TripDelta -- since renamed TripCombi -- is a metasearch startup that aims to help travelers discover "hidden" flights. Its motto is "find flights like a travel hacker."
Its search tool combines rival airlines on oneway/return flights, whereas the standard online travel agency or metasearch website only shows connecting flights by airlines that have partnerships.
TripDelta's searches can uncover significant savings by booking these "split tickets", where each leg has to be bought separately on the airline or online travel agency website.
But there may be a cost in convenience. If a traveler needs to book separate tickets on separate carriers, a traveler may have to check their luggage in separately during layovers. And a traveler may run into trouble if one flight is delayed and an onward connection is missed.
That said, by offering multi-destination search across rival airlines, TripDelta can be a tool for booking split tickets.
The Cologne-based startup received a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. Now it is part of one of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerators and is looking for funding.
A Q&A with co-founder Nikolas Langes:
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business:
The company was founded in Cologne in 2014 as a result of our frustration with existing flight search platforms.
We always spent too much time to find the right flights. The discounted tickets we wanted to book could only be found through a long manual search.
We then researched the flight market, applied for a startup grant and launched Tripdelta a year later.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
Team size: 3. Founders: Dr. Maximilian Ibel (Engineering), Malte Buecken (Engineering), Nikolas Langes (Business Development)
We received a startup grant by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy worth $120,000. Now we are part of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. Currently, we are assessing a round with investors.
Estimation of market size?
The global travel market has a size of $1 trillion and still growing. Individual travel is roughly 50% of the market. The youth market has a size of $183bn and takes up almost 20%.
The online travel market is highly competitive. We compete with OTAs, Airlines and meta searches.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
Our revenue model is currently based on a commission scheme.
We are open to the idea of moving into the OTA space and fully include accommodation, activities and entire trip planning including our own booking solution.
What problem does the business solve?
Taking the pain of finding discounted flights manually.
In addition: Getting all the relevant search options including alternative airports and routes in one search and at the same time saving a lot of money.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The team travelled to more than 100+ countries combined and made countless flight searches. We wanted a search that hacks our flights automatically.
Initially, we wanted to start with our own booking solution, now we are a meta search. But that is likely to change.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Our hidden flight patterns and route suggestions can save up to 90%, in addition to our highly competitive “standard” results that equal our competitors’ flight results.
Other advantages are not necessarily price driven, but often our route suggestions are more convenient in terms of flight duration, stopovers, departure times or closer to the desired location.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We are very active on social media posting deals and travel-related news on Facebook and Twitter. We also recently started our own travel blog.
On Instagram we showcase our best travel photos and already have more than 11k followers.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
In three years the company will hopefully have established itself as the number one flight search for hidden flight tickets generating a seven-figure turnover.
A big challenge to overcome will be the high customer acquisition costs in the travel industry.
We need to be somewhat more creative than others in this regard, yet we are convinced that a superior product is easier to promote than products that add no real value.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
The industry has been neglecting the development of flight search as the industry's focus is more on packaged vacation and accommodation, where the margins are higher.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
We love Slack and try to embrace their company culture. Their roll-out strategy serves as a model for us to constantly improve our services based on user feedback.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Major OTAs, GDS and other travel-related giants.
Describe your startup in three words?
Find hidden flights.
The company has created a Vine, with co-founder Max singing an ode to TripDelta.
So-called "hacker fares" or "split tickets" have been available for a while. Major metasearch websites Kayak and Skyscanner began offering them in some search results as long as four years ago, though a user has to dig for them.
Websites like Flightfox, CleverLayover, Skypicker, and Skiplagged are among a wave of startups that are emphasizing the advantages of booking hacker fares -- each with a different spin.
As ever, getting users will be a difficult challenge, though it already claims it has 10,000 users, thanks to a viral spread of the word about the company.
It also will be hard to achieve a profit given that commissions on flight bookings are generally lower than for hotels or tours-and-activities.
That said, TripDelta has many of the virtues (strategic smarts, work ethic, etc.) that made Germany's national football team stand out in the recent World Cup. We're eager to see what this startup gets up to.