16 experts advise on what’s to come this year.
Emerging managed travel technologies are raking in funds from investors. That goes particularly for those targeting small and midmarket clients; check out the roundup of funding news from young companies in the SME space. Other companies continue to develop without recent capital infusions. Instead, they are finding their way with new distribution models and by introducing new features to appeal to a wider audience.
AI travel assistant developer 30SecondsToFly has pivoted its business model from serving small and midsize businesses to providing an AI-powered platform for travel management companies. Previously, the company’s AI travel assistant, Claire, provided personalized flight booking recommendations to small and midsize businesses. Now, the platform will help TMCs streamline agent operations and improve the speed and coverage of their customer support services. The company no longer will invest actively in acquiring small and midsize customers.
Trip budget/incentives booking and expense platform Travelbank has added hotel bookings and sharing economy lodging options to complement its air bookings. The tool—available on desktop, iOS and Android—provides access to more than 500,000 hotel properties. TravelBank also has launched LodgingX, which offers Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway properties in the booking tool and makes incentives available to business travelers booking such alternative accommodations or staying with friends. The company also has developed an analytics dashboard for companies to view travel spend. TravelBank aims to corral travel spend among small businesses in order to negotiate supplier discounts, and it shares commissions with travel progams. Traveler rewards come in the form of gift cards for Uber, Lyft, RedAwning, Amazon and others.
Virtual card payment startup Teampay has raised $4 million. Teampay is an operations payment tools that can address office supplies to media buys, including travel. A corporate client’s employee can request a Teampay virtual card through Slack or through Teampay’s portal. After a manager’s approval, the employee receives a digital copy of the card. Companies can set the amount that can be charged to a card, set expiration dates and limit purchases to certain merchant codes. The administrator platform gives managers visibility into spend by transaction, vendor, department or employee. The startup will direct its new capital toward sales and marketing and to building new card features and working on corporate partnerships.
Business travel booking and trip management software TravelPerk raised $21 million in its second round of venture capital funding, bringing its total raise to $30 million. TravelPerk brings in content from global distribution systems Travelport and Amadeus, platforms like Airbnb, online travel agencies like Booking.com and metasearch company SkyScanner, as well as hotels, rail operators and airlines. The company also serves as a single vendor for all payments and integrates with expense management provider Expensify. In the past 12 months TravelPerk’s booking volume by dollar has risen 1,200 percent, and the company claims more than 1,000 client companies in 40 countries.
TravelPerk plans to hire more engineers, sales reps and customer support staffers and will open offices in as many as five additional countries, according to marketing VP Gidi Pridor. It also will bring in more supplier-direct inventory and integrate with additional expense management and accounting providers.
Business travel booking and support platform TripActions raised $51 million in Series B financing, bringing its total raise to $78 million in four rounds of funding. TripActions provides aggregated content from Sabre, Expedia and priceline. It delivers to small and midsize companies an AI-enhanced mobile booking tool that can integrate corporate policy, plus primarily chat-based travel agent support services. It incentivizes users with a price to beat, based on real-time content options, and rewards travelers in a points-based system for booking under that target. TripActions snagged longtime BCD Travel executive Bob Brindley last year to run its supplier-partnership strategy. With the new funds, the company plans to increase its AI investment and focus resources on the technical infrastructure to support its supplier direct, corporate and consumer content strategy. It will also invest in its human agent-driven support services, according to CEO Ariel Cohen.
Austin-based startup Shep has built a “lightweight” browser extension, compatible with Google Chrome. Client administrators can set spending limits for flights and hotels, invite employees to install the Chrome extension and start booking on public travel sites. Pop-up alerts warn travelers of overspending, and the software “puts easy-to-understand green boxes around results that are in policy,” according to Shep’s website. It also tracks booking and policy compliance in real time. For now, booking confirmations are grabbed through HTML scraping. Formerly known as Compl.ai, Shep is starting with the unmanaged set. It raised $1.4 million in seed funding, led by Moonshots Capital, in February. It’s in closed beta and expects to be more broadly available this year. It lists American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest as compatible airlines and Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline.com and Travelocity as compatible travel sites. “For other websites,” said CEO Daniel Senyard, “we’ll pop up something to say, ‘This is not being tracked, but forward your invoices.’”