Travo Summit 2016: Three travel tech start-ups in Dragon’s Den-style pitch

Travo Summit 2016: Three travel tech start-ups in Dragon’s Den-style pitch

Three travel tech start-ups went before judges in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch to show delegates their innovative new businesses at the 2016 Travolution Summit.

Johannes Thunert introduced his bus company Distribusion to delegates followed by Andrew Watson’s airport app Flio and Alex Gisbert’s hotel distribution platform Fastpayhotels.

Each were quizzed by a panel of judges made up of PR manager Steve Dunne, Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network and Jim Brigden managing director of travel marketing platform Sojern.

Johannes Thunert, Distribusion. The Innovators - Start-Up Pitches. Distribusion. Travolution Summit 2016. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057
Johannes Thunert, Distribusion. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057

Thunert said one third of the 6.3 billion European passengers travel by bus or shuttle between cities and from airports to city centres.

“When you buy a ticket, you can only usually by from a single operator,” he continued. “We are managing buses and shuttle operators around the globe and distributing them to travel retailers.”

Distribusion handles invoices and cancellations in its work with more than 100 operators in 1,500 destinations across 25 countries and has a partnership with transport metasearch firm Rome2Rio.

“It doesn’t matter if you are an OTA or a transport website,” he added. “We also offer an open ticket so you can still use it if plans change.”

He was quizzed by Gary Lewis, who asked how much money it’s making, to which Thunert replied margins were 8-12% on an average price of 25 Euros.

Steve Dunne asked about marketing plans and was told they will advertise in newsletters and magazines.

Jim Brigden asked about competitors. Thunert said his start-up is the only exclusively B2B bus long-distance transport marketing platform but that some OTAs are trying to do the same sort of thing.

“But all our potential competitors are our partners today,” added Thunert.

Flio’s Andrew Watson was next on stage to talk about his mobile app which he hopes will standardise the airport app across the globe.

The Innovators - Start-Up Pitches. Flio. Travolution Summit 2016. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057
Flio founder Andrew Watson gives his pitch at the Travolution Summit. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057

“I had this idea in Salt Lake City,” the ex-Spotify director of sales said. “Every airport is different but the same problems arise. People are bored, stressed, lost and confused.”

Airports have launched apps but he said all were different.

“From a traveller’s point of view, to download multiple apps for multiple journeys doesn’t make much sense. But going global from day one was a tough task.”

He says Flio puts the traveller first, with hints and tips about the airport such as where ATMs and pharmacies are placed and how to get there, notifications on flight departures.

It would make money through advertising and offering coupons for partner businesses at each airport and intends on introducing in-app payments and facilitate buying tickets for connections like Heathrow Express.

To make Wi-Fi access simpler, he suggested a one-off login that would automatically catch the signal at all participating airports.

Steve Dunne said the app it sounded easy to replicate but Watson said airports tend to want to own their own data and his was the only firm currently in the market. “Airport apps are targeting domestic consumers but not international travellers,” he said.

Jim Brigden said he would use it. “I’ve got lots of airport apps. It could definitely solve a problem,” he said but asked about profits.

Watson concluded by saying the app is starting to make money, but is yet to turn a profit.

Alex Gisbert, of Fastpayhotels, said his firm is an exclusively business to business hotel distribution platform.

Fastpayhotels Alex Gisbert .The Innovators - Start-Up Pitches. Travolution Summit 2016. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057
Fastpayhotels Alex Gisbert  at the Travolution Summit 2016. Photo by Steve Dunlop. +447762084057

“It’s a pretty simple solution with a very simple mission,” he pitched.

Fastpayhotels works globally to link hotels and travel agents. The difference is the hotels are paid for at the time of booking, with the firm taking a slice from the transaction but not storing any cash.

It only sells non-refundable hotel rooms and 40 percent of its business is based in Europe and the Middle East.

The upsides, he said, were his “great commercial terms” and low overheads and said leading chains such as Radisson, Melia and Iberico hotels were among the 11,000 already signed up since it launched in January.

“We help hotels project the cash they will receive based on the rates they put into our system, improving their cash flow,” said Gisbert.

Steve Dunne asked: “It’s a crowded sector with some really big competitors [bed banks], how do you fit in?”

“People are coming to us. In hotels, nothing talks more than having money in your back pocket. That’s what we offer,” Gisbert said.

Gary Lewis asked what rates hotels were giving Fastpayhotels for the service.

Gisbert said it has been anything from 5% to 40%. From next year, he added, only hotels that offer a differential will be accepted on the platform.

The judges and audience voted for their favourite start-up, with Flio pipping the others in a close contest with 40.5% of the vote share. Fastpayhotels won 35.7% of votes and Distribusion took the remaining 23.8% of delegates’ backing.

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