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There are not many startups that manage to sign a partnership agreement with a big brand before they even launch. And there are perhaps even fewer new businesses that get details written into the same deal that include how an exit via an acquisition might look. But that's what happened to Boston, U.S.-based FlipKey, when it secured a partnership wi…
 
Dean Donovan has one foot in the past and, without doubt, one foot in the future. After a five-year career at the Bain consultancy, Donovan and his business partner (Brian Flynn) played central roles in 2004 to the creation and backing of Volaris, Mexico's first low-cost carrier. DiamondStream Partners, the investment house that they created the ye…
 
Stepping into the hot seat of a family-run business that has been operating since the 1920s must be a fairly daunting task. That's what Brett Tollman in 2000 when he became CEO of The Travel Corporation - one of the oldest groups of companies in the travel industry. The business remains privately-owned and now operates in over 70 countries, with ov…
 
The unconventional stories of a company's founding are often the most interesting - rather than the fairly formulaic idea-when-traveling-Y-Combinator-seed-investment-route. After studies overseas, Richard Valtr was back in his home country of the Czech Republic and helping with a family project to renovate and build a hotel, when the concept of Mew…
 
HolidayPirates was born in 2012 - essentially as a travel hack for people to find cheap air tickets. This came about after co-founder Sebastian Kaatz (now the companys vice president of special products and projects) got increasingly frustrated about the lack of information online for travelers to get secure decent fares. The content site, based in…
 
Alex Cruz admits that his career has been centered around people "betting on me" as a leader of businesses. During the course of over 30 years, Cruz worked for American Airlines and Sabre in the 1990s before a brief stint in the world of management consultancy at Accenture. But it was the lure of creating a brand new airline in the guise of low-cos…
 
John Guscic is one of the increasingly rare breeds in the travel industry these days. He's an unusually straight-talking company executive who has been in the sector for many years, from the world of global distribution systems to, now, online travel agencies and hotel accommodation wholesaling. The path to the top of Australia-headquartered Webjet…
 
The formation of Travel + Leisure Co. in January this year marked an important milestone in the career trajectory of its president Noah Brodsky. The new organization, which came about after Wyndham Destinations acquired the Travel + Leisure brand for $100 million, is now a multi-purpose group with a media arm (Travel + Leisure), membership club, ti…
 
A common thread in Joah Searman's origin story is one of countering adversity. Localeur was born in 2013 with a mission to help people discover and share the best local places to "eat, drink and play" in destinations around the world. A tough market to crack (there have been many brands that have tried and failed along the way), Spearman's commitme…
 
Ride-hailing services such as Grab, Uber and Lyft have captured a disproportionate amount of attention since their respective launches. It's easy to say this because Spain-based Cabify has fairly quietly gone about its business and created a widely-used service in its home market and successfully expanded to Latin America. The company was formed in…
 
Apple Leisure Group is a major seller of tickets, packages and hotels across multiple brands. The company was formed by way of a number of mergers and acquisitions, including most recently a deal to combine with the Mark Travel Corporation. The history of the organization is one marked with taking opportunities when they arise, guesswork and luck, …
 
Rolf Schromgens was broke and scarred from the experience of a previous startup when he finally sat down with his co-founders and created Trivago. The company, which is now one of the leading hotel metasearch sites in the market, was built on the learnings from those earlier ventures and a desire to grow on revenue rather than take large sums of ca…
 
Rami Zeidan is a founder on a mission. After working in the finance and real estate worlds for the early part of his career, including overseeing such activities for Starwood, Zeidan took the plunge into the operational part of the equation and launched his own hospitality brand. Life House was created in 2017 and has since grown to include a portf…
 
Greg O'Hara has become an influential player on the travel scene since he joined Sabre in the 1990s. He admits to quitting roles after falling out with management - or getting fired - on a number of occasions in the intervening years before creating the Certares private equity vehicle in 2012. But that experience at Sabre, Worldspan and JPMorgan ha…
 
Duffel has generated a fair amount of buzz since it came on the scene in 2017. In part, this was due to a strategy to try and keep "stealthy" during its early phase of building a next-generation airline distribution platform. It eventually emerged into the public eye with a sizeable investment round (it has since raised over $56 million in capital)…
 
There are not too many two childhood friends who ventured into different worlds of work and then came back to form a startup in the travel industry. But Julian Stiefel and Julian Weselek of Tourlane did exactly that and now, half a decade on, Tourlane is one of the leading multi-day tours and activities platforms in the market. The Germany-based co…
 
Avi Brosh was a successful real estate executive before he became passionate about hospitality. But that shift into the hotel sector was not driven by a desire to create identikit properties at the budget end of the market or, indeed, identikit properties for the upscale market. Palisociety was formed with design at the heart of everything it does,…
 
