The API economy: hacking messenger, social and work-leisure travel in Berlin

Want a glimpse of what the emerging API economy looks like? Look no further than the rapid deployment of travel apps churned out at THack Berlin by 64 developers, with new software tools.

Some companies and business sectors take months, even years, to release application programming interfaces (APIs). Take IATA’s new distribution standard (NDC), which has taken years to be defined. And most airlines have yet to roll out any meaningful API-distributed products for affiliates or consumers.

At THack, big names in the digital travel economy – HomeAway and Skyscanner – tossed their vacation rental and metaserch APIs into hackers’ hands, but with a twist.

Also contributing software to the hackathon was (pronounced ZAP-ix), a Berlin startup with a clever tool that circumvents the API user interface and connects directly to the endpoints of an API.

Simply put, developer teams could spend more time dreaming up cool features for their projects and bypass time-consuming integrations.

THack Berlin 2016 Whosdatgirl

This hackathon gave a peek at two potential efficiencies coming to the API economy: first, rapid deployment of new marketing channels for travel sellers, and second, new distribution for digital travel products through travel sellers, like hospitality and airlines.

The API economy is a topic that will be debated by a Tnooz panel discussion titled “Online Travel Affiliate: the New Definition of OTA” during ITB Berlin on 10 March.

In a show of hands, well over 50 percent of developers said THack Berlin was their first hackathon. The XapiX tool eased their way into the deep end of the pool.

After the 24-hour hackathon, 13 projects emerged and three teams were stymied. Among the more interesting:

  • Travel inspiration mobile app by Power Rangers that used music from Spotify and presented air and apartment rental choices from Skyscanner and HomeAway (using the XapiX tool for API endpoints)
  • In-flight app by Groundscanner that linked a passenger’s device to cities, points of interest, accommodations and other information under the plane’s flight path (also using XapiX)
  • Halfway, social-mobile app flight-accommodation suggestions for couples living apart to meet at midpoint locations with equal flight times
  • halfway THack Berlin 2016

  • A local events finder by Travel Genius implemented with natural language search on Amazon’s Echo device
  • Who Dat Girl’s clever use of a mobile messenger app to create a travel “assistant” that implements Skyscanner, HomeAway, Telegram, XapiX-emulated TripAdvisor reviews and Google Maps; all of the APIs were connected by XapiX directly to API endpoints.
  • WhosDatGirl THack Berlin 2016

  • A slick mobile-first app by DataArt for group communications about combined business-leisure trips; the mobile app connected to a mobile web application that used a bot to gather group flight and accommodation booking details for hassled travel planners inside a company.

Tripoto THack Berlin 2016 Dataart


Prizes and special mentions went to:

Tnooz best large team (3 to 5 members): DataArt EUR1,500
Tnooz runner-up large team (3 to 5 members): Who Dat Girl, EUR500
Tnooz best small team (1 or 2 members): Power Rangers, EUR1,500
HomeAway best use of API: DataArt EUR1,000
HomeAway second prize: Travel Genius, EUR500
People’s Choice (in a vote of developers): Halfway, EUR1,000 (also highly commended by Tnooz judges)

Special thanks to our judges, (from left) Alex Kremer, VP of Product, Actourex: Olaf Slater, Chief Product Officer, Trust International; Kieron Branagan, Managing Partner, Travel Transformation Partners — shown here, giving feedback to developers:

THack Berlin 2016 Judges

Related: Attending ITB Berlin? Be sure to see “Online Travel Affiliate: the New Definition of OTA” on 10 March.

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Gene Quinn

About the Writer :: Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a co-founder of Tnooz and was CEO from September 2009 to December 2016.

He is a pioneer in digital media and chairman of leading travel research company Phocuswright.

An editor, columnist and reporter in his first career at The Chicago Tribune and previously Philadelphia Daily News and Wilmington News-Journal, Gene has since been involved at the forefront of the new digital economy.

He has held advisory, executive and board positions at a string of media, technology and marketing companies and organizations, including Newtrade Technologies, Checkfree, MTV Networks, BzzAgent, the MIT Media Lab and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the birthplace of the Mosaic web browser.



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  1. Maria Stylianou

    Who Dat Girl team had an amazing time and we’re looking forward to working further on it! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to hack and all the sponsors for their APIs 🙂

  2. Charlotte Lamp Davies

    Sounds like another very successful Thack event by Tnooz. Delighted that our DataArt travel team entered (and won) and equally excited to lean about the many other innovative and exciting ideas presented. Thanks to the sponsors who make these events possible. Such a great platform for developers to learn and share – and comptete!


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