< PrevNext > Ariel Cohen, TripActions co-founder & CEO Unicorn By Elizabeth West / December 12, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share Cohen first showed BTN editors the TripActions mobile platform at a bowling alley in Chicago in 2015. This year, the CEO celebrated TripActions' "unicorn" status as a startup valued at more than $1 billion.Unlike many emerging apps and technologies coming into the managed space, TripActions has gone macro, not micro. It has fashioned itself as a new kind of technology-first travel management company and is building a commercial platform that relies on hotel commissions, Cohen said, but more on actually charging customers for service. TripActions has not taken incentive payments from distribution providers and doesn't rely on global distribution system technology to support its agency systems. "The GDS is just another content channel for us," Cohen told BTN at the Global Business Travel Association conference this summer, rattling off plenty more content partners like Expedia, Priceline, Booking.com and direct feeds from low-cost European airlines.TripActions' omnichannel content philosophy necessitated infrastructure innovations. The company was working toward what Cohen called a "trip ID," which could include a passenger name record from Sabre for a portion of the trip, along with segments or itinerary elements from an aggregator or direct from a supplier. "When you chat with [a TripActions agent] and change a leg, we immediately know that it impacts other parts of the trip, so we're asking, 'Hey do you also want us to change your hotel?' Internally, we don't look at this as a PNR. … We found a way to [merge all the trip elements from all the sources] and mask the complexity."The company also is working on complexity issues for end-user travelers on the mobile app. With lots of content sources and lots of choices, artificial intelligence and machine learning engines need to function behind the scenes to deliver the right content choices to the user. Cohen claims 90 percent accuracy on predicting what the user will choose, but TripActions hasn't pulled the trigger on automating booking. "We don't think the market is ready," he said. Skepticism remains in the user community about how well TripActions can scale and if it can serve global, large-market companies. That's Cohen's goal, and he sees the opportunity "everywhere" to take business from more traditional players. If the company sticks with smaller and midmarket clients for now, the competition among solutions trying to get at this business—from both startups like TravelPerk, TravelBank, WTMC and traditional players like Concur Hipmunk, FCM's CTGo and Business Travel Solutions by CWT—is fierce. But TripActions seems to be a driving force among the competition. While investors have shown strong interest in other startup corporate travel solutions, they are pushing a huge number of chips at TripActions: a total of $231.5 million after closing a $154 million, Series C funding round in August.