Big Interview: Hack Horizon ‘will highlight how innovation is coming from the east’

Big Interview: Hack Horizon ‘will highlight how innovation is coming from the east’

Organisers of a hackathon on a BA flight between Hong Kong and London say it will highlight the vibrancy of southeast Asia as a centre for true innovation in travel.

Kosta Kolev, co-founder of Hack Horizon, says it is wrong to assume that what works in the west will also work in the east.

And he says it is also not true that technological advances in the east just copies of what has already been developed in the west.

“In terms of growth and investment, southeast Asia has one of the biggest tourism sectors in the world,” said Kolev.

“In many ways what the western media picks up on is the fact a company like Uber has solved a big social infrastructure problem and that can also be done in APAC.

“But they have not been as successful there because although you need to solve the same problem you have to do it in a slightly different way.”

Kolev said the prevalence of mobile in southeast Asia and relatively lower levels of desktop use means that customer experiences are very different.

“Everything has to be mobile and digital first,” said Kolev, “the likes of WeChat and Ctrip are already there and yet there’s a perception that we have to teach Asia how to do it.

“In fact, we have a lot to learn from them by bringing different cultures together in travel.”
Although there will always be regional variations, Kolev believes certain aspects, like mobile’s growing influence, are universal and will move east to west.

And he said the hack on a plane will also be an opportunity to bridge not just a geographical but generational gap he sees between those who run travel firms and young aspiring talent.

“A lot of the people who are the decision makers in travel are arguably a generation behind what the technology can do and how it can be used.

“This is an opportunity for really talented young people working with technology day to day to build really interesting things and put technology in front of those people.

“We can have a more holistic conversation about technology in travel. We have done many hakathons and they are the best way to get people to work in a very collaborative way.”

Key to enabling small start-ups to develop something innovative is allowing them access to the data and the systems which large established firms have.

“The fact is that the number one problem most start-ups face is data and access to the big players.

“If you want to do anything with hotels or flights, you need access to data. To build new interfaces you have to have partnerships to allow that to happen.

“You have to identify people working within corporates dealing with innovation to talk to and have a common language about how they can be collaborative and innovative.”

Applicants for the hackathon are being asked to submit their entry before March 24.

Judges will then ask 250 to make a 60 second video from which 100 will go on to an interview stage before the final 32 are chosen.

The event will start in Hong Kong where they will scope out their project at London’s Travel Tech Lab ahead of an overnight flight on May 6.

In London the hackers will complete their projects before a live pitch to judges at the London Transport Museum on May 8.

Kolev said he is looking for talented developers with a passion for technology and travel. He said they do not necessarily have to have a fully formed idea or concept.

To find out more about Hack Horizon and to enter your bid to join the hack on a place, visit its website.

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