Startup pitch: Rocketrip wants to remove travel management friction

Rocketrip has been devised to make booking business travel a better and more productive experience for employer and employee.

Currently in beta, the startup was founded by CEO Dan Ruch and head of product and technology Gillian Tee. Ruch joined Genacast Ventures as an entrepreneur in residence and there Rocketrip was incubated.

The team is six full-time staff with two dedicated to the business and four to engineering and the startup has received seed funding of $575,000 from Genacast Ventures and angels.

The company is banking on being able to save companies about 20% of the up to $175bn spent on air, car rental and hotels for business travel in the US annually.

It plans to make money in various ways including a flat subscription fee or as share of savings made depending on customer size and volumes.

According to Rocketrip, there is no currently no commercial platform addressing the level of complexity in the market like it is doing.

Ruch says:

“Handling real time construction of Smart Budgets based on a synthesis of company policy manipulated by real time data is a big part of the equation. It’s not about which ‘options’ are in policy vs. out of policy, we leave that up to the traveller. It’s about how much should that given trip cost. The “should” in here is very tricky to solve and we’re focused almost entirely on that.”

He adds that benchmark data isn’t good enough to allow for the specifics of a company, a particular time or individual travellers. The startup has also integrated a reporting and analytics system and reward and incentive platform.

rocketrip 2

Q&A from co-founder and CEO Dan Ruch.

What problem does the business solve?

Employers and employees are at odds when it comes to business travel. Companies want employees to be cost sensitive when it comes to booking business travel. But employees, who will search up to 10 travel sites three weeks in advance to find the best deals for their own leisure trips, become price and time insensitive when booking on the company’s dime.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

Though the mechanics of the platform have of course been refined as we get more and more feedback from our beta customers, the original concept is still very much the same. Help companies save money by rewarding employees for positive behavior.

Why should people or companies use the business?

Within an organization, everyone benefits from Rocketrip: companies trim travel spend and maintain control of guidelines, and employees earn rewards for booking cost-effective travel their way. Travel policy isn’t enforced because it doesn’t have to be. Compliance is encouraged and everybody wins.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

Right now we’re completely focused on perfecting the product. We need to get that right before we launch commercially and we’ve still got work to do. Once that’s done, it will be some combination of SEO/SEM and inside, perhaps even outside sales.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

I see Rocketrip being the leading platform for sophisticated ‘open booking’ travel management and cost control. We don’t have much competition now, but we will as the concept of open booking matures and continues to gain adoption. So we need to stay focused.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

Existing corporate travel solutions are no longer relevant to the way we shop for travel today. They’re designed to streamline process but they end up creating more friction than they’re worth. We see this clear as day in the definitions of non-compliance and ‘rogue’ travelers. The fact that these terms exist period elucidates a major issue that has never been addressed in any meaningful way.

What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

This is super cliché I know, but if I had to peg one, I’d say Apple? They build beautiful, functional products that people love using. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s certainly what we are aiming for.

Tnooz view:

This is a mammoth task – sort out the travel booking process to improve the experience for corporates and travelling employees. It’s about culture, policy, budget, negotiated deals, duty of care, existing technology, consumer behaviour, data and so many other elements.

Therefore, setting out to fix what is broken is nothing short of admirable.

True, there doesn’t seem to be a commercial platform out there to address the complexity but that’s for good reason – its very complexity.

That doesn’t mean attempts to improve the situation are futile. Many large corporate travel players, both travel management companies and technology specialists are also taking steps to improve the process. Think efforts from KDS, CWT and Concur.

Someone remarked recently that if current systems did the job there would be no need for ‘open booking’. And, progress has been slow and not in line with trends in consumer behaviour.

So, one question to ask is whether ‘open booking’ is here to stay? And, is it still ‘open booking’ if the travel manager or TMC pulls the data back into the travel and expense management system for supplier negotiation, data and management information purposes?

There are those that believe we will end up with some sort of hybrid system between policy compliance and open booking. Time will tell.

The incentive/rewards element is interesting in terms of sharing savings with employees, will corporates want to share? T&E expenditure is one of the largest numbers on the balance sheet.

Another thing to ponder is whether it should be up to the traveller to decide what’s in policy and what’s not.

Anyway, change is afoot.

Since 2008, Google’s travel policy has taken up many column inches for enabling travellers to book what they want but with caps in place. Savings made can go towards a future trip. Others have put similar policies in place with budgets for particular cities or choice but within a contracted supplier list.

There is no doubt that the desire to improve the experience is there so expect more startups in this arena. Meanwhile, we watch Rocketrips with anticipation.

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.

 

Comments

  1. Sivaraman Vasudevan

    Good article with interesting thought. Need to wait & watch on how this is getting shaped up. The existing tech players will leap forward to ensure that they are far ahead in the race, hence something niche, intuitive, interesting to be value-add for sure

     
 
 

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