use its customizable insurance products include Booking and Despegar.
  • Tech giant Oracle acquired 16-year-old hotel up-selling platform Nor1, adding the service into its OPERA suite of tools for hospitality providers.
  • Rappi took a step forward in its objective to become Latin America’s first superApp. It announced the launch of its new vertical Rappi Travel, offering flights and accommodations. Rappi collaborated with Netactica to source inventory from parters such as Amadeus, Saber, Expedia, Omnibees and Hotelbeds.
  • Iceland-based airline technology provider Dohop secured a multi-million-pound investment from Scottish Equity Partners, the 1st and largest investor in Skyscanner. The exact amount of the funding was not disclosed but the CEO said its total funding is now nearly €20 million.
  • Portuguese startup HiJiffy raised €1 million to help hoteliers improve guest communications. The investment was led by Portugal Ventures. With a solution that can automate 80% of guest interactions, HiJiffy is present in 1,400 hotels and 30 countries. HiJiffy was founded in 2016 and has grown 115% since January of this year. 
10. Startups
  • Chicago-based Sherpa Tours is the first walking tour app which uses augmented reality technology and AR avatar tour guides using scripts developed by local experts including historians, professional guides, architects and writers. Sherpa launched in 2019 and has 150 tours in 80 cities globally.
  • Bubble Hotels intends to be a tech-enabled glamping operator for visitors to US National Parks. Bubble Hotels launched an Indiegogo campaign for its first location in Joshua Tree and has raised $714,818 so far in pre-bookings.
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P.S. Travel Tech Essentialist provides independent consultancy and advisory services to the travel and media ecosystems. Go here to learn more and contact me for possible collaborations. 
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