Erik Blachford, Venture partner at Technology Crossover Ventures
The former president and chief executive of Expedia, and later IAC, is a prominent figure in venture capital and angel investments. Most recently TCV, where he is a venture partner, invested in a Series F round for FlixMobility.
In a series of interviews with executives participating in the event in Florida in November, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick.
What travel trend are you watching closely right now and why?
Flight shaming. If we've turned a corner on climate change awareness, and people really start flying less due to social pressure, the travel industry will be turned upside down. I'm waiting for the first big U.S. company to make a statement that they are moving to as close to 100% video conferencing as they can manage.
Technology Crossover Ventures
What do you make of current state of travel startup funding?
Very early stage funding is pretty loose and easy, but to get beyond seed stage you really have to prove yourself. That feels healthy to me; it means we'll see a lot of startups get a shot.
That said, I think women and people of color are still under-represented when it comes to getting funded, and getting that shot. That's starting to change, but slower than it should.
Why isn’t the travel startup survival rate higher?
Travel looks easy. Travel isn't easy. And on top of that, travel is relatable. So I think a lot of entrepreneurs come into the travel world thinking that because they are big travelers, they will be able to figure out. And they just kind of fade when they run into the acronym buzzsaw ("But if the TMC populates the PNR in the GDS, how is the local CSR going to access it?"). OK, I'm kidding but there's a grain of truth there. It looks easy, but it's actually difficult. That's like a recipe for a high failure rate.
Have you had any ‘wow’ moments in the past year where you read something and thought WTH?
OK this will sound self-serving because it's a TCV investment, but the first time I met FlixBus was a total WTH moment.
What one mistake do you witness others making more than anything else?
Pivoting from consumer to B2B, especially in the hotel space. Totally different skill set required.
Who is the person you most admire, within or externally to travel?
Richard Bangs, the guy who put adventure travel on the map in the 60's and 70's. Whitewater rafting, high mountain hiking, all of that stuff. For a week, for a day, they tried it all. None of the experience market we take for granted today would exist without pioneers like Richard.
When did you realize this would be your career?
I worked as a bike tour guide for Butterfield & Robinson after college. (Anybody reading this who worked there or at Backroads or a bunch of other companies is nodding their heads yes right now.)
What other industries do you think travel could learn from and why?
Entertainment, specifically movie making. People travel to be part of a story. We make it too transactional.
If you could teach everyone in your company one concept, what would have the biggest positive impact?
Well I'm spread over a lot of different companies these days, but I think I'd say embrace difference. It might be gender, race, nationality, age, whatever. I'm a middle-aged white guy from Montreal, and I am so glad that I don't spend my days with slightly different versions of myself lol.
How do you stay inspired?
Curiosity and inspiration are two sides of the same coin.
Summit and Launch sessions
Get ready for fresh ideas! Summit and Launch feature some of travel's newest innovations at The Phocuswright Conference 2019.