< PrevNext > Johnny Thorsen, Mezi VP of travel strategy & partnerships Mr. Corporate Travel Tech By Elizabeth West / December 12, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share Artificial intelligence-powered chatbot and mobile booking platform Mezi announced Johnny Thorsen's onboarding in May 2017. The move instantly signaled how serious the startup had become in targeting the corporate market. Thorsen's name is synonymous with corporate travel technology innovation. He was a key executive at GetThere when Sabre acquired it in 2000. He co-founded travel text messaging app ConTgo, acquired by Concur in 2013. When, 13 months into his Mezi tenure, American Express pulled the startup completely out of the corporate space to go full consumer, many were surprised.Thorsen is committed to Mezi's success within American Express. "I love the Mezi technology, and the market will see it come back to life in 2019 as a new brand name inside of American Express. They will see it create dramatic new capabilities in the travel space but on the consumer side for the time being," he said.Even as Thorsen works to launch Mezi as a consumer product, his guidance is driving innovation in the corporate travel technology space. He formally advises seven travel- and meetings-oriented startups: ConsenSys (Travel Spoke), Gaest, Medical Travel Companions, Riskline, Stabilitas, TroopTravel and Winding Tree. The scope is diverse, from blockchain travel distribution and smart contracts to risk management, personalized travel services and meetings sourcing. He informally advises four more startups, and others have approached him.Thorsen's experience and travel knowledge is just one factor drawing the startup community to his door; the clarity of his vision is the other. Thorsen predicts great change coming to managed travel with tech-powered microservices creating new opportunities. "These startups have a strategic mind-set to do one narrow thing extremely well. I've seen the buyer reaction. It is dramatic. They immediately ask providers, 'Can you do this and this and this?' So far, providers have resisted and said someone else would have to help them with that. It's different from the big traditional players. Emerging providers are strategically ready to connect through APIs to other companies with additional services. They don't see this as a competitive problem," he said."Most of them are carving out new verticals that haven't been considered a separate business area," he added. "This tells me buyers have missed out on innovation over the last several years when everyone was focused on becoming that big booking engine." Thorsen also believes microservices will change how travel programs are constructed—and who will be putting them together. It may not be traditional travel managers. "Companies will face a choice: They can play it safe in the old world with big, complex solutions, but eventually [these solutions] will fall behind in more and more places," Thorsen said. "If they want to go [with] microservices, companies will finally move [travel programs] into the technology world. They will need to sit with a travel solutions architect," which, he said, will emerge as a new role.