Web3 Travel Tech Startups
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Note: things are moving fast on the Web3 front, this post was updated on June 5th to make sure that it reflects the latest relevant information.
I contacted (all the links take the reader down to each of the startups’ section) DTravel, Xeniapp, WYTLAND, Pinktada, Stay Open, and New Frontier, four travel startups trying new models around blockchain, web3, and creator economy. These are the questions I asked:
What is the problem or the unmet need that you trying to solve?
Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
What stage of development1 are you?
Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
Any metrics/traction that you can share?
What new element(s) are you introducing that address some of the characteristics and possibilities enabled by Web3 models and blockchain technology?
Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens? How so?
Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
Here are their replies to these nine questions.
1.1 Brief description of DTravel
Dtravel will provide short-term rental hosts and property managers with infrastructure that enables them to accept on-chain bookings via a new web3 ecosystem. The Dtravel ecosystem blends the freedom of direct booking sites with the simplicity of online travel agencies, offering unrivaled ownership and control over the entire booking process.
Hosts set their own booking terms, freely determine the content they display and retain a significantly greater portion of their earnings. Guests benefit from better rates, more meaningful rewards and expanded payment options with cryptocurrencies.
Dtravel’s long-term vision is to leverage web3 technologies to enable community members, including hosts and guests, to work together to build and realize the full potential of a community-owned travel experience. As the number of community members grows, this community-owned and led travel ecosystem will mold into a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), empowering community members to directly shape the future of the Dtravel ecosystem by submitting proposals, voting on them and contributing to their execution.
1.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that DTravel is trying to solve?
Lack control over money, policies, and relationships with their guests.
Don’t receive adequate compensation from the value they contribute to current booking platforms.
Lack a voice in influencing the future direction of the platforms they participate in.
With greater control, more equitable compensation and a louder voice, Dtravel’s goal is to give hosts the ownership they deserve when it comes to their business.
Pay more than they should.
Aren't rewarded for their loyalty with meaningful or exclusive rewards programs.
Have limited payment options for travel.
In developing the guest experience for Dtravel, these problems have been singled out as core focuses.
1.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
Dtravel caters to all existing and future hosts and guests who are interested in managing or booking short-term rentals. Within that group, Dtravel is especially appealing to individuals who seek greater independence from online travel agencies and understand the promise of cryptocurrencies and decentralization.
Dtravel is the natural progression of travel for the internet’s web3 evolution. In the not too distant future, it will be an open platform for all types of individuals and companies to contribute to in a variety of ways. We welcome anyone who wants to contribute to a new short-term rental ecosystem and invite them to join Dtravel in executing on our mission.
1.4. What stage of development is Dtravel at (please refer to Note 1)?
Dtravel is currently evaluating product-market fit. We recently signed our first partnership with a property management system (PMS) provider and are set to launch the second iteration of the platform in May 2022 with a group of early adopters.
Property managers and hosts interested in using Dtravel can create an account on Dtravel.com, import their listings via Hostaway and get started on their web3 hosting journey today!
1.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
The metric we will be watching most closely — and the one everyone can publicly see — is the number of on-chain bookings. When a booking is processed via cryptocurrency, the funds initially sit in a smart contract escrow account before being released to the host once their selected cancellation window lapses. All of the booking activity will be recorded on the blockchain.
In addition, we will be closely tracking the number of hosts, number of listings (which can also be verified on the blockchain, based on each listing having its own booking smart contract) and number of guests.
1.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
We have many deeply engaged hosts involved in our Host Beta Program, plus thousands of others we plan to offer access to in the near future. Dtravel also has a major Property Management System partnership with Hostaway.
1.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
Since web3 is built on decentralized blockchain technology, there’s no middleman when using Dtravel. Instead, Dtravel functions as a tool that facilitates direct transactions between hosts and guests using automated payments via smart contracts.
Dtravel will also utilize other web3 technologies like the TRVL token and the Proof-of-Travel Passport.
