Booking a holiday is fun, but booking a professional trip often isn’t. TripActions is trying to change that with a solution that incentivizes employees to spend more consciously through a rewards program. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup, which has been in stealth mode until now, announced today the launch of its travel-booking app, as well as a funding round of $14.6 million.
Rather than wrestling with the administrative hassles involved in complying with company policies, TripActions wants to encourage employees to book their corporate trips themselves on a native app that allows on-the-go flexibility to change, cancel, and chat with customer support 24/7. The upside for companies? They save 25-30 percent on corporate travel expenses.
“A lot of corporate bookings today aren’t done online, which is more expensive,” cofounder and chief executive Ariel Cohen said in an interview with VentureBeat. “90 percent of the bookings that happen with our customers happen online.”
The idea is to provide a massive inventory that includes big chains like Marriott and Hilton and also booking sites like Priceline.com and Booking.com, which is why TripActions doesn’t view these travel sites as competition.
“We are essentially a marketplace for them,” cofounder and chief technology officer Ilan Twig said. “Also, we have access to the enterprise, which means that our partners are getting access to these users.”
Even though the app has been in beta, around 70 organizations, including eHarmony and SurveyMonkey, have started using it. Some have access to pilots, and some are paying for it.
“We are targeting companies that have employees anywhere between 300 to 2,000,” Cohen said. “We generally approach the CFO [chief financial officer] to pitch our solution, as they are the ones that really get the value.”
TripActions simplifies the transactional process by offering one flat booking fee per trip, compared with what they refer to as the “Chinese menu” options from travel booking agencies. On top of the booking fee, TripActions also takes a commission from airlines and hotels that have been booked via the app.
But the founders aren’t only betting on rich inventories and powerful algorithms. They are also factoring in human psychology. “What people optimize for on corporate travel is completely different than what they optimize for on personal travel,” said Twig.
People factor in the money component much more when booking personal trips, according to Twig. “One corporate buck does not equal one personal buck,” he said. “There’s a currency issue here that drives a certain behavior, and forcing a very strict travel policy does not solve the currency issue.”
The founders therefore came up with TripBucks to save companies up to 30 percent on travel expenses and reward employees for their conscious spending. “For every buck that you save as an employee, the company will pay you 30 cents,” said Cohen. “So now you kind of think about the corporate money as if it was your own.”
In order to reach the right price benchmark, the startup looks at several different factors, which it then measures and optimizes through A/B testing. According to the founders, the three most relevant factors are availability in the market, company policy, and employee preferences.
Oren Zeev of Zeev Ventures led the round, with participation from Arif Janmohamed of Lightspeed Venture Partners. This new money will be used to scale the platform and expand its presence on the market.
The startup was founded in 2015 and currently has 35 employees.