SmartNomad wants to make trip planning easy via its app, as well as offer assistance throughout the trip. It initially wants to offer the service to online travel agencies and travel management companies.
New York-based SmartNomad has recently raised seed funding of $900,000 to develop its travel planning app.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
SmartNomad makes it easy and entertaining to plan personalized trips, makes the booking process simple through an Amazon-like one-click experience and offers digital assistance throughout the trip.
SmartNomad’s co-founders are serial entrepreneurs, technologists and passionate travelers with a proven track-record in building successful companies.
SmartNomad was soft-launched on Web and iOS in July 2020. SmartNomad is built for travel businesses (B2B2C) and travelers (B2C). We are currently seeing significant traction with travel enterprises looking to build or enhance their digital capabilities.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your business
A typical traveler goes through five phases: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Currently, this is extremely fragmented. Our vision is to connect this loop and offer a superior, wholesome travel experience.
SmartNomad currently connects the ‘planning, booking, experiencing’ phases of travel on one single, easy-to-use platform.
Simply put: we make planning trips personalized, intelligent & efficient. We make booking trips simple. We guide travelers while they enjoy their trips and enable a connected trip experience. This is accomplished by bringing together three innovative capabilities (patent pending!):
1.Personalized, intelligent itinerary planner: SmartNomad creates personalized itineraries for nomads based on their preferences, destination, duration and budget. They are then free to customize it further.
The itinerary generation engine is extremely smart: it considers weather, best time to visit, ideal stay duration, traffic patterns etc. This is enabled by our proprietary data collection techniques and language models.
The itinerary engine is powered by a sophisticated operations research algorithm that maximizes trip experience, minimizes commute time and optimizes for total budget.
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We are currently working on a collaboration feature for travelers to plan trip with their friends.
2.One-click booking engine: Once travelers finalize their itinerary, they can book everything (flight, hotel, tickets, tours etc.) via an Amazon-like one-click experience. We have integrated with global travel brands like Priceline, Sabre, Yelp, Tiqets, Musement and others to build this propriety technology.
3.Digital Travel Assistant: When travelers embark on their trip, SmartNomad’s digital assistant gives them directions, sends notifications of upcoming activities and weather changes, calls rides, manages etickets, shows interesting & important tidbits about the destination city etc.
And if the trip is disrupted due to weather or traffic, it can adjust plans on the fly!
Very soon, we will be adding new features to help travelers build new connections and easily share their trip memories.
Give us your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the company.
- A strong co-founding team of traveler technologists, with prior experience in building successful companies. A market-leading product offering with an amazing user-experience and has a strong technical core. And it’s free to use!
- While SmartNomad offers travelers a variety of choices, additional options are available one quick search away. Travel industries’ distribution channels are extremely fragmented. We are working hard to streamline this and expand our menu of choices for our nomads. The market today is largely dominated by a few major players who spend billions competing for the same eyeballs. They are also sitting on a mountain of data.
- Many travel companies are revamping their digital capabilities and investing in new tools to position themselves to win in 2021 and beyond. We are their ideal partner. In recent years, travelers have been looking for more personalization, more control and a better digital experience. This will only accelerate in the post-COVID world.
- Companies like Google and Facebook who are gatekeepers to today’s consumers. Google especially has been making significant inroads into travel across planning, booking and creating a connected trip. Old habits die hard. We are offering a new way of travel. Since travel is an infrequent activity, especially for leisure, convincing travelers to adopt a new tool will be a challenge.
What are the travel painpoints you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
Today’s travelers face significant challenges while organizing their trips:
1. Lack of personalization while planning & booking their trips: According to Amadeus, 86% of travelers want more personalization!
2. Inefficient and complex planning and booking experience: Studies show it can take up to 40 hours to plan & book a trip. Even for a single trip, travelers make multiple transactions for flight, hotel, activities etc. According to American Express, 43% of travelers overpay after being overwhelmed with options!
