After an almost five-hour marathon of startup pitches that went around the world, 15 companies have been chosen as semifinalists in the Global Startup Pitch, run by Web In Travel and Phocuswright. They are:
Middle East and Africa
In the wrap-up after the competition, Stephen Snyder, managing director of JetBlue Ventures, who also judged the Americas round, called the competition “very encouraging” in its diversity and quality of startups.
He said the current investment climate had become a buyer’s market. For JetBlue Ventures, which normally does Series A investments and has invested in 46 companies over the last seven and a half years, he said, “There is still a lot of dry powder lying around, but it’s time to be selective and there is no need to get into speculative deals. We have seen the deflation of the Web3 bubble – we are glad to have sat out the more speculative Web3 businesses that were tied to fixed technologies – and the rise of AI.”
Calling artificial intelligence-driven trip inspiration startups “over-hyped,” he said what gets him most excited about AI is its ability to address the “more mundane” tasks.
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Citing the Global Startup Competition as an example, he said judging events like these were now much easier to organize and what would normally have taken weeks to collate and curate can be done in hours. “I think what it can do to efficiency and productivity will be amazing, and I would encourage founders to ask, what are the cost savings I can extract versus chasing pie-in-the-sky ideas.”
Johnny Thorsen, vice president of strategy and partnerships at Spotnana, said he remained fascinated by blockchain technology, “although it’s hard to pin down the use case.”
“Could models like Chain4Travel be the start of a new ecosystem?” he wondered.
He also noted the focus on Gen Z travelers by some of the startups.
“This next generation travelers have to be reached in new ways. Given the 20-year life span of OTAs, it would not be inconceivable to think of the next 20 years of reaching these new travelers.”
Noting the skew towards hospitality tech among the participating startups, Thorsen said, “Perhaps someone will finally get this right. What we need is the next-gen PMS to replace the army of hundreds of PMSes that make it so hard for everyone else to work with.”
Snyder said it was important for startups “not to get fixated on the problem of the moment” but look towards “much better immediacy of use cases and ability to get revenues to bring in cash flow.”
The semifinals will be August 24, after which five finalists will travel to Singapore to compete in the Grand Finals at WiT Singapore, Oct 2-4, to win a presentation spot at Phocuswright taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 12-14.
“By making it through to the next round, the 15 companies proved they have what it takes to make it in today’s challenging environment for startups,” said Pete Comeau, managing director of Phocuswright. “Our judges were looking for criteria such as viability, customer appeal, technical innovation, sustainability, team and the X factor.”
“Again, thank you to our judges for putting in the work and time to get us to this stage and we look forward to the next round on the road to Singapore,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder of WiT.
The Global Startup Pitch Competition is part of an ongoing commitment to cultivate innovation through activities including WiT Bootcamps, Phocuswright Startup Program, Hot25 Startups, Travel Tech Fellowship and an industry-driving global network of leaders on the edge of innovation.
*This article originally appeared in Web In Travel.
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