Voyager is launching the next generation of travel startups

Anthony Sodd on Feb 8th, 2017 for Built In NYC

The global tourism industry is a $7.2 trillion business, yet other than Airbnb, you probably can’t name another billion dollar travel tech company.

Voyager, a newly launched club for travel entrepreneurs backed by travel tech pioneer Sam S. Jain, is determined to help the next generation of travel tech companies succeed.

“We want to be the hub and connector between potential investors, innovators and corporate partners in the travel space,” John Matson, Digital Director said. 

Aware that travel entrepreneurs have a tendency to spend a good amount of time on the road, Voyager is bringing the club online. Their digital platform provides entrepreneurs with resources, job board listings and a means to see what’s going on in the industry. So far, the company said they have over 250 companies of varying sizes active on the platform.

The hub of all the action is Voyager’s clubhouse, a 7,000 square foot space in the Flatiron District. The space hosts roundtables with corporate industry executives and startup founders, pitch nights and networking events. There are meeting rooms and even a coworking space currently being used by around 40 companies.

Of course, there’s a reason there haven’t been very many hugely successful travel tech companies — it’s a hard space to operate in. While every entrepreneur faces unique challenges, travel tech founders face a particularly uphill battle.

“The problems they’re solving for tend to require an immense amount of capital,” Andrew Stein, Managing Director said. “Or, they need a really diverse group to overcome technical issues because much of the infrastructure that does exist in the travel industry is really outdated.”

It’s not that the corporate bigwigs aren’t interested, but there’s a communication barrier between them and the startup world.

“We hear from corporate travel companies that they really want to work with startups,” Stein said. “But, usually startups are too early stage when they reach out to corporations, or they’re too big by the time corporations finally hear about them. Although our corporate partners are pushing for innovation, what a startup needs and wants is often different than what a big a corporation needs and wants. Voyager can be the facilitator who makes sure both parties get what they need and want.”

The really big players in the travel industry, the airlines, are dinosaurs by today’s standards and have little to gain by updating their systems to play nice with a bunch of scrappy upstarts.

“Airline ticketing systems use computer systems from the 70’s and 80’s,” Matson said. “If you’re not driving thousands of ticket sales a day, it’s generally not worth it for a big corporate player to work with you, to integrate your product into their old-world systems.”

“We’ve only been doing this for 6 months, and the interest is astronomical," Matson said.

Images via Eva Cruz