Even in a global industry such as travel and hospitality, where a Founding team chooses to locate a company can factor heavily into its chances for success. Access to a local community and dedicated resources can help a startup struggle much less than it would've otherwise. The right home base can mean greater accessibility of expert advice, stronger camaraderie with like-minded people, organic business development opportunities, and a top-notch local labor pool.
Alongside our virtual community, we established a physical space for Voyager HQ in New York City to amplify many of those assets and further capture the value of the city’s resources for local startup founders. A few notable travel-related companies that call NYC home are Away (luggage), Fareportal (online travel agency), Rocketrip (corporate travel management), and ALICE (hospitality operations).
As Voyager HQ expands outside of New York with the .events series, we've been looking for key locations to find and build up strong startup communities. We’ve ended identifying some of the best places to be a travel startup in the U.S. by looking at existing startup hubs that are primed for our unique blend of local events and global community. Each of these cities has a thriving startup scene and an existing set of resources that make for stronger networks and better outcomes for both new and existing travel startups.
Here are some of the best cities we’ve identified for travel startups, based on Voyager HQ member data and industry research. To clarify - Founders most certainly don’t have to be located in one of these cities to thrive. But if you’re considering where to make a home base for your travel companies, here are a few suggestions.
As home to SXSW, the sprawling music, film, and tech festival held in March, Austin has well-established startup bonafides. Our first event coincides with the festival: Travel Launch, organized in collaboration withTravel Massive, the global community of travel professionals, and Locale, a new accommodations provider based in Austin.
In Austin, strong job creation is met with an active investor community, as Austin was recently named the top Surge City by Inc. magazine. The list recognized the city for its blend of big names (like Apple, Facebook, and Dropbox) and local success stories (like WholeFoods and HomeAway). Austin's proximity to Dallas is also noteworthy, as that city is home to the headquarters of travel companies like American Airlines, Sabre, and Southwest.
Notable local startups: Localeur (in-destination discovery app), TripChamp (travel agent and travel management technology), Lunamoons (collaborative trip booking for agents), Triploop (group travel operations platform), KEY Concierge (bespoke concierge services), GlobeKick (personalized itineraries), Shep Travel (corporate travel management), Locale (accommodations), and OnceThere (in-destination activities booking).
We selected Boston as our second city due to its proximity to so many universities and world-class technologists. With such a consistent pipeline of talent, the city attracts more than its fair share of new companies, in addition to existing heavyweights like TripAdvisor and FareHarbor.
Our launch event in Boston is a Travel Pitch Night on April 17th in partnership with JetBlue Ventures. We're also looking for additional local expertise to help with launching the city. Reach out to Jenny if you're interested in launching with us, or fill out our Event Director Application to throw your hat in the ring to run travel tech events in Boston!
Notable local startups: Hopper, (AI-driven flight and hotel recommendations), Lola (corporate travel management), Freebird (flight disruption rebooking), Wanderu (bus/train metasearch), Groupize (group travel management), Lumo (flight delay predictions) and PlacePass (in-destination activities marketplace).
San Francisco, CA
Silicon Valley maintains its grip on startup culture. While it's no longer necessary to be in the Bay Area to succeed as a startup, the region enjoys a critical mass of talented workers, venture capital, and established local institutions that support startups. San Francisco often ranks high on lists around financing and startup appeal. It earned the fifth spot on Inc.’s Surge Cities, owing to this concentration of workers and capital.
Notable local startups: MapBox (Maps-as-a-service), HotelTonight (hotel booking platform), Guesty (vacation rental software), Peek (in-destination activities), Lyric (accommodations), Beyond Pricing (vacation rental pricing), LoungeBuddy (airport lounges), TravelBank (expense management) and AnyRoad (booking and CRM).
According to LinkedIn’s latest workforce report, Denver is second to only Austin as the most “moved to” city by millennials. Drawn by the mix of mountain lifestyle and cosmopolitan amenities, new residents are contributing to the massive growth in both Denver and nearby Boulder. Home to Frontier Airlines and Inspirato, Denver enjoys a status as a tourist hub for midwest travel.
There’s also a growing community of local investors, which feed the startup scene with capital, expertise, and connections. Reflecting this growing cachet among investors, CB Insights recently named Denver an “up and comer” tech hub.
Local resources: Built in Colorado, Colorado Travel Massive, Techstars, Young Travel Professionals Colorado
Notable local startups: Redeam (voucher technology), Pana (corporate travel management), Traveler’s Haven (corporate housing), TripCents (saving/budgeting tool), TheDiscoverer (travel guides)
Los Angeles, CA
Climate isn't the only thing that attracts businesses to Los Angeles. Home to over 13 million people, the LA metro region’s concentration of potential customers and workers, coupled with strong connections to Asia, make it a viable alternative to startup life in San Francisco.
Notable local startups: Airmule (shipping logistics), ResortPass (hotel day use), AvantStay (accommodations), Hotel Tech Report (vendor search), Surf Air (aviation), and RunTriz (platform for hotels), BookingPal (vacation rental software), Intelity (hospitality software) and Baarb (personalized travel search), Lokal (sustainable immersive experiences).