Getting space in travel is hard for startups in new technology, says VC-veteran William Bao Bean, general partner at SOSV, as companies like Priceline and Ctrip in China dominate the industry. Unless you are able to solve specific problems, he tells WebinTravel.
“Travel is a closed insular industry, there’s a lot of history and baggage. The incumbents really don’t want it to happen – it’s not in their interests to open up too much. It’s also hard to compete against the likes of Priceline that spends US$6 billion on marketing or Ctrip, which is so dominant in China.”
He however sees opportunities for “innovating around travel for companies that solve specific problems”.
Bao Bean said that SOSV, which groups seven accelerators, does about 150 investments a year, out of which there may be two to four in travel. In total, SOSV’s portfolio includes 700 investments, with the number one sector being biotech and fossil fuels. Bao Bean also founded MOX, SOSV’s Mobile-Only Accelerator, in partnership with GMobi, the largest mobile platform for South-east Asia and India.
In addition, he is also an active angel investor, doing about 40 investments a year personally.
His interests in travel range from luxury travel – one of his investments include Go Portier, the hotel concierge service used at The Siam in Bangkok – to the corporate segment through an app that offers services in 20 cities across Asia Pacific. He’s also involved in Rikai Labs, a Shanghai and San Francisco-based startup that builds chatbots that are distributed via messaging platforms like WeChat, Messenger and Slack.
Bao Bean is not afraid of testing – he tried social commerce for hotels “but it failed”. “You need decent engagement – event tickets, packages, weekend getaways, last minute trips – but it’s tough given Ctrip’s domination in the market.”
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