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Posts tagged ‘startup’

The Changing Face of Startups in APAC

October 28, 2014


The 4th Annual WIT Bootcamp was so overflowing they had to change venues at the last minute to accommodate the additional people attending. As WIT is now celebrating its 10th Birthday it is relevant to reflect on the changing face of startups in Travel in Asia.

Speaking with several of the attendees, speakers and pitchmen during the sessions – I was impressed with the maturity and the focus on the important elements of what will make a success of their business. From the audience there were a number of investors on the hunt for good startups. A happy marriage one would hope. However let’s not get all soft and gooey about it. I am sure that many wil write about the detailed nature of the individual pitches being made and winners (or losers). You will be able to follow that on #WIT2014. My focus here is on the underlying current of the startup world.

Asia has matured and evolved from being the wide eyed follower to the pragmatic – where should the local investment community be spending their money and the business areas to be followed?

Allow me to start with some of the silly things.

If I see another Taxi hailing app – I think I will probably puke. The very idea of having a taxi app that gets you a taxi tells me several things.

  1. The Taxi companies have been woefully inadequate.
  2. There is not enough money in taxis to make a living off the hailing app.
  3. There will be a race to the bottom in price.
  4. Investors can be really stupid.

it seems that everyone in the investor community needs to have 2 things to be hip and cool. A home-stay app and a taxi hailing app.

Fortunately on the positive side – I see some real appreciation for the challenges (and opportunities) to use the cash floating around Asia to good use. Here are some areas I see startup entrepreneurs looking at.

Air Search, Planning and Booking.

Yes that old chestnut. its STILL not done well and there is still a lot of opportunity to address better ways of servicing the customers

Hotel Search, Planning and Booking

Surprising with all the possibilities this is not really well done. The plethora of Hotel booking apps just shows how bad the back ends must be.

Travel Planning.

Sadly I think some still believe that there is money in pursuing the passion. Let me set your mind straight here. There is NO MONEY in Travel Planning. But please keep these ideas coming its a lot of fun to see them

Local Activities.

Darn it… why can’t we get this right? Surely Viator is not the only answer. I think there is a lot of work to be done here and with each variation a clearer picture emerges. But there are no winners here and there are a LOT of pretenders.

Non-Air Transportation

During the WIT Startup pitches – I counted 4 times that Rome2Rio was mentioned. Clearly the Australian company led by Viator’s founder – Rod Cuthbert – has found the right niche and this is a really valuable piece of kit. As a long time map/Geo-spatial aficionado – I am really pleased to see this get handled right. The ground transportation market still suffers a great deal. Too many options and too little scale. I think there are nice ideas out there. Rome2Rio can power a lot. Will there be a clear winner? The jury is still out.

So Timothy is there still a place for some smarts outside of this group?

Actually I am glad you asked. I see that we have a really tough challenge in the financial settlement and fulfillment process. In the APAC region ApplePay is not going to be that solution for a while if ever. Regulatory confusion and conflict is holding things back particularly in the cross border world of international travel.

I hope that by next year’s WIT Bootcamp I will see players working on this


The End of Competition – a Takeaway from CAPA Airlines in Transition Event

April 13, 2014



if you are a startup airline – you face many challenges. The sheer enormity of the regulatory, commercial, legal, operations and technical challenges. Does a startup really have a chance to get established? Judging from the sessions over 2 days in Ireland at the CAPA Spring AIT – Airlines in Transition Conference, the answer has to be negative. 

What we see today is the homogenization of the marketplace.  Last year’s event saw the emergence of the financial metric ROCI – return on Capital Invested. This year, that was no longer new but assumed. For new entrant carriers there is a significant change from the growth of LCCs in the last 1990s and 2000s which has given way to profitable but “too big to fail” large airline groups. IAG’s Willie Walsh and the regulators both were speaking about market efficiency and preventing irrational competition into the marketplace. How great it was that the marketplace was now a rational and safe place for the market forces to work effectively. However I believe that this is not a good trend.


Good question – the chief reason is that the legacy carriers achieved 3 major changes over the past 10 years.

  1. Mergers and acquisitions have radically changed the landscape of the airline marketplace.
  2. FSC Airlines persuaded the regulators to allow them to engage in legal closed relationships that normally would not have been permitted under conventional anti-Trust legislation.
  3. The LCCs showed FSC/Legacy carriers how to make money through unbundling and merchandising

These changes have dramatically altered the landscape and airline competition has been replaced by a closed marketplace to all but the biggest carriers. The significant reduction in competition in both LCC and FSC sectors is hurting the consumer. Slower growth rates, higher prices are obviously linked.


The regulators who spoke at the conference and the larger carriers such as IAG were patting themselves on the back at how well the marketplace works. However there was little attention paid to the two critical areas of consumer competition and the economic impact of the reduction in competition. There should be strong concern that the airlines are being protected by the regulators and that protection should be removed.