The TRVL token is the native token of Dtravel, powering its self-driving economy. It derives its utility from four purposes; travel, loyalty, protection and governance.
The Proof-of-Travel Passport will give travelers the ability to build their own online identity that shapes their world of travel. Stamps will be issuable to a traveler's NFT passport from participating travel partners, allowing them to build their own travel credentials on-chain. This technology will enable travelers to own all their data from participating travel platforms, while the same platforms can access on-chain data to implement unique, highly personalized web3 marketing campaigns.
1.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens?
Early property hosts using Dtravel are entitled to earn tokens in our Founding Partners program. For every booking completed on Dtravel, hosts are entitled to a 5.0% TRVL giveback based on the value of their booking.
In the near future, we will expand the program to include special incentives for guests.
1.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
Dtravel is advised and led by former executives from Airbnb, Expedia and other global technology companies, and is supported by world-class venture capital investors. The seed round saw over $7m in funds raised, entirely through purchases of the TRVL token.
Potential strategic investors in the TRVL token are encouraged to reach out to core contributors.
2.1 Brief description of Xeniapp
Xeniapp is an operating system for travel for the Web 3.0 economy – powering anyone seeking to sell travel online. Our system allows our clients to instantly launch a web-based storefront, a booking engine with wholesale travel inventory, a custom-for-travel CRM, and a blockchain based payment settlement engine.
2.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that Xeniapp is trying to solve?
We identified three massive pain points in the travel industry:
Accessing wholesale travel inventory is incredibly difficult, but experience sellers can’t earn commissions without it.
Launching a booking engine, featuring a broad selection of travel inventory, is technologically complex and incredibly expensive – but many experience sellers want to offer this on their website for their clients.
Payments in travel are slow, expensive, and unsecure – more so than in other industries – due to the complex nature of transactions (cross-border currencies, multiple counterparties in each transaction, biggest target industry for credit card fraud). In many countries, payments for travel can’t even be made with a credit card due to excessively high fraud rates. Disputes among counterparties occur often, and resolution is difficult since each counterparty uses a separate booking ID.
Xeniapp’s system solves these three pain points at once, by providing a white label-able booking engine loaded with travel inventory at wholesale rates, all while recording and settling every transaction on the blockchain.
2.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
Experience sellers and inventory suppliers are happiest with our product. Experience sellers can now launch a customized booking engine and bookings management system in minutes – saving them hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in tech expenses. Inventory suppliers see a huge new distribution channel – they can now access sellers they couldn’t reach before (because of the high tech and working capital hurdles inherent in distributing their product). Both parties can receive instant settlement of their transactions and reduce fraud by using XeniPay, our blockchain settlement engine.
Travel consortia and tech platforms, who respectively siphon off experience sellers’ commissions or charge huge upfront and monthly fees, could be disintermediated by our system. Credit card companies could also lose one of their biggest sources of revenue as transactions move to blockchain based settlement.
2.4. What stage of development is Xeniapp at (please refer to Note 1)?
Xeniapp is in the growth phase. We have a several-thousand client deep wait list to use our product, but we are launching it in phases with early clients starting December 15th.
2.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
Number of users
Transaction volume per user
Commission rate (take rate on bookings volume)
Cost per transaction on the decentralized network
Reduction of Fraud
The mode of payment (Fiat Vs. Crypto)
Tracking account disputes against the ledger entries – We will be watching for all the edge cases in the system
2.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
Not yet. The product is launching on December 15th with 3 initial clients.
2.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
I would say creator economy dynamics – We are democratizing the Online Travel Agency space by allowing anyone to build their OTA at a fractional cost. Furthermore, we will enable them to operate in Xeni's decentralized ecosystem.
