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WIT Speakers Corner: Hail, the start-ups that are actually trying to solve problems

Posted on 22 Jul 2010 at 10:38 am by Kevin May, Editor, TNooz

Talk to anyone in the business development wing of a travel company and they always say during tough economic times there is a greater call for new ideas.

In some respects this is quite a disappointing statement to make as it suggests that such lateral thinking only takes place when companies fear the impact of forces outside of their control.

However, at least it indicates that hidden away in darkened rooms of established travel companies across the world there are feverish levels of strategic thinking and activity taking place right now.

Or so we hope.

Otherwise, the theory goes, it is simply left to start-ups to come up with “the new stuff”.

History tells us that the challenges to the status quo in travel over the past 15 years have come from ideas conceived by those outside the industry – think Google, metasearch, online travel agencies, Facebook et al.

But it is not just the big disruptors that are the most interesting. And this is perhaps where the current swathe of travel start-ups come in, and should deserve our attention.

There is a sense to many industry watchers that the past 12 months or so has triggered the start of a Golden Age of travel start-ups.

Is this related to buckets of capital swilling about or, in stark contrast, the perilous state of the global economy? In reality it’s probably a combination of the two.

Out of adversity comes a desire to change things, try something new – a concept that excites investors who are naturally drawn to funding The Little Guy rather than taking a strategic but often small stake within an existing and often large corporation.

The principles of Web 2.0 and the rise of mobile have opened up the web to a further round of wonderfully inventive website ideas, some based purely on content and media, others braving the world of ecommerce.

At one end of the scale there is the delightfully simple iQueue project from Canada, a mobile system that allows travellers to request someone to stand in lengthy queues for them outside city attractions.

And, at the other end, there is a long line of those attempting to marry social media with trip planning, including Tourist Eye, Hotel Peeps, TrustYou and

But we are also seeing a fantastic push to develop software that brings about new solutions to some of the industry’s myriad of complex problems.

Just two of the companies in this realm are iNNtelligenz and Checkfront.

It is in the area of problem solving, however, where we still see one of the most common challenge facing start-ups.

As brutal as it sounds, some ideas are simply not worth pursuing because they do not solve an existing problem.

Now many would say that some of the best ideas kicking about are ones that create something utterly new and unique – but this is incredibly rare and generally very wrong.

The best ideas are those that solve an existing and complex problem with a new and more efficient methodology.

Unfortunately there are some travel start-ups (unfair to name them here) that often appear to have not considered whether their service actually solves a problem, rendering it meaningless to the outside world or industry and, more importantly and regrettably, simply being a waste of time and resources.

Too many seem to claim the product was conceived after the founder(s) had taken umbrage over a personal travel experience.

To the hardened entrepreneur, this is not a particularly well thought through strategy.

Only those that have gone through a lengthy process of understanding the industry’s complicated channels and technological protocols can identify a problem-solving solution.

Thankfully the problem-solving start-ups do seem to be outweighing the bad apples in the pack – and it is indeed an enjoyable and fruitful period in travel’s continuous evolution.

Note: Kevin May (see profile) will be appearing at the WITovation Entrepreneur Bootcamp, which is supported by TNooz and its start-up showcase, TLabs. Submit your business areas to and be mentored by our panel of advisors and judges. Your entries will also be showcased in both WIT and TNooz TLabs. 


Tags: Kevin May , TNooz , start-ups , TLabs , iQueue , Tourist Eye , Hotel Peeps , TrustYou , , INNtelligenz , Checkfront