Let’s say Yo! to start-ups
TripStax CTO Scott Wylie believes the industry should support start-ups as the appetite for change and innovation cranks up
I’ve seen some daft start-ups in my time. Examples include Potato Parcel, where you send your loved ones a photo or message printed on, yes, a potato. Or who can forget a short-lived app called Yo, which had one function only: sending someone in your phone contact book a message saying “Yo”!
Mind you, the joke isn’t necessarily on the inventors. Yo raised £1 million in funding while Potato Parcel has become a moderately successful business.
The business travel world has also seen a big expansion in tech start-ups. Some have done very well. Two examples, both of which TripStax has played a part in integrating into TMCs’ IT platforms, are emissions reporting specialist Thrust Carbon and the mobility provider Jyrney.
The question is, should agencies and travel managers take a punt on supporting start-ups when they are still embryonic?
There are big rewards to reap. Most obviously, start-ups innovate. They reimagine and visualise a future that established players haven’t thought of or had time to develop. Start-ups can laser-focus on their ideas without being distracted by other projects or without getting bogged-down by bureaucracy.
Huge leaps in computing capability, AI and web architecture have made it much quicker and cheaper to convert great ideas into a practical reality. Start-ups are more agile and can pivot a lot easier. They are eager to please and customers who get in early can add enormous value and help influence and steer product development to meet their needs.
“Start-ups can laser-focus on their ideas without being distracted by other projects or without getting bogged-down by bureaucracy”
But there are things to be aware of too. There is no guarantee the acorn you support will grow into an oak if funding runs out or the entrepreneurs cannot match their bright idea with good business sense.
And there is one major challenge which raises the bar for success even higher in business travel. Ours is a sector with so many legacy processes, mainly based around the Global Distribution Systems. If a new travel tech product can’t integrate into those processes (like traveller profiles or passenger name records), which is expensive and complex, then it could struggle.
“I’ve spent 30 years in this industry and the appetite for change and innovation is really cranking up”
It shouldn’t be like that, but unfortunately, it’s the reality. The incentive to move away from that legacy technology is limited for established travel players because while the managed travel process is old and creaking, it’s not actually broken. Up-times for reservations and other key tech requirements are outstandingly good. So, if someone is going to go outside their normal workflow to incorporate a new product, they need to see real value in it.
I’ve spent 30 years in this industry and the appetite for change and innovation is really cranking up. Not only is demand increasing but many of today’s start-ups and scale-ups are offering real value underpinned by solid technology and promise massive improvements in efficiency, user experience and cost savings.
So, let’s say Yo! to the future and to innovative start-ups driving change.