3. Disconnected trip: Whenever there is a disruption in travel (e.g. 20% of flights in US are delayed), the disconnected trip leads to anxiety and stress for travelers.
The travel industry cannot ignore these problems anymore. Providing travelers more choice and control, better personalization and a world-class digital experience will reduce cost and increase revenue.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
We have been socializing the SmartNomad prototype at industry events even prior to the soft launch.
Just a few of these interactions have generated major leads for direct sales and strategic partnerships with major airlines, car rental companies, online travel agencies (OTAs) and travel management companies (TMCs).
We have some innovative B2B campaigns up our sleeves for 2021, focusing on creative content (especially, video. Watch our product video here!) and social media campaign with “B2B influencers.”
When we start our B2C campaigns (later in 2021 or early 2022), we plan to connect with the relatively affluent millennials and Gen Zs (the HENRYs, a.k.a High Earning, Not Rich Yet) through a mix of traditional and innovative channels.
A HENRY is adept at using digital tools & social media, value experiences over things and prefer brands that reflect their values and identity. An ideal smart nomad! P.S: If you are reading this article and we seem interesting, please DM us on Instagram (@smartnomadtravels) and say Hi!
Tell us what process you have gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
The founders of SmartNomad have been friends for many years and often travel together. During our getaways, we have personally faced many challenges related to planning, booking and experiencing a trip.
SmartNomad was born out of a deep desire to solve challenges that plagued us and millions of travelers like us. All the market research we looked has showed overwhelming desire among travelers for personalization and simplification.
According to American Express, if booking and planning travel was simpler, more than 50% of leisure travelers would travel or try new experiences more often.
Google, Expedia and Booking.com have been in an arms race to build a connected trip experience. As we’ve gone through the product journey, we have received validation along the way.
We did a private beta last year and received lots of love and lots of constructive feedback. Whenever we demo the product at industry events, the response from travel experts has been overwhelmingly positive.
A few senior industry professionals have said that they have been wanting to see or build a product like this forever!
How and when will you make money?
We are currently focused on selling to travel enterprises (B2B2C), with direct-to-consumer (B2C) coming later down the line in late 2021 or early 2022.
For B2B2C, SmartNomad plans to provide licenses or white label solutions to travel enterprises (airlines, online travel agencies, travel management companies etc.) and earn revenue via licensing or profit-sharing agreements.
For B2C, we will earn commissions from our partners on the products (flight, hotel, activities). For travelers, SmartNomad is free to use!
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
We are travelers who like to build things.
Abhishek Anand, the CEO of SmartNomad, was previously co-founder & CEO of a Bay-area based tech and AI company with over 450 employees.
Amlan Nanda, the chief product officer, previously worked as a management consultant focusing on product, customer experience and analytics for various Fortune 500 companies.
Carl Shephard was previously the founder of an educational travel company that cultivated travel experiences around the globe. He brings over 20 years of industry experience to the table.
What's been the most difficult part of
founding the business so far?
As an industry, travel is very cliquish. Since most of us were outsiders, connecting with the right people to forge partnerships and gathering the right subject matter expertise was very hard initially.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly
tough time making an impact - so
why are you going to be one of lucky
At SmartNomad, making the customer experience blissful is our north star. Currently, the industry addresses traveler needs in silos. Some are good at offering flight and hotels. Others, at activities. Some others are good at food recommendations.
However, from a traveler’s perspective it’s “one” trip they have been dreaming for months. And one they struggle to make perfect.
We believe we have a great team, an exceptional product and a creative marketing plan. Our key to success though is going to be staying relentlessly focused on making our nomads’ travels blissful!
A year from now, what state do you
think your startup will be in?
One year from now, we are confident to have partnered with at least two travel enterprises.
What is your end-game? (Going
public, acquisition, growing and
staying private, etc.)
At this stage, we are hyper-focused on getting SmartNomad in the hands of as many travelers as possible and make their trips blissful.
If they love and appreciate us, we will continue to focus on growth. We may think of an acquisition few years down the line.
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