One part of this week's EyeforTravel Travel Distribution Summit in London was the innovation and investment competition.
Twelve entrepreneurs pitched. This is a quick roundup of which organisations took part and what their services are about.
Room 77 - Room views and reviews. Now at 500,000 hotel rooms in their system. If you were at the conference and missed their presentation then you missed out on a great behind the scenes look at how the sausage factory works to generate the room specific floor plans etc. Shortlisted into the final but didn't win. [TLabs Showcase - Room 77]
Zonear - Custom mobile maps. Neat little solution for big events, festivals etc to create their own mobile maps. Can open the map from a QR code or specific wireless point. [TLabs Showcase - Zonear]
Email Vision - Email marketing. They have 600 clients in the travel industry but not much innovation on show in their pitch. Still a good business to be had selling tools to do the basics right, innovation doesn't always equate to business success.
Pocket Guide - iPhone based audio city guide with a social twist. Lovely tech, you buy a guide, follow a route and stay informed. There are a lot of these city guide type applications and competition is fierce. One USP is that once you have followed your tour (and uploaded photos from each spot) the app creates an embeddable animation of your route - that you can share with friends via Facebook etc.
Trust You - Social semantic search. These guys can take a free-text hotel review (i.e. one written long hand by a consumer) and pick out the key aspects. This data can then be sold to hotels (as a tool) for their own social media / review monitoring or packaged to be included into hotel booking websites. Initially created for hotel reviews future plans include moving to restaurant reviews then consumer electronics. You can play with their "magic box" on their website. [TLabs Showcase - TrustYou]
Fresh Creator - A SaaS model "build your own website" service for small hotels and guest houses (and take online bookings too). Looks nicely presented and well built. Demonstrated good traction in the presentation.
Get Your Guide - Tours and activities intermediary. Big, bold statements from Get Your Guide about overtaking Viator/Isango shortly (as measured by number of products on sale). Always have liked what Get Your Guide are doing and they present strongly. [TLabs Showcae - GetYourGuide]
A la carte maps - Maps. Real maps. Certainly an original pitch as part of the demonstration included how the map could be used as a rain hat (complete with co-presenter pouring water over second presenters head). I was kind of expecting the pitch to get into how the map has QR codes for special offers - or perhaps how it was printed on demand based around a travellers individual chosen tour - but no - its a waterproof paper map. Least has very simple social and UGC functionality as you can annotate the map (using a pen), share a map (by passing it to someone) and several people can read the map at the same time (by standing close to someone and looking over their shoulder). These are functions that most iPhone based mapping systems have failed to execute on. Nicely designed too.
Ixaris - Temporary Visa / Mastercards (plus other payment services). One use is that you could only activate the card on the day of hotel check-in - stopping the hotel from charging you before you arrive..... Also if you are a consumer you can use the Ixaris payment solution to NOT pay the EU low cost airline credit card surcharges. Thats almost a business opportunity by itself and should have its own standalone website and brand....
DataCash - Payment gateway with local payment capability. For example, if I am a Brazilian and want to pay a UK-based travel service provider, I can pay via a Brazilian payment system. The UK based travel service provider only has to do one gateway integration (and doesn't need to have a merchant account with the Brazilian merchant provider). Out of all the pitches this is the one company who I would use in my business as there is a very big need for this - especially for incoming tour operators with clients from around the world (Single source market travel companies (e.g. outbound agents) won't find this so useful as could do a conventional payment gateway integration that better matches their specific source market)
SITA - Presented Malaysia Airlines MHBuddy, a Facebook app that has full booking, check-in and social seat pick. See previous Tnooz coverage from launch. Great to see the app demonstrated in real time.
And the winner is............ Trust You. Well done co-founder Benjamin Jost!
All these pitches together gave a great collective insight into what is coming in the travel industry (and what is already here!). Not quite sure why so many conference attendees missed what were undoubtedly the best sessions of the conference!