Atle Skalleberg's career so far has been a combination of being in the right place at the right time, smart decisions and perseverance. After arriving in the U.S. from Norway, he eventually took a job at StudentUniverse, prepared to do anything in order to learn the basics of business and, just as importantly, secure a visa. Within a few years, he …
 
It's not the most well-trodden path in online travel - a producer on the hit The Daily Show With John Stewart to CEO of a tours and activities business. But it's one that Jamie Wong took when she launched Vayable, pivoting from the world of television in 2010. The U.S.-based platform connected tourists with locals providing experiences in their cit…
 
The concept of upmarket hostel accommodation was, some argue, fairly alien in the youth travel sector until fairly recently. Generator Hostels was a single-property brand in London, launched in the mid-1990s, but was considered the perfect place to try out a new approach to the sector when Josh Wyatt came onboard in 2007 with a pile of venture mone…
 
In one respect, ToursByLocals is a classic startup story. It was the brainchild of CEO Paul Melhus and chief technology officer Dave Vincent, with them having observed how the tour guide scene was handled during a trip to China in the mid-2000s. They launched the business - a platform to find and reserve tour guides in numerous countries around the…
 
As digitalization of the airline sector has increased exponentially over the last decade, a number of new business have emerged to compete alongside the existing giants. One such brand is Flyr, based in the U.S. and founded by Alex Mans. The company is focused on revenue management, distribution and e-commerce for carriers and partners, allowing th…
 
The modern story of HRS (Hotel Reservation Service) is one of geographic growth, expansion into new business areas and a handing over of the baton from father to son. But the company has its roots going back to 1972, when it was created in Cologne, Germany, as a travel agency that concentrated on booking accommodation for exhibitions. Robert Ragge …
 
It takes a lot to change a mindset that has prevailed for decades. Bikes (and scooters) are, for many people, mostly a thing of enjoyment. But Lime had other ideas, driven by a desire to rethink the bike as something that can be used for both leisure and commuting, at the same time as doing something positive for urban environments. The company was…
 
Lastminute.com Group's name didn't start out that way. BravoFly Rumbo switched its corporate identity after an acquisition of the former European darling of the online travel world in 2015. Spearheading the business since 2004 is Fabio Cannavale, a former founder at Spanish online travel agency eDreams, who pushed BravoFly through a string of acqui…
 
FlixBus is a travel startup that was created not specifically out of personal experiences of its founders but from gutsy opportunism. Daniel Krauss, Jochen Engert and André Schwämmlein realized that the deregulation of the German bus market would open up the market to competition, both at the operator and booking platform level. It combined the two…
 
Volantio launched into the aviation market in 2014, bidding to capitalize on a burgeoning need by airlines to embrace the digital world behind the scenes. The U.S.-based company, co-founded by Azim Barodawala and Fenn Baily, helps carriers automate their marketing, improve the passenger experience and, generally, bring their systems up to the level…
 
Varun Khona's story about the creation of Headout is a classic startup tale. His first startup, Trippy, lasted a mere three years before he found himself with a big idea in 2014 to get in on what was then a burgeoning tours and activities sector. Hunkering down in New York City with a nascent business had a variety of challenges (he lived with a fa…
 
How do you launch and grow a business that is attempting to overhaul one of the aviation sector's most complicated processes? The airline part supply chain is complex, has hundreds of customers and suppliers, and has to operate efficiently and without delays. Ben Frank, an ex-MIT graduate in aerospace engineering, created a startup to revolutionize…
 
BlaBlaCar is a lot more than a carpooling platform with a quirky name. Since its creators - Frédéric Mazzella, Francis Nappez and Nicolas Brusson - thrust the brand onto the scene in the late-2000s, many companies have sought to mimic the idea but have failed to unseat the clear market leader. Regulatory issues, launches in new markets around the w…
 
Brent Handler is credited by many as one of the pioneers of the "destination club" sector in the travel industry. The idea is that upmarket travelers get access to exclusive private homes or hotel units on resort properties, organized under a membership program that includes services and other luxury elements of a trip. He launched Exclusive Resort…
 
Roberto Souviron, Alejandro Tamer, Martín Rastellino, Cristian Vilate and Mariano Fiori were five friends from business school who had an idea. They wanted to create Latin America's first regional online travel agency, taking inspiration from the likes of Travelocity, which had burst onto the scene in the U.S. in the late-1990s. Despegar was launch…
 
Travis Katz launched Gogobot at the height of the "social trip planning" wave in online travel. The ex-MySpace exec knew for the company to succeed after the buzz of that 2010 period that it would take a lot more than a fancy user experience and PR to propel it into a phase of genuine growth. Gogobot's focus on data and mobile was the key element i…
 
