Travel Tech Essentialist #57: Two Trips Around the Sun

The distinction between product & distribution is very important. Product is merit, distribution is connections” — Balaji Srinivasan (former Coinbase CTO and GP at Andreessen Horowitz)

This newsletter had its two year birthday a couple of days ago. I started this newsletter with the objective of highlighting content that I deemed directly relevant to travel technology professionals, avoiding the type of paid articles, vanity metrics, fluff pieces and biased material that abounds in today’s information overload world. Not having a team of writers and a battery of advertisers gives me the freedom to focus on what I think is essential information for you. I don’t have access to the traditional distribution power that media companies have, but this newsletter has grown fueled by an even more powerful distribution channel: you. Thanks for your support over the last two years, for your continuous feedback to make it better and for spreading the word.

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1. Be ready when pitching to JetBlue Technology Ventures (or any corporate VC)

Some of the benefits of JetBlue Technology Ventures are JetBlue’s 45 million customers, 20,000 crew members, and a dynamic operation with flights to 25 countries. Stephen Snyder, Operations Principal at JTV, wrote an interesting post on the 3 most common questions JetBlue asks startup founders, and gives practical advice on how to tackle them in general and as they relate to JetBlue . The questions are:

  • Do you understand the problem? As a founder, you’re not selling your product; you’re helping your potential client find a solution to an existing problem.

  • Can you actually do it? Corporate clients don’t always expect a fully developed product or prototype. Make sure to be hypothesis-driven and well-informed based on well-thought of inputs.

  • How viable is your startup? The individualized attention that a pilot client receives is great, but a diversified revenue stream reassures corporate leaders of your longer-term viability.

2. Airbnb recovery is outperforming hotels

According to US consumer payments transaction data from Second Measure, Airbnb is leading the travel recovery pack. By April 2021, Airbnb’s sales were 69% higher than what they were two years ago, while hotel industry sales were roughly the same as they were in April 2019.

3. Be patient

4. The return of supersonic commercial flights - the green version

United Airlines announced the purchase of 15 jets from Boom Supersonic. Faster than the speed of sound, Boom's planes could cut flight times and get you from NYC to London in 3.5 hours, with the promise of net-zero emissions and noise-muffling technology. Supersonic jets are still in development phase though. Boom has never actually built a full-scale version, and it'll need to clear regulatory checks before passengers can come onboard in 2029. Last month, one of the leading supersonic jet makers, Aerion, shut down because of financial troubles and concerns about fuel-efficiency and noise regulations. Read more - Morning Brew.

5. Expedia brings in talent from Apple and Verizon

Expedia announced the hiring of Jon Gieselman, Apple’s former head of marketing as the new president of Expedia Brands. He will focus on bringing to life unique customer experiences. From what he said, he will have his hands full: “from my observation as a consumer, I don’t perceive that the company has really been product- and experience-led.” Expedia also hired Rathi Murthy as its new CTO. She most recently worked with Verizon Media’s 5G and platform technologies as CTO. Murthy said she envisions deploying AI, machine learning and deep lakes of data to personalize travel experiences for Expedia customers. Read +.

6. Travel Tech Essentialist job board

In the last newsletter, I announced the launch of the the Travel Tech Essentialist job board. In these two weeks, almost 150 candidates have applied for a job through this job board (all activity is anonymous). Browse all open roles (and add your own) at Travel Tech Essentialist Job Board. Here are some of the jobs:

7. Accor in search of targets

French hotel company Accor plans to seek about €300 million for a SPAC. The company will trade on the Euronext Paris exchange and will target deals in the travel technology sector, flexible working, wellness, entertainment and events sectors. Read + Bloomberg.

8. NFTs for travel

IoTeX recently introduced a new product that allows travelers to mint exclusive digital assets based on “proof of travel.” It partnered with blockchain-based OTA Travala to record travelers’ journeys on the blockchain, fueling new use cases like decentralized travel logs, travel competitions and location-based NFTs. IoTeX believes that the next foray for NFTs is going to be around digital reputation. “It’s not just about ‘I have this.’ It’s more about ‘I’ve done this, I’ve visited this, I’ve experienced this.’” Read + PhocusWire

If you know of any interesting travel focused crypto and blockchain applications, please send me a note. I’m interesting to know what is being developed in this area.

9. Funding

  • Munich’s FlixMobility (the group behind FlixBus and FlixTrain) raised over $650 million at a $3 billion valuation

  • Berlin-based Tier Mobility raised $60 million in debt from Goldman Sachs to help the e-scooter company expand its fleet and its network of battery charging stations in 2021.

  • Canadian RV booking site RVezy announced a $20M funding from dating app founder Markus Frind. Camping, and RVing emerged during the pandemic as a strong travel alternative. Investors appear to be seizing on the trend, with Harvest Hosts raising $37 million in March and RVshare getting $100 million in late 2020.

  • Experiences marketplace Travello raised $6.5 million from travel industry executives. The Australian startup was founded in 2016.

  • Switzerland-based Zytlyn, specialized in data analytics to the travel sector, raised a $2.5 million seed round from Plug & Play Ventures and other investors. The Zytlyn platform was created earlier this year to offer travel companies predictive tools for demand, pricing, revenue, marketing and sales for travel companies.

  • Salamanca, Spain-based hotel revenue management platform Beonprice has raised €2 million in a Series A round led by Adara Ventures.

10. M&A

  • Hospitality startup Cosi Group acquired Awaze's Friendly Rentals, a Spanish short-term rentals provider. Cosi announced a €20 million funding round in March to drive expansion in Europe. Read +.

  • Operto acquired fellow hospitality tech provider VRScheduler, known for its property management tools for vacation rentals. Read +.

  • VTrips made a string of deals in recent weeks, acquiring Tennessee-based Resort Property Management as well as Florida-based Distinctive Beach Rentals and Resort Collection.

  • Global B2B payments platform Nium announced the acquisition of Ixaris, a London-based startup specialized in travel payments optimization. Read +.

  • Pangiam, a security solutions company for the travel sector acquired Trueface, specialized in AI facial recognition, weapon detection and age verification technologies. Read +.

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