The travel technology scene in London was given a massive boost and royal endorsement last night as the first Traveltech Lab for start-ups was officially opened.
Now fully occupied, the incubator has been created by London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company in its offices next door to City Hall.
It now has 13 companies taking the 30 seats including new tours and activities marketplaces, a big data specialist, a virtual reality developer and specialist social networks for travellers.
The entrepreneurs have come from as far afield as China, Istanbul, Germany and Italy to set up in London after the incubator has an initial deluge of 880 applications.
His Royal Highness the Duke of York was at the opening if the incubator which is being backed by Gatwick Airport, its first corporate partner.
A headline corporate backer – a major household name in the travel sector – is close to being secured with an announcement due imminently.
Prince Andrew said: “What an amazing group businesses. If you have a choice of over 800 you are going to find some extraordinary businesses.
“These we have heard about tonight could revolutionise the tourism industry for the better for a lot of people.
“The opportunity is really inspired and really important for not only the travel industry but the technology and start-up business as a whole in London.”
The Traveltech Lab has been developed with The Trampery, a specialist in shared workspaces which is behind a number of projects in London. However, this is the first dedicated to a particular sector.
Prince Andrew said the work of The Trampery would allow businesses to share knowledge and work together so that they can grow faster.
“We want these businesses to grow here very very fast. It means they will have first mover advantage and the chance to build their businesses here.
“It’s a real pleasure to see this business collection come together and I wish it every success because I think it’s really really exciting.”
Guy Stephenson, chief commercial officer of Gatwick Airport, said: “It’s a great privilege for us to be partners with the Travel Tech Lab.
“Gatwick was sold by BAA five years ago and that engendered a real sense of competition and entrepreneurship. Even now there is a real energy and zest about what we do.
“Technology plays a really important role in what we do and we’re really keen to apply technology alongside people and infrastructure to give our customers a great experience.
“New and innovative technology is changing the way we travel and the London Traveltech Lab will encourage start-ups to shape this revolution.
“Gatwick’s support for these growing businesses will not only help them to succeed and realise their ideas, but it will help us to remain at the forefront of innovation and change in our industry.”
Gordon Innes, chief executive of London & Partners, added: “As well as being one of the world’s foremost tourism destinations, London is also a leading global hotspot for tech innovation.
“This exciting new incubator will bring tech and tourism together, enabling brilliant start-ups that will transform the way we live, work, and travel.
“It is the ideal springboard, enabling new travel tech firms to grow quickly with the help of London & Partners’ business expertise and broad network of industry specialists.”
Sam Bruce, chief executive of Much Better Adventures, one of the firms that won a place in the incubator said:
“We’re entering the growth funding stage of our business and the targeted nature of the Traveltech Lab is already helping us grow much quicker.
“London has proven to be fertile ground for travel technology start-ups and the Lab allows us all to amalgamate our industry experience and networks under one supportive roof.
“We’ve joined some seriously impressive start-ups in here and I’m sure there will be some billion-pound businesses come out of it.”
Founder of bd4travel, Andy Owen-Jones, another lab incumbent, said: “This is perfect for someone launching in the UK.
“There’s superb infrastructure, it’s low risk, you get good support and there’s an interesting eco-system. The concept it really good and what’s nice is they have executed it well.”
Bd4travel is currently a German company, but is in the process of becoming a UK Plc and securing an initial round of external funding.