MakeMyTrip was not one of those online travel brands that exploded onto the scene. Although it has since go on to become India's biggest OTA, Deep Kalra and his co-founders (including Rajesh Magow) experienced very modest growth in the brand's initial years after its launch. A full-blown focus on its home market in the mid-2000s saw the brand accel…
 
Klook has come a long way in six years. The Hong Kong-based booking site for tours and activities was one of a number of similar brands attempting to muscle in on the sector. But then came a string of increasingly large investment rounds and many outside of its Asia Pacific region (i.e. the West) started taking notice. European ambitions, Softbank-…
 
You can probably count on one hand the number of entertainment executives who've switched their careers to enter the world of travel startups. Rob Wiesenthal is one such entrepreneur. He left a career with Sony and later Warner Bros to launch Blade, a platform for booking helicopter commutes. The New York, U.S.-based company was created in 2014 and…
 
Free-spirited and never afraid to speak his mind, Bobby Healy is a well-known figure in the travel and transportation sectors. The former-gaming coder spent a few years at SITA and Amadeus before, eager to get out from under the confines of the corporate machine, he joined in 2005 the fledgling Irish car rental startup, CarTrawler. His story is one…
 
Porter & Sail hit the sweet spot of mobile, personalization, ancillary revenue and hospitality in the mid-2010s. The company launched in 2014 with a vision to provide hotels with a service that could act as a concierge service for guests on their devices. Since creating the business, CEO Caitlin Zaino von During has had to navigate challenges and t…
 
The so-called "Brat Pack of Aviation" - under the guidance of Bob Crandall from American Airlines in the late-1980s - have all gone on to become important figures in the U.S. airline industry. But perhaps one of the quartet which also included Tom Horton, David Cush and Doug Parker who emerged as a true innovator is Ben Baldanza. After leaving Amer…
 
It takes a lot of effort to be recognized by the mainstream media for your skills and influence within 12 months of creating something. Or does it? A year after creating FlyerTalk, Randy Petersen was being hailed in the press for his expertise on all things related to frequent flying, loyalty programs and the passenger experience. He was a frequent…
 
The Hipmunk story is one of idea versus reality, Silicon Valley versus the status quo, big challenges and an eventual sale to an unlikely suitor. The company's co-founder, Adam Goldstein, is now candid about what happened to the company from its creation in 2010 until the SAP Concur acquisition in 2016. From the original vision and how it evolved u…
 
After a timely break of a few months after completing the first 28-stretch of episodes, How I Got Here returns for its second season. Nowadays, Rod Cuthbert is a recognizable figure on the conference circuit, an investor and a valuable critic of new businesses and ideas as they come through the Launch and Summit programs at Phocuswright's events. B…
 
Operto was created in order to make life better for property managers - both those in private accommodation and others in the hotel sector. The Canada-based company is a property automation system for managing short-term vacation rentals, hotels and other types of guest accommodation. Co-founded by Michael Driedger in 2016, originally under the nam…
 
Paul Metselaar knows a thing or two about corporate travel. He also knows how to steer his business through difficult times. Created in 1984, Ovation Travel Group remains an independently owned company with 700 employees and over 200 travel advisors. It currently works with 700 businesses on plans for over 300,000 travelers a year. Metselaar has ma…
 
Microsoft might be considered a very different type of large corporation from a major online travel agency such as Expedia Group. But, as most people know, travel's global web giant was created as a unit within the Microsoft empire in the mid-1990s, before being spun out via a public listing in 1999. There are many similarities between the two bran…
 
NexTravel is, in many respects, a classic travel startup in that it started out with one idea and then quickly pivoted to another. The U.S.-based company, launched in 2015, as a consumer-facing leisure trip platform but realised that it could switch fairly easily to a service that focused on the needs of business travelers. At that point, a few yea…
 
When the definitive history of online travel is written in the decades to come, Steve Hafner will be remembered for many things. It may well be for his signature and extremely direct style of commenting on the industry ("Hipmunk - road kill" being one of his most infamous) during countless appearances at travel events. But hopefully the pivotal rol…
 
Stephan Ekbergh is known for his risk-taking (moving a business to another continent) and open views on the sector's developments and issues. The Travelstart Group is where this Swedish entrepreneur's passion for the business still rests after two decades in the job. But he is involved in a number of initiatives in and outside of the industry and i…
 
Bus travel is a huge part of the transportation ecosystem in Latin America, especially in Mexico where Reservamos was born in 2013. The business was co-founded by Sebastian Gomez, an MIT Sloan alum, who saw an opportunity in the market to bring the complex world of bus ticketing in Mexico into the digital sphere. Reservamos is now a large and estab…
 
Hitlist went from being an idea to help friends find air tickets when visiting its CEO in Turkey to a favorite in the app stores. Gillian Morris and her team managed to achieve the growth of the product with little money on the marketing front and almost next to no investment funds coming in. The story behind Hitlist is testament to what hard work,…
 
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