Awai says it aims to revolutionize the travel industry with its AI-driven platform that generates personalized holiday packages.
Founded in 2021, the Melbourne-based startup has 20 employees.
Awai’s Trip Builder enables customers to create their own itinerary, allowing them to mix and match airlines, stay at multiple destinations and add activities or insurance, according to the company.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
We’ve combined travel and technology to disrupt and revolutionize the travel industry by building a unique platform that dynamically creates the best possible holiday packages, including flights, hotels, insurance and transfers. Awai saves consumers time, energy, money and most importantly, stress – and removes the need for travel agents.
Our Trip Builder lets you create your own itinerary, allowing you to mix and match airlines, stay at multiple destinations and add transfers, activities or insurance. Pre-trip cancellation insurance is already included free of charge for your peace of mind. Our bundled holiday approach gives us access to special rates and deals, which ensures that the more you bundle, the more you save.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Awai uses proprietary technology to comb through millions of flight and hotel rates, dynamically combining them together and providing consumers with personalized recommendations based on the individual’s preferred travel dates, destinations and budget. At the core sits a proprietary pricing cache, refreshed every four hours, which allows customers to get prices for 360 days ahead without waiting for the famous spinning wheel to stop. AI algorithms provide personalized results and simplify the decision-making process.
Our Trip View then allows the customer to tailor their holiday to their exact needs, including changing flights to their preferred airline, maximizing time at their destination, upgrading their room and inclusions, adding multiple stops or creating their 21-day dream trip through Europe.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- Strengths - Unique user experience; modern, flexible technology; strong travel industry experience and connections.
- Weaknesses - Limited budgets and a small team without the huge development and marketing budgets of the established players.
- Opportunities - With the travel agency network significantly smaller than pre-COVID and a consumer who learned to shop online, and an industry that hasn’t changed much in the last decade, there’s a massive opportunity to leverage e-commerce best practices to provide consumers with a better experience and achieve higher margins.
- Threats - Current economic and investor uncertainty increases the risk of not growing fast enough.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
The process of booking a holiday is fundamentally broken, and it hasn’t changed in more than a decade. You either comb through endless tabs and spend hours comparing flights, hotels and prices – or get a travel agent involved.
Our focus is primarily on solving customer pain points and establishing a B2C platform.
We’ve created a one-stop booking shop where all your travel needs are met through a simple and seamless online booking process. We remove the hassle of comparing prices across multiple tabs, websites and providers and enable people to save time and money while getting a personalized holiday booking experience.
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We’re also looking at B2B opportunities, both within the travel industry and outside. Our platform allows existing players to offer a distinctive holiday-booking platform and other brands to extend into travel. Awai also frees up time for travel agents, allowing them to focus their resources on true value-add to their customers.
So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
We’re early in our journey and are focusing on creating awareness through smart marketing activity, social media and PR. We’re also actively looking at potential partnerships and cooperations with other brands, including an opportunity to white-label our solution for other travel and non-travel brands.
Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
Consumer insight has told us that people are ready to travel again and are seeking to regain trust in travel providers in order to book with confidence. This, combined with people getting busier and the cost of living increasing, means that consumers are seeking a service that works for them and ensures their individual needs are met. This presents a large opportunity for us to engage tech-savvy young professionals and travelers across Australia.
Against that backdrop is the reality that a large percentage of Australian travelers still turn to retail travel agents to help plan their holidays. Awai has identified an opportunity to solve the problems for these travelers that they’re not seeing resolved online.
How and when will you make money?
We’ll create a loyal community of like-minded travelers by providing unique and exceptional online and offline experiences. We will apply modern, Al-driven revenue management logic to manage margin on a sub-component level, allowing us to achieve above-industry margins. By dynamically combining flights and hotels, we keep the underlying prices opaque, allowing our content partners to enforce price parity while offloading excess inventory and offering great consumer value.
We expect to break even within the first year of operation.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
The founding team possesses substantial expertise in the travel, technology and retail industries, plus a proven track record of establishing successful startups. The platform’s co-founders include Cameron Holland, former CEO at Luxury Escapes, and David Gold and Marco Vetter. David was an early investor in companies such as Aconex and Redbubble and the former chairman of Luxury Escapes. Marco held several senior positions in airlines and in aviation management consulting in Europe and Australia, as well as retail companies such as Myer and Michael Hill.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
We don’t have any specific statements, policies or partnerships in place at this stage. Instead, we live it daily with a very diverse team across many nationalities based more or less across the globe, a healthy female/male mix and a very flexible work environment that allows everybody to balance their personal circumstances with work. As we grow, we’re planning to formalize more of these things and pursue specific partnerships that align with our brand values.
What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
Like most startups, it’s getting the vision live and the time and effort it takes to get there. Startups aren’t sitting on mountains of money so spend is crucial, but at the same time so is productivity. Particularly in travel, the technology barriers-to-entry are quite high.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
Our product combined with our passion and experience for travel has allowed us to create a new approach to the industry that puts customers first. It will take time to educate consumers on the benefits of Awai, but we strongly believe that once customers have experienced our product, we’ll be able to form long-standing, loyal customer relationships.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
We will have more destinations in play, direct hotel and airline agreements and more unique offerings.
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
Ultimately, we want to deliver a better experience for our customers. In the long term this might be best achieved through either partnering with an existing brand or going public.
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