Seedstars World talks to lastminute.com group CEO on travel startupsNews / Distribution | TechnologyBy Viewpoints | August 25, 2015Share This article was originally published on Seedstars World (SSW) is a Swiss company which runs an annual competition for startups. Winners from 50 startup competitions worldwide will meet for a grand finale in Switzerland, where they will participate in a bootcamp and compete for three equity investment prizes totaling $1.5m.NB This is a guest article from Bérénice Magistretti, a writer for Seedstars World.Earlier this year, SSW signed lastminute.com group (formerly Bravofly Rumbo Group) as a global partner and launched a dedicated "travel track" to run alongside its main competition.Travel startups will have their own competition within many of the fifty country-specific competitions mentioned above. SSW will select the most promising and invite them to the main event in Switzerland. Here they will pitch their business idea, with a chance to win up to $500,000 from lastminute.com.The Seedstars World blog interviewed lastminute.com group's CEO Francesco Signoretti about life, business and start-ups.SSW: Why is a business as large as lastminute.com interested in startups?FS: "Historically, the group has always pursued a strategy to invest and partner with startups. We have always been keen about developing ideas and finding complementary business models in order to help them reach their full potential and to make sure that the group is always close to the market and the next trends."We have invested and acquired a startup called mapp2app, a travel guide mobile app that creates guides for hotels and tourism offices."Why do you think it is important to focus on emerging markets and how do you approach new markets?"We have a cross-border approach in which we start lean (such as leveraging our English language platform first) and once we see traction we go ahead and invest more time and resources to localise properly our services. Only then do we consider local partners for commercial partnerships and M&A deals."What are the trends that you expect to dominate the travel industry in the coming years?"The biggest challenge and opportunity today is the huge traffic that is being generated by mobile devices, something that is changing the way customers interact with our services."It is a must today to have the platform be 100% mobile-responsive to facilitate the whole booking process for the customer."The other trend that is very clear is the unique experience that we can provide to our client. We are working on adding specialized vertical niche services to address the overall travel experience (parking at the airport, lunch, security, etc.). The success is in the detail and our capability of finding the right ancillary services that will simplify the life, journey and experience of our users."It is no longer only about helping the customer to book his/her flight but also about accompanying them all the way before, during and after their journey.From a strategic investor perspective, what do you look for in a travel startup?"We typically look at businesses that are complementary to our strategy, either from a geographical perspective and/or from a product perspective. We started off as a flight-oriented company and we now have diversified our services, so flight actually only takes up 50% of our business.This is mainly due to the fact that we are pursuing acquisitions that are complementary to our vision and our business model.Then, in terms of characteristics, we look for an entrepreneur that is fully on board and committed to the project.But the ability to execute efficiently is one of the first things we look for.On a more personal level, it has now been nearly 6 years that you are running lastminute.com group (formerly Bravofly Rumbo Group). How do you keep your teams motivated and hungry?My personal approach is to be particularly hands-on, but without micro-managing. It means understanding what we are doing in detail - the small things can make the difference or they can create the biggest problems. This helps in having open conversations with my co-workers and being able to find the right solutions together.This transparency and close relationship has allowed me to build trust, which is fundamental to the success of any company.However, it is true that with the recent acquisitions, it is becoming more difficult to be as hands-on as before as the company is growing. But this is what transformation is all about!NB This is a guest article from Bérénice Magistretti, a writer for the Seedstars World blog. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.NB2 Seedstars World is the mentoring sponsor for THack São Paulo. Seedstars World will select one of the winning projects from the hack and guarantee it a place at its Brazil competition. The winner of the Brazil competition will be invited to Switzerland for the grand final, to compete for one of investment prizes of up to $500k each. Click here for details about THack São Paulo.