Travel Traction: Five lessons travel startups can learn from industry veterans [VIDEO]
Tnooz was recently the media partner for the inaugural TravelTraction conference. Created by open standards organization OpenTravel, the half-day event focuses on helping new travel startups gain traction in the industry through connections, knowledge and insight.
Travel startups often face incredible hurdles with legacy-burdened technological systems coupled with sometimes slow-moving entrenched interests. Startups are often challenging the status-quo, pushing areas of perceived inefficiency towards something they believe is better. This can lead to conflict, tension, and a frosty welcome when pursuing partnerships with the larger players.
Of course, much of these challenges are not unique to the travel industry, as startups are always pushing boundaries across industries. Nonetheless, as an industry responsible for $2 trillion of the world’s GDP, there are massive opportunities for startups geared towards both enhancing and disrupting the status quo.
For those startups considering jumping into the fray – as well as those already playing in the increasingly competitive space – wisdom can be a valuable commodity.
Thanks to OpenTravel’s Travel Traction, these startups have a leg up in understanding their chosen industry.
Here are five key takeaways from the recent mind-meld in Las Vegas – pay attention, and perhaps shave a bit off that learning curve!
1. Be self-reliant
Focus on proving the concept, by talking to different people about the problem that you are trying to solve, and then stay the course.
By focusing on the core problem – and the effectiveness of your solution to solve it for actual customers – you avoid the trap of shoe-horning a solution into a non-existent problem.
Also, as FlightCaster co-founder Even Konwiser notes, avoid the temptation to pour endless resources to land the Big Contract: focus on building an effective solution to a real problem, and stay the course:
2. Take time to develop relationships, aka hustle
The travel industry is a very complicated place with many embedded dynamics foreign to outsiders. So get out there and hustle! Meet people in the industry, especially within the segment your startup is targeting.
You have to be out there, talking to industry peers to know what’s going on.Being able to speak authoritatively on topics central to the industry is essential to building relationships.
These relationships are valuable for concept feedback, advisors and mentors – all of which can accelerate your learning curve and eliminate costly oversights or miscalculations.
3. Understand the history
While your startup might have an elegant solution to a huge real problem, it will be useless if you don’t understand how the industry got to this problem in the first place.
There are many legacy systems in place, and processes that might not necessarily make sense from the outset.By pursuing Lesson #2, you will have the connections to enable Lesson #3: taking the time to understand the past, and the systems that led the industry to the current status quo.
Speaking from a place of knowledge will reduce friction and increase credibility amongst gatekeepers.
Stephen Joyce, CEO of Rezgo:
4. Predict the future
Startups are the scrappy nephews of the travel industry, and being disruptive is generally a favorable by-product of the ability to change quickly to address shifting consumer needs and behaviors.
After going with Lesson #3, the next step is to lay out the realistic future for the industry – and the concrete steps needed to get there. This may be a bit obvious to some, but predicting the future is especially important after creating a solution to a current problem – how will this solution grow and evolve alongside the travel industry?
What trends will shape your product – and how will your product shape trends?
Gianni Cataldo, VP/Americas for Datalex:
5. Sell the present
Don’t market the future, sell the present. That is, demonstrate how your solution eliminates a painpoint immediately rather than at some point in a Grand Vision future.
Henry Harteveldt from Atmos Research Group puts it like this: What would Don Draper do? How would he create a contemporary solution to the problem you’re addressing?
What emotional hooks are available to you in your marketing? How can you use the Don Draper principle to address the shortfalls of the embedded, decades-old technological systems? Clean, simple, elegant: these are the catchwords for an effective, emotional connection with the consumer.
Travel startups should also take advantage of resources like Tnooz’s TLabs Showcase, where they can present what they’re working on for feedback from the industry. Work hard, and have fun!
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.