Kumutu startup goes where others fear to tread, calls itself a GDSNewsBy Kevin May | October 20, 2009Share This article was originally published on A solitary Tweet from the ether yesterday signalled the launch of Kumutu, a London-based start-up that says it will distribute products for adventure and activity tour operators to the wider travel trade community.Kumutu is the B2B end of consumer portal WorldAdrenaline - a pretty typical activities OTA - and is headed by two Americans based in the UK capital, Tim Dever and Ryan Off.The initial proposition is simple enough: Kumutu acts as a distribution channel between suppliers and intermediaries, with an intriguing set of commission rates and multiple payment schemes.Currently funded by the founders and family members, Kumutu says it has 400 suppliers from 60 countries currently running through the system.Kumutu is by no means the only digital clearing house for niche operators around the globe. But it certainly is one of the only ones to call itself a GDS - a term it appears only the legacy providers of the switch are still willing to do.NB: AdventureLink has the same approach.Dever says they decided to use the phrase on advice of industry people they spoke to during the development phase of the company.But where the Kumutu brand gets interesting is in the pricing and payment area of the company.Co-founder and president Off says Kumutu wants to be an IT service provider to the specialist activity and tours segment of the travel industry.The problem with this ambition is that as soon as a company works on a system of taking payment for a product, it becomes responsible for the customer's purchase from an insurance point of view. Or least in UK law it does.Off admits the area is a difficult one for a company which really only wants to have a simple role in the process - but such are the vagaries of the bonding and principal legislation that it is still unsure what route it will take."We are still talking with our lawyers," he says.Off says despite the legal uncertainty over the company's payment structure - pay up front or pay-in-part - there is a level of enthusiasm from activity operators who are happy for Kumutu to take the risk of securing a deposit (which actually turns out to be Kumutu's commission from the operator) and hoping the client pays in full.A survey of over a thousand niche operators attracted 300 responses, Off says, with a 50-50 split between those who wanted one payment system over the other.Commission levels for the company range between 10% to 19%. Off says commission structures at similar providers (some in the region of 25%-30%) are not needed because it has "fewer people to pay" and also only pays the agent or intermediary a 6% commission.