We have built a decentralized application (dApp) where travel agents, airlines, flights consolidators, hotel companies, accommodation wholesalers, car rental suppliers, tour operators, cruise companies, and any similar travel company can access a shared ledger - a shared repository of bookings information. The XeniPay application tracks transactions for all connected intermediaries and suppliers in real-time. XeniPay enables instant settlement, greatly reduces the total payments cost of a transaction, and facilitates accounts reconciliation across counterparties.
2.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens?
Yes – we will be launching a coin offering in the future and we will be using a portion of the coins as incentive tokens. The full tokenomics will be available in our white paper. Work in progress on that front.
2.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
We have recently completed over $2M in seed funding from Angels and HNWI. We are not looking to traditional VC at this time.
3.1 Brief description of WYTLAND
WYTLAND is a decentralized social commerce Travel platform, designed for Travel creators, brands and modern travelers.
3.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that WYTLAND is trying to solve?
As the travel industry is entering its 3rd revolution, traditional travel distribution channels are broken :
Modern travelers (GenZ) are shifting from search platforms to social media platforms.
Modern travelers trust people, not ads anymore.
Leading Web2 travel platforms such as Booking, Expedia or Tripadvisor are still relying a lot on search and ads and are keeping all the value from suppliers who want to escape but can’t.
Social Media platforms are shifting from Ads model to an E-commerce model but are keeping all the value from creators who want to escape but can’t.
This is where WYTLAND comes in with its new Web3 Social OTA model.
3.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
The happiest people within the Travel industry will be Suppliers (Accommodations & Experiences) who are still 70% dependent on middlemen & don’t get access to their data. And Travel Creators who try to live from their passion but struggle within this siloed and fragmented ecosystem.
The most worried should be the monolithic, centralized and commoditized Online Travel Agencies and all the other middlemen platforms in this online travel industry market.
3.4. What stage of development is WYTLAND at (please refer to Note 1)?
WYTLAND is entering the PMF stage.
3.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
We’ll closely watch a bunch of KPI’s: number of Travel Creators onboarded, GMV paid to Creators, number of brands onboarded, global travelers reached, conversion rates on direct monetization.
3.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
It’s too early to talk about metrics and traction but we already are speaking with our community of Travel Creators and Brands to define the product.
3.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
WYTLAND is using blockchain for different needs at every stage of the product road map. The first layer we are working on is the decentralized data management and infrastructure layer to ensure our users that their data, content and IP are safe and that they own their online shop.
We are also discussing with our community to build a DAO for product vision & strategic orientations.
NFT’s and Social Tokens are more in the monetization product road map later in 2022.
3.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens?
WYTLAND will contribute to early travel creators governance tokens. Being community-led is part of our DNA.
3.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
WYTLAND is going Pre-seed in January 2022 with Angels & VC’s focusing on Creator economy, Social commerce, Web3 & new consumer app models.
4.1. Brief description of Pinktada
Pinktada is a membership-based, leisure-focused, marketing and reservations platform that delivers an unparalleled user experience. Our technology leverages tokenization to deliver a significantly more efficient reservations marketplace. Hotels can increase the sales of non-refundable reservations, while travelers maintain the flexibility to swap or sell their reservations if their plans change.
4.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that you are trying to solve?
The first problem we solve is the loss of value that occurs with an inefficient distribution model that has not evolved in 20+ years. Take for example the binary, refundable/non-refundable pricing structure: for travelers, best pricing comes without flexibility. For hotels, best pricing comes without revenue certainty. With Pinktada, best pricing and flexibility come hand in hand.
The second problem we solve is commoditization. Current booking options do not enable hotels to display their unique attributes effectively. By the same token, guests do not really know what they are getting until they arrive. Pinktada’s user interface combines experiential and transactional capabilities—travelers can explore different properties and accommodations in 3D, and reserve rooms and amenities directly from this immersive experience.
4.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
Both hotels and travelers should be happy! We are using technology to create a more efficient model and, with that, enable both segments to capture more value. Incumbent distributors who currently take a large slice of the pie will likely be less happy though.
