Corporate travel startup Spotnana has just emerged from stealth
mode with the backing of some major industry players, and the company is touting
equally major plans to shake up the sector.
The brainchild of WTMC founder Sarosh Waghmar, Spotnana can
act as a full travel management company for direct corporate clients, but also
is offering its technology platform to support the operations of other TMCs and
suppliers, in an arrangement the company likened to acting as an Amazon Web
Services for the corporate travel industry.
Among the boldface names involved in the Bay
Area-headquartered venture are Concur co-founder Steve Singh, who serves as
Spotnana chairman and is an investor in the company, along with veteran
corporate travel innovator Johnny Thorsen in the role of vice president of
partnerships. Former Concur sales chief Bill Tillman will head Spotnana’s
efforts in that area, while onetime American Express Global Business Travel COO
Bill Brindle will serve as its vice president of travel operations
In an interview with BTN, Singh said he had expected not to
return to the travel sector after leaving SAP Concur in 2017 but was
“reinvigorated” by Waghmar’s vision for Spotnana, which centers on
uniting various aspects of the travel process that traditionally had been
fragmented among disparate tech stacks and controlled by multiple stakeholders
with various motivations and incentives.
– Additional reporting by Elizabeth West
“Everything from the GDS layer, to the mid-office …
it’s all very fragmented. They have different customer records, they have
different motivations,” said Singh. “Various TMCs have motivations to
only deliver the content that they want to preference, as opposed to what the
customer wants,” he added.
Spotnana aims to bring harmony to those competing priorities
by leveraging the current generation of cloud-based network technology,
offering what Singh described as a “full range of functionality a customer
needs, that integrates content from any source, but yet is also
Looking for Clients Who Share a Vision
That configurability is key to Spotnana’s use case as tech
architecture underpinning the operations of third-party TMCs and other suppliers,
who can customize the platform to their own specific needs and add value
tailored for their own target audience via the system’s open-API model, Singh
noted. For instance, an air carrier can build a more robust content display
than is available in the GDS atop Spotnana’s platform, he added.
The company currently has two TMC partners and is working
with several others, and will launch with multiple partners across the expense,
HR and duty of care verticals.
While the platform-based service model is a key aspect of
Spotnana’s overall value proposition, the company is equally focused on
bundling that tech into a full TMC service offering for direct corporate
clients—of which currently it has about 50 of various sizes—in order to serve
as a model for how cutting-edge technology can provide a superior offering for
clients, according to Singh.
“We want to set the bar of what the customer experience
ought to be,” said Singh. “You should deliver to the customer the
full range of choice that customer is entitled to … and align to how customers
want to consume technology.”
As Spotnana sees it, that means offering a full range of
booking content from multiple sources on a global scale, offered via a pay-per-use
model as opposed to a subscription fee. And while the company declined to
disclose its per-trip cost, Singh said Spotnana would leverage the cost-effectiveness
of its cloud-based tech stack and pass those savings along to customers.
Waghmar is no stranger to shaking up existing travel
industry frameworks. His previous venture, WTMC,
was largely built upon the premise of upending the model of GDSs using
financial incentives to drive TMCs to book volume through their channels, even
if the content available in that channel was not the best option for the
WTMC has ceased operations, with some of its key clients
moving on to relationships with major TMCs. But that anti-status quo ethos still
runs through Spotnana’s veins as well, Waghmar told BTN.
“It’s not just time to change the technology, it’s even
time to change the entire business model,” Waghmar noted—citing the
reduced costs of cloud computing and advances in artificial intelligence and
machine learning as the key factors that allow for Spotnana to offer an
alternative to the legacy infrastructure he said has hindered efficiency and
misaligned priorities throughout the travel ecosystem.
Investors Back Next-Gen Travel Tech
At the moment, Spotnana has “around 120”
employees, Waghmar said, with the majority in development roles as the company
continues to build out its platform, along with a growing sales and marketing
As for funding, Singh’s Madrona Venture Group recently
joined with ICONIQ Capital to lead a $34 million Series A round.
“I’m incredibly pleased to work with an entrepreneur
like Sarosh,” said Singh. “He has experience in the travel industry,
but also is a great technologist. You can’t just be a technologist and you can’t
just be travel executive. You have to understand both domains, and that’s how
you bring value to the customer.”