The coronavirus pandemic has claimed two up-and-coming travel startups: Priceline founder Jay Walker's Upside and multi-city flight search tech provider Trip Ninja.
Upside was launched in 2015 by Walker and headed by CEO Scott Case, who was chief technology officer at Priceline from 1996 to 2000.
The service rewarded business travelers who make savings by being flexible with their travel.
The company sold a 25% stake to Flight Centre Travel Group in April 2019 and had raised $50 million in January 2017.
It says: "Unfortunately, lingering uncertainty about when and if business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels has made raising additional capital or finding an alternative path too unlikely at this point.
"As a company, we fought hard to the end and we decided to act now while we still have sufficient capital to conduct an orderly wind down of the business, take care of our employees and other obligations, and transition clients."
Trip Ninja worked with partner online travel agencies to overhaul their multi-city search and booking process using technology to allow for lower flight prices.
Founded in 2014 in Canada, Trip Ninja was run by CEO Andres Collart, who spoke to PhocusWire this week about the decision to wind down the business.
"We informed our partners of this decision last week, and given their low multi-destination search volumes it wasn’t an issue to shut down the API.
"On the investor front, we’ve always been proud to have an open dialogue with our major investors and keep them informed of business performance and decisions as much as possible. Given the length of the pandemic, and our focus on multi-destination flights, it was no surprise to them that it didn’t make sense to continue operations. As with numerous parties, we are now in discussions with how we can best help those investors with other portfolio companies.
"We have learned a lot over the last five years of running Trip Ninja. I think the biggest lesson was around pain. Ultimately Trip Ninja offered a massive opportunity for multi-destination flights - making lots of money for OTAs and retail agencies. However, opportunities don’t command budgets or time as much as pain does. We routinely contended with sales cycles upwards of 8 months for even mid-sized OTAs.
"Just prior to the pandemic, we focused more strongly on retail agencies and TMCs. For retail agencies and TMCs it’s not an opportunity, it’s a pain. The time required to manually create itineraries is a significant and costly challenge.
"At our last conference - ANATO 2019 in Bogota - we signed several retail agencies on the conference floor. This was an almost infinite improvement on our sales cycle. Unfortunately, shortly after signing, many of these customers were heavily impacted by the pandemic."
* Check this interview with Collart, recorded at The Phocuswright Conference 2019.
Trip Ninja interview (PhocusWire @ Phocuswright Conference 2019)