4.4. What stage of development is Pinktada at (please refer to Note 1)?
Stage 2- Product-Market Fit
4.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
Hotel pipeline, member acquisition and engagement. We are already seeing transactions and know these will grow with our hotel pipeline and user base.
4.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
We are on track to hit 25 – 30 hotels by the summer in our current target markets (Hawaii, different locations in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, San Juan, and San Francisco, among others)
4.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
At Pinktada, each combination of hotel + room + night becomes a distinct token, called a Room-Night-Token (RNT). The RNT is fully tradable on our platform—the owner can use it, sell it, or swap it for any other RNT in our marketplace.
Pinktada offers hotel partners and their guests the ability to create personalized, commemorative NFTs. The NFT is co-branded between Pinktada and the hotel, and travelers can customize it with visual assets from their trips. These NFTs can also have utility value (e.g., a special coupon for the NFT owner to share with family and friends) and collectible value in the case of travel experiences that are iconic and unique (e.g., a historic hotel or the room where a celebrity once stayed).
4.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens?
We are already compensating early users and partners in several ways: by informing them first of exclusive deals, offering special promotions, and by rewarding their referrals with PinkCash, which is a type of credit that can be used for any destination on Pinktada and never expires.
4.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
We have raised seed money from a combination of industry leaders such as Terry Jones (Founder of Travelocity and Chairman of Kayak), prominent angels (Wharton Angels, New York Angels) and TGV4 (True Global Ventures), a leading firm in the space of Web3 and Blockchain. We have just started talking to people about our next raise and are delighted to have received sustained commitment from our current investors.
5. Stay Open
5.1 Brief description of Stay Open
Stay Open operates pod hotels for digital nomads in repurposed buildings and gives a portion of proceeds to help unhoused people. Stay Open’s objective is to expand its hotel network as quickly as possible while keeping prices affordable for its guests. Stay Open’s first location, Stay Open Venice Beach, is a 10-pod hotel that has serviced over 2,000 guests since opening its doors in 2021.
Stay Open recently minted a membership NFT with day 1 utility. NFT members receive a 15% discount for life and will be airdropped $TAY, $WRK, $XPR, and $GOV tokens to be used for free stays, coworking space, experiences, and StayDAO treasury governance respectively (more on StayDAO below). You can view all of Stay Open’s NFT utility here.
20% of proceeds generated from membership NFT sales will go towards StayDAO's community governed treasury to fund initiatives that help unhoused people. Additionally, a portion of Stay Open's operating revenue will be donated to StayDAO's treasury to continuously fund social impact initiatives.
5.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that you're trying to solve?
Awesome yet affordable accomodations for digital nomads and travelers.
The time it takes to create a hotel. Stay Open can repurpose a building into a hotel in months versus the years it takes to build a traditional hotel.
Web3 allows for ways to bridge virtual and IRL communities bonded by in person stays, events, and collaborations. Stay Open’s membership NFT offers a way to build a community around the mission and provides a new way for people to travel. Additionally, it's easily transferable so members can gift or sell their tokens as opposed to traditional hotel points which are illiquid.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) take a ~15% cut from bookings. Stay Open will utilize its membership NFT to incentivize direct bookings then give the savings back to members in the form of discounts.
5.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
Digital nomads should be happiest; people seeking great accommodations with a communal vibe and coworking space in coveted locations at an affordable price. Traditional hotels, online travel agencies, and Airbnb should be most worried.
5.4. What stage of development is Stay Open at (please refer to Note 1)?
Stay Open is in its growth stage. The company is currently working on expanding its property network and growing its online and IRL community of NFT members.
5.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching (be as specific as possible please)?