In my view – the continuing anti-trust support for the various Joint Ventures such as A++, DL/AF and BA+AA does not pass the test of consumer value. It should be ended. However the opportunity for new carriers to enter the marketplace has barriers never before seen. A removal of the regulatory protection  and the banning of the Joint Ventures will significantly increase competition across the Atlantic. Further loosening of the ownership rules (but not control) should permit the European and US carriers to compete against the Gulf and Asian airlines more fairly and directly benefit the consumer.

The end of competition is evidenced by the sheer size and reach of the European conglomerates. That IAG is highly profitable yet AF/KL and LH Group are struggling is an example not of a fair marketplace but a dissonance of outmoded and inflexible regulation and poor labour management. 

This is a great industry. It has the ability to benefit the consumer significantly. The regulatory framework does need to be reformed. That reformation should be consumer focused not supply side focused.

Food for thought.


Fragmentation – Innovation Stimulant or Killer?

November 26, 2012


Much is discussed over the fragmentation of media. In this day and age – Media is no longer a clean and clear concept. For example embedded in Apple’s iOS is an advertising platform since version iO4. Understanding the parameters and scope of Media is no longer simple or clear. The pressure to reach the consumer via just about any vehicle has blurred all lines. Editorial vs Advertising is so confused. What about product placement in entertainment?

OK now I have your attention on this topic is Fragmentation a good or bad thing for innovation?

I urge you to read the following piece in eMarketer Trends for 2013: What Fragmentation Means for ‘Critical Mass’. This lays out neatly some of the issues confronting media and our consumption of it. Stir in a mix of RTB (Real time bidding) for advertising which is a dynamic price for adds and you are in for some real fun I think.

In general innovation comes from opportunities and seen gaps. It is more usually these days derived rather than completely new as we have had such an explosion of innovation and new ideas emerge in the past 15 years. It is amazing sometimes how well we are able to cope with this amount of change.

But change is here and its a permanent state. Fragmentation is a natural state of affairs now. Innovation can seize the opportunity posed in this situation. Let me give an example where I believe innovation is lacking and the opportunity exists.

Today our ability to cope with the amount of data we consumer is increasingly limited. Consider some skills we have lost due to this information overload. Maps! We are now largely dependent on GPS (satnav) devices. Our ability to map read or even look for natural signs for orientation has severely diminished over the past few years. What about writing a letter. I don’t mean just the ink to paper issue, I mean the skills necessary to write a comprehensive instrument of communication. Not so easy these days.

So here is some advice. Look carefully at the plethora of media activity. Decide if there is an opportunity. Look not just at the immediate conclusion of your your observations but look more carefully at the long term impact. From the new ways the consumer is consuming media – consider how you can provide a measure of consistency and constancy across channels so that the consumer is aware of you even though you might not have the opportunity to be front an centre with the consumer’s interaction with media. How can you do this in the different media vehicles. Not just physical (e.g. Television vs Web) but also down to the platform of user interaction and the associated proprietary content channels

And yes in my view there is a significant opportunity to innovate and provide value. But the tasks are getting harder and harder. Innovation cannot be maintained – it has to be sustained with constant pushing and refreshing.

Think about it… then give us a ping at VaultPAD






“The Buzz Is Palpable” but perhaps not for much longer Part 1 Innovation Summit.

November 19, 2012


The annual shindig that is the PhocusWright conference produced a bumper crop of new innovators vying for a spot in the sun. Interestingly the number of successful players who have graduated from TIS – Travel Innovation Summit – may not be that great. It is about par for the course of startups who succeed (not great either). However the categories are important to understand the likely success or failure. To say that Amadeus is a success is like saying Hostess is a failure. But they won in several categories over the past few years.

So what of the innovators? Go to and then you can see these. But registration is required. I hope you signed up for the streams before hand. I have eliminated from review people who have been here before (e.g. Ostrovok).

So who do I think were winners?

Here are my picks and the likely exit.

I liked WeHostels (with apologies to VP for whom I initially said I didn’t like the idea). I am warming to it but not fully there yet. Exit is likely to be Priceline.

Triometric – REALLY great – a true data geek business that probably wont need to see the light of day again in public and will probably get acquired by IBM.

Tagman – I think its overrated. Organizing Tags is good but there are no standards and as long as Google keeps moving the goalposts then it will be hard. However this is a reasonable chance for success with exit being sold to Microsoft who desperately need a foot in this door.

TourWrist. I cant think why – but well Joel Cutler is investing so follow the smart money I suppose. Exist? Probably Google.

Deal Angel an OTA masquerading as a Deal site. The stuff under the covers is worth more than the site itself. Should be acquired for its technology not the consumer business. Thanks Groupon for messing up this market.

Rome2Rio – as I put in my prior post – I love maps. So where will this end up? I will go out on a limb and say that Amazon could really use this as a way to power many businesses. Alternatively if a GDS was really smart they would use this as a springboard. Nah… never happen.

And that is it. None of the others were complete enough. Some fundamental issues with each of them. Honorable mention may go to Maptia – love the idea (Maps again) but the execution as incomplete and needs a lot more work/effort. Amadeus and Concur get excluded for being too big. OpenBooking is nice but the model is based on screwing someone else’s model. Always find that hard to accept.

Anyway – enjoy it. Let me know what you think