A conversation with xCheck’s founder Tim Underwood

(Originally published at https://traveltechessentialist.substack.com)

In May 2020, I wrote a post titled The Greatest Startup Accelerator? in which I mentioned that Covid might trigger an acceleration of collaborations between startups and corporates for two main reasons:

1. Corporates will have gone through rounds of layoffs that could tilt the “build vs buy” trade off towards the buy side.

2. Corporates will have a more urgent need to bring about higher levels of innovation to adapt to a new environment.

What 2 months ago seemed like a non-urgent long term option, could become an immediate strategic imperative today.

Most airlines and…

Talent, capital and opportunities are no longer concentrated in the usual suspects. This trend will accelerate in a world with an increasingly distributed workforce.

AOL founder Steve Case often refers to the Rise of the Rest, a new era for entrepreneurship across the US in which high-growth companies can start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities. This is clearly happening on a global scale as well, as this post reflects.

This analysis is based on 878 travel and mobility startups that have raised fundraising rounds between early 2018 and Feb 2021. I will look first at their geographic distribution and then take a closer look at five countries: USA, UK, Germany, Spain, and France.

1. Distribution of the 878 travel and mobility startups

Europe: 316 startups
USA + Canada: 275

A look at the the most active investors in travel companies around the world

Last year, before the full outset of the Pandemic, I wrote an article titled Venture Capital in Travel Techwhich looked at the who, what, when and where behind the billions in financing flowing to travel startups.

In this post, I will go into more detail in terms of who specifically has been investing in travel startups, based on around 1000 funding transactions (including debt) from October 2018 to February 2021 using data aggregated from Crunchbase and from my personal research for my Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter. I am only including the most recent round for each startup transaction. …

A look at the opportunities and challenges ahead for various travel subcategories (products, players and trends)

(Originally published at https://traveltechessentialist.substack.com)

In the Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter #45, I referred to a a framework for decision-making in time of change that was proposed by Alex Rampell, GP at Andreessen Horowitz. The matrix has 4 quadrants, two of which reflect potentially good investments and the other two point to potentially bad investments:

Best investments:

  • Structurally positive means that something has finally caught on-there’s no going back to the older, worse, more expensive alternative.
  • Ephemerally negative: consumption has been rendered challenging, but there is a lot of latent demand which will be soaked up once activity returns. …

This company will triple its marketshare and double its revenues in 2020 after posting sales of north of $1 billion in 2019. Around 75% of its revenues do not come from travel transactions. They come from financial products that help customers make better travel decisions. Oh, and it doesn’t rely on Google for traffic.

I’m talking about Hopper, an OTA founded in 2007, headquartered in Montreal, and built on the premise that the combination of big data and AI could fundamentally change the way people plan and book travel.

I recently saw a 1 hour interview with its founder CEO Fred Lalonde. In this November 2020 discussion, Fred talked candidly about Hopper’s business and about the travel industry going forward. It’s definitely worth listening to it, but in case you don’t have 1 hour, I hope you have 7 minutes to read my summary. I was going to simply link to the video on…

Happy Friday, and thanks for your interest in my Medium blog.

I am writing to invite you to sign up to receive my Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter in your inbox every two weeks with my pick of the top 10 stories and innovations shaping the travel tech ecosystem. Since I launched the newsletter last year, it has grown in reach and relevance beyond what I initially expected. Given your interest in the sector, I think you’d find the newsletter worth your time.

You can subscribe (for free) and check out previous newsletter issues here.

Thanks a lot and I hope you have a great weekend,


This Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter was sent on November 28th 2020 to my newsletter subscribers. If you are interested in getting in your inbox my top 10 travel tech trends and stories every two weeks, you can sign up here. Thank you!

1. The future doesn’t happen to us; it happens because of us

“The present has stopped working. We must create a different future”. Mike Maples, Partner at VC firm Floodgate believes that now, more than ever, the world needs more entrepreneurs, who have the courage to step up, in the face of great odds and design an exponentially different future. In How to Build a Breakthrough, Mike describes a method that can be used to create futures with breakthrough ideas. His article is both inspiring and concrete. Read +.

2. Suspend reality and buy despite Airbnb’s objective challenges

I wrote a post titled “Airbnb vs Booking” to compare both players with hard data. Airbnb’s top line is admirable (like Booking’s). Airbnb’s…

This Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter was sent on November 12th 2020 to my newsletter subscribers. If you are interested in getting in your inbox my top 10 travel tech trends and stories every two weeks, you can sign up here. Thank you!

Without constraints, we’re left with no tension and no chance for innovation or surprise. All creative work has constraints, because all creativity is based on using existing constraints to find new solutions. — Seth Godin.

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said this week that he still thinks it will take years and not quarters before the travel market returns to pre-COVID volumes. The collapse of travel demand is indeed one gigantic once-in-a-lifetime constraint. However, there are pandemic-native companies and others that are adapting to the new constraints in a way that is resonating with travel consumers. Such is the case…

Suspend reality and buy despite Airbnb’s objective challenges

Now that we have some hard data on Airbnb, I thought it would be revealing to compare Airbnb and Booking Holdings with objective numbers in an attempt to better understand Airbnb’s valuation and its potential going forward.


  • Airbnb’s expected IPO valuation could be reasonable in the absence of Covid. But I would suspend reality and buy under the current conditions given Airbnb’s track record in breakthrough thinking and its successful adjustment to new travel dynamics.
  • Airbnb’s top line is admirable. Like Booking’s. Airbnb’s bottom line is not. Unlike Booking’s.
  • Airbnb’s organic and direct business might be all the rage…

Travel Search and Booking Dynamics in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

This online survey was done on September 2020 with 18.000 respondents from Argentina, 13.000 from Brazil and 11.000 from Mexico. The responses below apply only to the subsegment of respondents who had purchased a flight or an accommodation (hotel or alternative accommodations) in the previous 12 months: 1134 in Argentina, 1425 in Brazil, 1231 in Mexico. The purpose of this survey was to understand their travel search and booking behaviors.

0. High level summary

Travel Search

  • Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are the leading channel to start searching for flights and accommodations in Argentina, and for accommodations in Mexico.
  • Search engines are the leading channel to start…

Mauricio Prieto

Entrepreneur, technology consultant, startup advisor, digital transformation. eDreams cofounder, former CMO

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