Business travel took a huge hit during the global pandemic. Fortunately, the skies are becoming friendly again and here to take advantage of the situation and changing demands of business travelers is a startup called Tripkicks led by CEO Jeff Berk. There’s a lot to be impressed by with Tripkicks; you’ll read about it below. What’s really cool is the splash they’ve made in the business travel industry. Tripkick was recognized as thePhocusWire Hot Startup 2021 and winner of the Seventh Annual Business Travel News (BTN) Innovate Award for advancing business travel and the TechLaunch BullPen #20. With business travel returning to a new normal, Tripkicks is on trend and has strong traction with large Fortune 500 brands. The VisionTech Screening Committee was impressed so we invited Jeff to present at our April virtual pitch events. Here’s a preview.
BP: How did you hear about VisionTech Angels?
JB: We were introduced through one of our board members, Eric Baum, who is a partner at Solidea Capital. He spoke highly of VisionTech through the work they’ve done with other VisionTech portfolio companies.
BP: Tell me about your company and how it came to be. What unmet need did you see?
JB: Before Tripkicks, I was a managing director at consulting firm that specialized in corporate travel, expense and procurement technology. I saw first-hand how incredibly slow the business travel industry moves. Companies were concerned with reducing travel expenses and increasing policy compliance. They spent considerable resources putting in platforms to enable that. Now, as business travel restarts, new objectives are being introduced around important initiatives like health and safety, employee satisfaction and ESG. Companies want to address these priorities, but are also keen to not lose sight of the more traditional goals around cost and policy.
This, combined with the fact that business travel is re-emerging after a global pandemic, business travel programs are looking for new capabilities as their travelers return to the skies and roads. As an add-on to business travel programs, we provide tools to influence traveler behavior and bring additional information and capabilities that allow travellers to make better decisions that are in line with company goals and individual preferences. Our initial focus is around point-of-sale for the business traveler.
BP: How are you solving your market’s pain point?
JB: We’re focused on making business travel better by helping companies address these new priority areas without changing their existing infrastructure. Tripkicks does three things. First, we provide important travel insights such as health and safety information, entry/documentation requirements, local destination intelligence, notifications from employers, and more when travelers are booking a trip.
We also provide guidance to help these travelers select the most appropriate travel options. Examples of this are that we show travelers which options are the most eco-friendly and where additional benefits are available through their corporate agreements. Finally, we motivate travelers to make specific decisions and change behaviors. Here’s an example, we’ve built an algorithm that introduces rate targets to guide appropriate trip spend, and we can even reward travelers for specific decisions such as choosing a cheaper flight or a more ecofriendly property. This allows them to earn gift cards or fund a carbon offset project.
BP: What is your traction to date?
JB: Even though the business travel industry is still finding its legs after the global pandemic, our traction is strong, particularly in the enterprise segment. Early customers include some of the world’s largest companies and cover a wide range of industries like social networks, apparel, technology, media, and pharmaceuticals. We’re currently in implementation with several others, and our pipeline has never been stronger. We’re a lean team that has been able to build a big reputation in our industry given the problems that we are solving and the high-profile accounts coming onboard.
BP: How big is your addressable market and what is your revenue model?
JB: In 2019, the annual spend for online corporate bookings of airlines and lodging was $82 billion. Online travel bookings by Fortune 500 companies are generally between $35 million to $100 million annually, with smaller travel programs spending anywhere from $1 million to $35 million. Much like other business travel companies, Tripkicks takes a percentage of the spend on airlines and lodging.
BP: With other, increasingly sophisticated options to in-person meetings, why do you think business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels?
JB: Business Travel is a resilient industry that has a history of coming back faster than expected. We’re already seeing strong signals from the mid-market. Larger companies have been more conservative in restarting travel, but we continue to hear from our clients that platforms like Tripkicks help provide the confidence to restart. Of course, some previous trips will be forever replaced by video conferencing, which is positive for us as a society, but we’re also seeing new types of trips. For example, more frequent and purposeful team travel, a direct result of more remote work environments. Industry trade shows are returning to in-person events, and people are excited to once again meet in-person.
BP: What is your competitive advantage?
JB: We are first to market and have taken full advantage of that by building a strong brand and network of resellers and referral partners to keep us ahead of future competition. A major advantage for Tripkicks is that we don’t replace existing services or technology, which reduces the burden of change for a company.
Additionally, our partnership and unique integration with SAP Concur, the dominant corporate booking tool, has propelled us into the spotlight. These partnerships give Tripkicks industry credibility while also demonstrating that we work with rather than against legacy service and tech providers in the business travel space. Business travel is a close-knit industry that is extremely difficult to break into, but once you’re in, the potential exists for rapid growth.
BP: What raise is this and how much are you trying to raise?
JB: This is a pre-seed round. We raised $1 million in 2021 for product development. Our goal is to raise an additional $500,000 to support us to a Series A round in early 2023.
BP: What is you planned use of funds?
JB: We have rapidly added clients to our portfolio and our pipeline is very strong. This raise will go to continuing our sales growth and supporting clients as they restart business travel in their organizations. Additionally, we plan to expand our ESG-related product functionality and expand into other traveler touchpoints beyond the booking process.
BP: Why is ESG functionality important? Is that something business travelers or their companies care about?
JB: ESG is really the perfect storm right now. Not only are we seeing pressure from the top-down as boards of directors mandate new requirements, but it’s also something that is coming from the bottom-up. The environment and social issues are incredibly important to younger generations who make up the majority of business travelers.
BP: Give three reasons why VisionTech Angels should invest in your company?
JB: Sure, Ben. First, our early traction within our primary market, Fortune 500 and large companies, is impressive and demonstrates the desire for Tripkicks’ offering. Second, while we’re focused on sales and client engagement, we continue to build out our platform to add more of the functionality our target clientele wants and can’t find elsewhere. Third, we have an all-star team that is immersed in this industry. We’re highly visibility, capitalizing on opportunities for high exposure among our prospects. As part of that, we’re fortunate to have a brain trust of advisors, board members, and supporters with deep experience in travel and growing companies.
To learn more about Tripkicks, visit their website. VisionTech Angels’ March Pitch Events will be virtual on Thursday, April 28 at Noon ET and at 6 p.m. ET. Pitch events are open to our members and accredited investors interested in joining our group. To register, check your email for an invitation, go to our Events page or email Ben Pidgeon at email@example.com.