08/26/2022, by Arvindh Yuvaraj, in Artificial Intelligence, Events, Featured, Ground Transportation, Hospitality, Regions, Startups, Sustainability, Technology, Tours & Activities
The travel startup ecosystem is alive and well, despite the ravages of the pandemic, the judges concluded at the WiT/Phocuswright Global Startup Pitch held on August 25, as they named seven startups to compete. qualify for the WiT Singapore 2022 Grand Finals, October 3-5. .
The seven, chosen from 21 semi-finalists from six regions (Asia-Pacific, India, Middle East Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America) as well as the “Wild Card” category, were:
• Benjamin Assouied, Co-founder and CEO, Worklounge (Asia Pacific)
• Dharmendra Ladi, co-founder and CEO, Vervotech (India)
• Tiffanie Anderson, Founder, Away To Africa (Middle East Africa)
• Mark Radford, CEO, GOPASS Global (Wild Card)
• Noelia Novella, co-founder and CEO, Doinn (Europe)
• Renata Franco, Founder, Pinguim (Latin America)
• Camilo Navarro, Co-Founder and COO, Wheel The World (North America)
After two years of uncertainty, many startups in the travel tech scene are gearing up to seize new opportunities and tackle new markets as the world becomes endemic. As seen in the semi-finals, startups across all regions have largely embraced a global mindset – focusing not just on local customers, but those beyond their own borders as well.
Wheel The World, for example, is a startup tackling a major issue for travelers with disabilities: logistics and accessibility. It provides verified accessibility information and connects travelers around the world with locals who can meet their needs. Asked by the judges about the impending competition from big platforms (like Booking.com), co-founder and COO Camilo Navarro was confident in his startup’s niche proposition and emphasis on genuine quality-driven service.
And what about Vervotech? The massive adoption of online booking platforms by the hospitality industry has created a new set of pain points; double bookings, incomplete listings and, in many cases, customer dissatisfaction. Vervotech, a hotel mapping and room mapping engine, uses artificial intelligence to solve classic and modern problems in the hospitality scene – globally.
Then there is Away To Africa, a startup that goes back to basics to create authentic, cultural and sustainable tours around “Mama Africa” (in their own words!). As travelers become more aware of ethical tourism, startups like Away To Africa create and organize trips for the modern, conscientious traveler.
These were just three of the seven finalists.
Speaking at the Post-Game Report, Morgann Lesne, Cambon Partners, said he was impressed by the energy, creativity and resilience of the startups present. “It’s proof of the resilience of the journey,” he said, as he urged entrepreneurs to “keep going, keep pushing.” “Nothing replaces hard work and patience,” he said.
Steve Taub, Managing Director of Investments at JetBlue Technology Ventures, said, “Fitting in the founder market is important – having the right relationships, attitudes and skills.
Taub and Lesne have both participated in the Global Startup Pitch, by WiT and Phocuswright, from the start. They were part of the judging panel that narrowed down the total of more than 120 entries to the 30 startups that showed up in the first round in May. “There is definitely a trend to serve the underserved population – women traveling alone in Latin America, Wheel The World addressing accessibility.”
Lesne noted the trend of community-serving startups, “to understand the specific needs of communities — you have an angle that big OTAs don’t.” He also said he would like to see more startups address “the software side of the industry, the infrastructure. It’s hard to get into, but there are tons of opportunities in this space.
Both justices also noted the trend of digital nomads — Taub, for example, singling out health insurance for such workers. “There are so many needs that will emerge from this trend,” he said.
While the seven startups are successful on their own, imagine the impact they could create with increased awareness and the right funding, from the right people. It is therefore crucial that these Founders, CEOs, Entrepreneurs and Representatives bring their A-game to the WiT Singapore Grand Finals. The winner will have the opportunity to present at the Phocuswright Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in November.
“A global startup event like this proves that innovation is thriving in every segment and in every region of the world,” said Pete Comeau, CEO of Phocuswright.
“Each entrepreneur was focused on solving real problems for the industry, showcasing technological innovations around accessibility, diversity, security, fintech, mapping, ancillary services and more. Having startups interact with a panel of industry stalwarts as judges is a unique opportunity that WiT and Phocuswright are using to promote the synergy and relationship between two communities that drive technology in travel.
A round of applause to all the winners. We’ll see you at WiT Singapore, October 3-5.