We are thrilled to work at one of the most recognized travel startups transforming the industry today. But we thrive in part due to our colleagues who have built global businesses that are changing how we travel in radical ways. To kickstart 2020, we reflected on hundreds of conversations from the past year to understand which startups are crafting a completely new narrative for the travel industry.
Here are the 10 startups to watch in 2020:
Navan is an all-in-one travel, corporate card, and expense management solution that empowers business travelers with self-service booking and itinerary management directly through iOS and Android apps, along with smart cards to eliminate expense reports. With the swipe of a physical or virtual card, expenses are automatically created, submitted, and reconciled.
The app allows admins to set booking and spend policies up front to prevent policy violations before they happen. Finance teams can access real-time data to drive smarter decisions on traveler safety, cost-savings, and efficiencies. Interactive dashboards provide an instant view of travel and spend, which can be sliced and diced with unprecedented granularity. What used to take hours now takes minutes, saving companies time and money.
TRVL Porter is revolutionizing the way that business travelers prepare for an upcoming trip. The service uses technology and personal stylists to curate a wardrobe and sends it directly to the business travelers ́destinations. Users pay $65 per article of clothing and send it all back once their trip is complete. TRVL Porter founder Stefanie Nissen envisions a future in which packing is easier and more sustainable for the planet.
“Technology has really enabled the ease of travel and we crave those simple experiences. The future of travel is going to be an easy process and hassling with luggage won’t be part of that,” says Nissen.
“There is no experience today where travelers receive an alert that their personalized look book is available for their trip, they select what they want, and it is waiting for them. I really see there is a way to offer toiletries, beauty products, even undergarments and pajamas and shoes. Because the future of fashion is rental, I believe it is going to be easy to get what you want and then be done with it.”
Rental fashion reduces waste in landfills, cuts down on water electricity used to produce clothing, and shifts the fashion industry towards sustainability.
Timeshifter is an app designed by scientists to eradicate jet lag. Business travelers can create personalized jet lag plans based on sleep and circadian neuroscience. As business travel becomes more frequent, road warriors are tasked with staying productive and well while crossing time zones. (Navan has covered top tips to beat jet lag here.) Timeshifter has become popular, fast, and we're excited to see the science in this area progress.
Hello Alfred is a home management service that makes it easier for business travelers to manage their lives and homes while frequent on the go. The Hello Alfred app helps city-dwellers automate tasks such as laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and pet care in one place so they're never scrambling to get things done while in and out of the house.
Launched in 2014, Hello Alfred was named one of the Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company and recently expanded into partnerships with urban buildings that incorporate the services from the outset. The app also uses artificial intelligence to learn about users’ habits and preferences so they receive a better experience with each transaction.
FlixBus is one of the dominant long-distance bus carriers in Europe and recently expanded to the U.S. where it will provide marketing and ticketing services to regional franchise operators. As millennial travelers become more aware of the environmental effects of frequent air travel, it is expected that more business travelers will choose train and bus travel for relatively short distances.
What's exciting about FlixBus is that it has the technology to make that experience simpler than a flight further incentivizing travelers to forego a flight. This could become even more important in the future should corporations start to put carbon limits on their most frequent travelers.
Local Time is tackling business traveler well-being and low-impact packaging to create a culture shift in flying. The Vancouver-based startup creates powered packs of micronutrients to be taken before, during, and after a flight to help business travelers rebalance their body from the inside out.
Not only are their travel-inspired formulas crafted with organic ingredients, but Local Time packaging is designed to be 100% compostable. The bio-based packaging material, made primarily of pulp cellulose, is certified compostable for home and industrial facilities. It’s designed to break down naturally, in a short period of time, and fully biodegrade whether put into a home compost bin, an industrial composting facility, or open landfill.
As business travelers increasingly look for ways to feel better on the road while also being as sustainable as possible with their purchasing power, Local Time is the kind of product that can serve as a lighthouse for others looking to create a new kind of business travel reality.
Turo is a new car-sharing platform that helps skip the outdated car rental system and loan cars from hosts. It is currently live in 5,500 cities across the United States as well as select cities in Canada and Europe. With its app TuroGo, users can find, book and unlock an app while in the destination. Another interesting startup to watch in the car rental sector is Ola, which helps travelers book nearby cabs.
Kambr is a B2B SaaS startup focused on innovation in the airline industry that recently raised $4 million in funding. Its mission is to help airlines navigate the challenges of digital transformation by lifting their revenues through operator-designed products.
As Kambr puts it, “A perfect storm has been steadily brewing to disrupt the industry status quo. The ever-evolving airline-passenger relationship, digitalization, an explosion of data sources and a host of new technologies have shaken traditional models and methods to their core.” They seek to transform airline commercial operations. Here at Navan, we are bullish on technologies that want to bring the outdated aspects of the travel industry into the future.
GetYourGuide is an online travel agency for sightseeing tours and experiences based in Berlin. It started by offering tours from operators, but has started marketing tours designed by the brand itself. The activities sector remains ripe for innovation and GetYourGuide is well-positioned to lead the revolution. The company raised a $484 million round in April 2019. Its new branded tour business could shake up the sector, if it succeeds.
There is no single startup that stands out in this sector, but we are excited to watch the growth of alternative business travel accommodations that fall somewhere in the sweet spot between a hotel and apartment. The startups that fall within this category—including Sonder, Lyric, and The Guild—are primarily designed for the frequent business traveler who makes regular trips to a certain destination. Their business is based on working directly with corporations or corporate travel management systems.
Another aspect that makes this sector particularly attractive is the sizable investments that the startups have received. Sonder’s total funding is $360 million, Lyric’s funding has reached $160 million with help from Airbnb, and The Guild recently announced its latest round of funding for a total of $25 million.
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