NTF Memberships minted
Number of beds in the network
Number of locations
Twitter, discord, and other social media followers
5.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
Raised ~ $2.9M to date
2019: Partnered with Port of San Diego & CA Coastal Commission to convert a former Budget Rental Car to 240 bed hotel
2021: Stay Open Venice Beach opened Oct 2021 operating at 85%+ occupancy
2021: MetaProp VC 2021 Accelerator Program Anchor & Portfolio Company
2021 Q4: Sold out of beta NFT stay vouchers
2022: 5 star Google reviews
2022 Q2: Launched stayDAO NFT Membership
2022: Opportunity to open a 100 pod hotel in Santa Monica, CA in a repurposed office.
2022: Featured in WSJ & NYT. Approaching 1k twitter followers.
5.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
Stay Open is introducing a web3 booking portal for its hotel. It will allow members to book stays with their NFT discount and redeem free stay, coworking, and experience tokens. In addition, they are building a community marketplace to buy, sell, trade, and gift tokens.
5.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens? How so?
Stay Open has used NFTs as compensation for creative work including videography, which they plan to do more of in the future.
5.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
Stay Open has raised $2.9M to date from seed investors and are working with an exclusive group of strategic investors on their $4M institutional seed round. Investors may email Steve Shpilsky, CEO / Co-founder, at firstname.lastname@example.org for pitch deck and more info.
6. New Frontier
6.1 Brief description of New Frontier
New Frontier designs innovative tourism engagement using VR, NFTs and the Metaverse. We do this by creating gamified experiences, treasure hunts, challenges and trails that use both the real world and the virtual world. These experiences can be physi-digital (layered on top of a real world visit) digi-physical (incentivise real world visits through virtual experiences or hybrid (move between both worlds during the experience). This interview at Enjins podcast "The Enjin Room" gives a good background to what we are doing.
6.2. What is the problem or the unmet need that New Frontier is trying to solve?
Travel trends are changing, not just because of the pandemic but also because research shows that there are variations intergenerationally, which need to be addressed. Research at last year's national conference indicates 26% of travellers want immersive experiences before, during or after a real world visit. This number will increase as GenZ become the primary consumers.
The issues we are trying to solve are threefold:
To create new sources of revenue for the Travel sector that do not directly depend on numbers through the door, which used to be the primary metric. There is a pivot to quality of experience as the key metric heading to 2030 goals, which is caused by COP 20, Covid, general awareness of carbon effects, cost of living crisis etc.
Attractions we are working with are usually looking for ways to engage specific demographics interactively as the primary goal, with encouraging other groups within their visitor profiles to try the technology as a secondary aim.
We are also emphasising the importance of education and community involvement in the discovery of NFTs and Metaverse as new technologies. This helps reduce fear/risk of trying new technologies and encourages a voice and participation for all key stakeholders in this development process.
6.3. Who should be happiest and who should be most worried about what you are bringing to market?
There are a number of use cases that we have been investigating with the partnership of tourism bodies in Scotland and Mexico beyond simply the “engagement through gamification” angle. Other use cases include the use of NFTs as part of Loyalty and Reward schemes, anti-counterfeiting in food & drink , Identity verification of official staff, reservations and bookings and this list is not exhaustive. The benefit of NFTs versus other ways of doing this is the verification/immutability of NFTs on chain, the utility that can be added to NFTs that create unique personalised journeys, access to additional content and versatility of solutions.
Ultimately, who should be happiest is any attraction that is looking for economic recovery from the pandemic as we offer new routes to revenue generation/engagement and those who want to be “future proof” in engaging younger people, through early experimentation and evaluation.
6.4. What stage of development is New Frontier at (please refer to Note 1)?
We began trading in September 2021. We have received our first income, delivered our first NFTs to an attraction, and have a healthy pipeline of other clients in Scotland and the wider world. We have an excellent working relationship with tourism bodies in Scotland and joined the Traveltech cluster at the University of Edinburgh.
6.5. Which are the specific metrics/KPI that you are most closely watching?
We broadly use the KPIs devised by Quinn (2021) for the evaluation of NFT projects but we have made amendments to it where applicable. For example, measuring floor prices of NFTs is not a primary objective for our clients, since the objective is to use NFTs inclusively, not exclusively.
