Eight companies pitched at the second annual Concur DevCon, a gathering of developers interested in learning about building and growing products on Concur’s platform.
The company, which recently announced its sale to SAP, has been growing its App Center to include a mobile version.
This encourages more of its customers to download integrated apps, building the ecosystem while boosting overall utility.
In order to increase installs, the company highlighted improvements to the app center on mobile, allowing users to quickly add new apps.
Concur sales agents will also have an App Concierge Tool, which CEO Steve Singh explained as:
"Available to all Concur sales reps as a recommendation engine for additional apps in the ecosystem, which can then be monetized by individual developers. Sales folks are able to use this to target apps to the new customer."
Around 350 developers were in attendance at the Concur Devcon in San Francisco, hearing from various stakeholders on platform best practices.
In opening remarks, Singh continues the now-familiar mantra of the Perfect Trip mission - and highlighted the growing community of companies developing on the Open Platform to fulfill this mission.
"Transparent, connected and effortless - that's the way we look at the open trip. It takes an open platform and a set of community partners to embrace this. We aren't perfect, and we're learning what it means to be a platform company.
"We're committed to getting this right, and while we're not there yet, we will be in the next few years. We're making every element of our stack available so partners can create value for customers. This is key - it has to add value for customers.
"The value of the platform is that, if we can open it up, partners can plug into the platform and it works with dozens of partners. If you open up a platform, partners such as Airbnb can plug in and meet a real customer need.
"That's the value of the platform and that's why we're committed to it."
As a direct reminder of how quickly innovations can become expectations, a slide flashed on screen with a quote from Frits von Paaschen, CEO of Starwood Hotels says:
"Today's novelty and today's luxury is tomorrow's baseline expectation."
The day culminated in a Perfect Trip pitch competition, where eight companies presented their concepts to attendees.
There were two tracks, four companies each on track for “Best Travel-Related Innovation for Businesses" and "Best Travel-Related Innovation for Travelers,” with the winner of each track receiving a $50,000 convertible note.
In a smart move for attendee engagement, winners were determined by audience voting.
The eight companies each had five minutes to pitch, followed by questions from a judging panel that included Altimeter Capital's Brad Gerstner, Concur's John Torrey, Table8 and Worldview Technology Partners' Pete Goettner, and United's Mark Nasr.
Innovations for Businesses: LoungeBuddy wins
The startups in this category were a varied bunch, focused on value adds for businesses. BillGuard is a mobile app that allows travelers to monitor credit cards and bank accounts for fraudulent activity.
An integration with Concur creates a clever interface to swipe expenses into specific reports, while also giving companies more piece of mind when it comes to monitoring fraud.
With accounts spread across institutions, it can be challenging for both consumers and businesses to monitor for fraud - especially for companies with multiple corporate cards.
During the question and answer, some questions around engagement found that 1 million registered users average 7 logins a week while only 40% of new users stick with the service.
RefundMyTicket uses an automated algorithm to trawl airline consortia databases and Concur travel itineraries to identify any flights eligible for refunds in the EU.
Some of the comments from the judges panel included the fragility of the business - one change in regulation, and the value proposition is eliminated.
Yet, with only 5% of eligible passengers claiming refunds and a volume increase of 4.3% a year in global air traffic, there does seem to be an opportunity.
Permiso leaned on its decidedly unsexy utility as a competitive advantage - the company ensures immigration compliance for a global workforce using an automated interface geared towards eliminating illegal or stealth immigration for workers.
This mixed enterprise approach to managing immigration and travel compliance is driven by Complex Rules with core logic supplied by a network of global immigration and tax firms.
The audience selected Loungebuddy as the winner of the convertible note, owing in part to the strong performance during question-and-answer by co-founder Tyler Dikman.
The product itself has shown great promise over the past year, logging 25k reviews and ratings of airport lounges by a user base numbered at 250,000.
In beta testing now, the ability to purchase lounge access within the app will liberate a large chunk of revenue for the startup while also providing a new means of merchandising that didn't exist prior in the mish-mash of lounge operators - the company estimate this could bring up to an additional $2 billion over time to these operators, as excess capacity can be sold.
In comments to Tnooz, Singh highlighted Loungebuddy's upcoming in-app purchase and club-side tablet technology for customer greeting, saying:
"The neat thing is that you can buy a day pass for lounges. The startup also has an application that the agent uses in the lounge, so if you buy the day pass, the agent can see the photo and purchase history right there on the tablet."
Innovations for Travelers: Paradine wins
On the innovations for travelers side, there were a variety of applications that help travelers explore the world more healthfully and knowledgeably.
Localeikki, which is a mashup of localvore and "play" in Finnish, wants to add a health layer to the hotel experience. Rather than being relegated to the hotel gym, the app promises to reveal outdoor activities nearby a traveler's hotel.
Brad Gerstner pointed out the difficulty of scaling a top-of-the-funnel content play with enough users to monetize sufficiently, and suggested that cultivating a core group of passionate active travelers could make a viable subscription model.
Travefy is a group travel product with an interesting twist: it manages expenses and process payments for groups. While the startup itself recognizes the challenge of the group travel space - there really hasn't been a clear winner amongst the many losers - it believes that the paymetns aspect could be sufficient to differentiate the product.
The corporate travel angle was somewhat contentious with the judging panel, as there was debate on the clear-cut use case in corporate.
However, for companies planning group off-sites or mixed purpose trips, there could indeed be value in communication within the group to select outings and then have a neutral third party to divvy up the bill.
Grab was the first of two food-related startups to present in this category, focusing on facilitating the delivery of food in the airport setting.
The startup plans to create a food delivery platform in airports by linking up with concessionaires, and making an app interface that allows travelers to pre-purchase food.
The app will also surface recommendations on places to eat that travelers might not realize are nearby. Eventually, Grab wants to have a branded counter in airports so that travelers can simply swing by the location to pick up the freshly made items from airport vendors.
Grab also wants its food ordering system to be integrated into other travel apps. The premise is complex but intriguing, providing many challenges as far as integrating with large partners and legacy entities.
The other food-related startup was the audience's choice to win the convertible note: Paradine.
By parsing expense report data via Concur, the startup offers a new way for business travelers to discover recommendations of where to eat while traveling.
Business travelers can seek out colleagues' recommendations within the platform, or simply learn what the most expensed restaurants for their company in a city.
This information can then lead to a more informed decision about client meetings, and ensure that consistent standards are met when it comes to expensed restaurants.
Eventually Paradine would be able to create a Dinova-like list of preferred restaurants that offer special perks for the startup's users - a very compelling and lucrative place to sit, especially if the platform would be able to process payments before dropping them into Concur directly.
NB: Idea image courtesy Shutterstock.