Startup Pitch: TicketClever gets smart with rail travel
Ticketclever went live a few weeks ago, with a new take on the complex world of searching and booking rail tickets.
The online travel agency has some pedigree behind it – for starters with the management team as it is the latest offering from the brainchild of one of the UK’s established rail ticket sites.
Where Ticketclever hopes to make a mark is with its use of analytics and data science to try and get the best price for passengers.
The platform works out combinations of fares from the various operators that work the UK rail network – a complex task for the passenger given the multiple providers and tickets that are placed into the distribution chain.
Q&A with CEO founder Jeremy Acklam:
What problem does your business solve?
Our mission is simple: to make the whole process of buying rail travel simpler and more transparent.
We believe innovation is the key to making that happen. We’ve unlocked more cheap train fares and more journey options, all with no booking, credit or debit cards fees.
It is hugely complex to find cheaper train fares for journeys in the UK.
We have for the first time, cracked the complexity of train travel to give passengers access to hidden cheap fares.
Our ground-breaking clever algorithm crunches hundreds of millions of fare and route combinations to unlock savings of up to 60%.
Top savings are found on the day-of-travel for journeys of an hour or more. Showing more cheap fares than other rail ticketing websites in an easy, digestible format, customers can make comparisons and choose the best fare for their needs.
For those who can plan ahead, Ticketclever also offers discounted Advance Purchase fares. Where possible, we offer multi-ticket deals at a lower cost than-on-the-day fares, when Advance Purchase fares are often sold-out or unavailable.
So far, Ticketclever customers have saved on average 58 per cent on train tickets purchased (compared to equivalent tickets bought on the day).
Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
Acklam is the founder and CEO of Global Travel Ventures (GTV), the company behind Ticketclever. Jeremy has been on a mission to make travel better, primarily through driving change and innovation in the rail industry in the UK and Europe, for over 30 years.
He is one of the UK’s unsung dotcom pioneers and a consumer champion. He launched Britain’s first consumer rail ticketing site Thetrainline back in 1999 and has held senior positions at Virgin Rail group and ATOS Origin.
Ticketclever has 21 full-time staff between our Oxford and London Paddington offices.
We secured £7.7m of private seed funding which has been boosted by over £1m R&D grants from InnovateUK, the Government’s innovations agency.
We are an official independent retailer approved by the Rail Delivery Group and we generate revenue from commission by the rail operators on train tickets sold.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
Having to navigate through complex rail fares and not being confident of getting the best deal can be frustrating, stressful and a waste of valuable time.
Our algorithms do the hard work for you and we don’t make you pay to use them – so you can concentrate on the things that matter most.
There are 25 train companies in the UK, which means there are billions of possible route and fare combinations to choose from.
As a result, our algorithm filters through these to access more cheap train fares than any other site. For many journeys over one hour in length, we offer ‘Ticketclever deals’, which feature multiple ticketing options.
We also offer Advance Purchase savings, standard fares and regular prices. The fact that we don’t charge a booking fee or take a cut of the savings is an added bonus.
People value cheaper options, transparency and fairness. That’s why they want to use Ticketclever.
External validation? (Examples: The incubators/accelerators you have been accepted to, the mentors who are advising you, the number of customers you’ve signed, the marketing partner deals you’ve made, the skills/connections of your founders, etc.)
Ticketclever was pioneered by rail industry innovator and man behind the Trainline launch in 1999.
Offering the most competitive fares to date, the website platform could save train passengers up to £40 million annually on 95 million rail journeys by using a clever new algorithm – which searches hundreds of millions of ticket combinations, offering cheaper and more transparent train fares on a number of ticket types.
In its first week of operations, Ticketclever saved customers on average 58% on the price of their rail fares.
If you can do it once before, there’s no reason why you can’t do it again – that’s a mantra that many live by.
And certainly that is what Jeremy Acklam will be thinking with Ticketclever, following his earlier success with the brand’s forerunner in the same sector.
The UK’s rail system is notoriously difficult to decipher, with the number of train operators matched by a similar similarly ridiculous volume of ticket options for passengers to try and understand.
Whilst that complixity continues (and there’s no reason to think that it won’t get any simpler, given the privatised nature of the network), Ticketclever could play a part unravelling the process of buying a cheap ticket.
The number one challenge for Ticketclever will come in its ability to compete against some very large and high-profile incumbents in the form of Acklam’s previous company and NationalRail.
If such a challenge becomes too much, some might argue that Ticketclever should open its doors to other rail-heavy markets on the European mainland.
But such a strategy may not chime with Ticketclever’s model, given that many countries in Europe do not have the same, over-wrought ticketing options to demystify.
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.