6.6. Can you share any metrics/traction?
We have a very specific methodology for our projects that involves presenting to the attractions sector, identifying pilots, evaluating those pilots (with the attractions sector) and then going to full deployment. This is deliberate because it emphasises community involvement, thorough evaluation and education for the attraction, visitors and the local community, which is key to get buy-in with a new technology.
We provided a webinar to The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) which was rated as “excellent, inspirational and thought-provoking” by the attendees. It led to a paid commission for us from ASVA and Traveltech for Scotland to develop an interactive guide and toolkit for the attractions called “The Metaverse Playbook”. This is designed to explain the technology and show the steps needed to deploy a solution using case studies and stories from our early adopters. This was extremely well received and since then the CEO of ASVA has become an advisor and mentor for us and supported us in getting our first attractions on board. We have also had newspaper articles and interviews around this and one of our early clients, The Great Tapestry of Scotland: The Press and Journal, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, Traveltech for Scotland.
We are also working with Dundee Business School to create an empirical study into the economics of NFTs in tourism.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland project has grown from a small test pilot into a much bigger project:
NFTs based on themes from the Tapestry (the past)
Community contributed designs for NFTs (the future)
An App for learning about the Metaverse for the Discovery Centre at the Museum that is also going out to all Schools in the region (but is already getting recognition UK wide). Initially 15000 students aged 14-22 will receive the app in local schools & colleges, but visiting students from other parts of Scotland also will, within the museum education centre.
An interactive treasure hunt that partly takes place in the real world and partly in the Metaverse.
A Virtual Reality Gallery showcasing the NFT tapestries.
Training of volunteer “Digital Champions” who will assist with general queries about NFTs when nftfrontier.io is not on site.
In addition to this we are also working actively with Visit Arran. Arran is an island in the Scottish Hebrides and we are creating an island family adventure that is also a physi-digital experience.
There are a number of other projects in early stages in Scotland, wider UK and Mexico as well.
6.7. What new Web3 elements are you introducing?
In the main, tokenization, utility based NFTs, collections/ownership of experiences to encourage tourists to continue experiences after they return home and events within the metaverse. As we collaborate with games developers within our network we are also working on cross-compatibility of our NFTs with a significant number of games and virtual platforms. We are actively working with Enjin’s COO Caleb Applegate to utilise our experiences as a way of launching and showcasing blockchain gaming.
6.8. Will you be compensating early users/partners/contributors to your platform with tokens?
We are currently creating our documentation for an IDO of our native token, $TAY. 10% of the tokens will be allocated to the team including mentors, advisors and partners. Included with $TAY is a treasury to support the attractions sector through a hardship fund.
6.9. Funding status. How are you approaching your fundraising needs (traditional VC, angels, tokens, etc...)
To date the business is bootstrapped by our own capital. Although this arguably makes the process more difficult in terms of establishing ourselves, we felt we needed to have tangible /verifiable progress and the right partnerships in place before asking for investment. We intend to use the token release for capital raising but if the right VC can offer specific advice, support or access to markets, we would consider an investment and/or a combination of investment + tokens.
Problem-Solution Fit: Validating the problem you believe exists, and then validating the solution you believe will address that particular problem (typically for a particular type of user / market, etc.)
Product-Market Fit: Validating that the product you have built resonates with your target market, and validate that the same market will pay money, data, attention, time, or another resource in exchange for your product
Growth: Acquiring more users, customers, or clients, and understand the unit economics of your business model along with the underlying drivers of the unit economics.
Market Leadership: Achieving market dominance, or obtain enough market share that your business is financially sustainable, can invest in R&D, product development, and other long-term growth areas.
Scaling: Entering new strategic growth areas (typically new geographic markets, new product lines, or new applications of existing tech) that will provide the most value to the business, users, society, or other stakeholders.