Latest Omio News
May 21, 2021
Omio , Europe’s leading multi-modal travel booking platform, today announced its partnership with KAYAK , the world’s leading travel search engine. The collaboration means that anyone using the KAYAK web platform will get direct access to Omio’s thousands of European rail and bus partners. The partnership is live in seven markets and across all of KAYAK’s travel price comparison brands, which include KAYAK, momondo, SWOODOO, Checkfelix, Mundi and HotelsCombined. As Omio and the travel industry as a whole emerge from the current crisis period, companies are trying to understand changing customer needs and to accommodate them. With safety and sustainability set to be increasingly front-of-mind for future travellers, this latest partnership will provide customers with more flexibility and choice across different modes of transport, when booking their next trip. Julian Persaud, Omio’s Chief Commercial Officer commented: “We see that consumers require more options when considering their next trip, now more than ever. With this partnership, KAYAK users will be able to compare rail and bus tickets across European routes and book their tickets directly on the Omio platform.” Laure Bornet, VP & General Manager of KAYAK EMEA commented: “As the world’s leading travel search engine, we remain focused on providing an excellent experience for travellers across multiple modes of transportation; flights, cars, trains and buses. Through our partnership with Omio, we will give travellers access to a vast amount of ground transport options that allow them to get from A to B with their preferred mode of travel.” Omio is a travel app and platform that allows people to find and book trains, buses and flights in one place. Partnering with over 800 transport operators across Europe, the US and Canada, Omio is revolutionising the travel planning experience, providing customers with more choice, transparent pricing and easier booking. Omio lets travellers search for any location, including cities, towns and villages, showing the best possible transport combinations while eliminating the need to visit multiple websites to plan an entire trip. The travel startup was founded as GoEuro in 2013 and rebranded to become Omio in 2019. Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, it has more than 350 employees from 45 different countries. Its most recent funding round, totalling €83.7 million was announced in August 2020, and earlier last year, the startup also launched in the US and Canada , making up 10% of its customer base. Will hybrid work will become the more significant mode of working when the pandemic is over? There are already clear indications that it is here to stay and that it is not just a passing trend. A number of leading corporations have already made it a part of their post-vaccine, post-pandemic working mode. With hybrid working, companies face the challenge of how to utilize the office space more efficiently. This is the mission of Locatee, a workplace analytics solutions that helps companies transform complex data into insights about office space utilization. Founded in 2015 and based out of Zurich, Locatee leverages office occupancy data from multiple sources, processes it with its patented technology, and presents it in a visual, packaged format. Since its founding, Locatee has built up a corporate clientele that includes some of the world’s leading businesses, including EY, Biogen International, Zurich Insurance, and Swiss Re. In May 2020, it received a €3.6 million in Series A funding from San Francisco based FYRFLY Venture Partners and Zurich based Tomahawk VC. We spoke with Locatee’s CEO and Co-founder Thomas Kessler on how Locatee was founded, his working relationship with Co-founder and CTO Benedikt Köppel, his advice for would-be founders, Locatee’s milestones, long-term goals and many more. You co-founded Locatee with Benedikt and the current CTO, who you knew back in high school. Tell us the story of how you two came-up with idea behind Locatee? Benedikt and I started Locatee when we realized that there were literal people, students, manually counting other people, employees at their desks, in office buildings. Benedikt couldn’t understand how such an effort wasn’t yet replaced or supported by technology. On my side, I couldn’t fathom how this cumbersome, manual process could really effectively inform corporations on the utilization of their office spaces. And we were both observing this in two of the most established, modern, structured banks in Switzerland and the world! We were just having a drink together after work and realized, by exchanging these observations on office space utilization and occupancy data, coupling with our own experiences as employees in large organizations and the annoyances you still experience with the office space as such, that there was a massive gap that could be filled by a technological solution. We quickly established what should be the base criteria for our solution – global scalability – and researched the market for potential existing solutions: there was none. We had an answer to a real-world pain, we still needed to find out the size of the problem. We quickly figured out the fact that real estate, while being the largest asset class globally, is also at the same time the least utilized. And this is how we knew we had to create Locatee. The tech world is famous for successful Founder/Co-founder pairings (the two Steves of Apple, Bill and Paul of Microsoft, Larry and Sergey of Google etc.) who complement each other in skillsets and personality. Is this the case between you and Benedikt? What advice can you give to someone considering founding a startup with a friend? It’s nice of you to put our names with those legendary founders! But there is a reason for this setup as a duo to be so effective. You need this complementary aspect, because founding a startup requires such an incredibly wide range of skills, traits and energies – it can’t be done without leaning onto a partner who you can trust. You don’t have time or energy to worry whether some parts of the company are performing or not. It just needs to happen, fast. So maybe more than the skills themselves, because as founders, your role and the things you’ll need to master will evolve dramatically in a short timeframe, it’s the trust that matters. Can you close your eyes and dedicate yourself fully to what’s required of you, without having any second thoughts about the parts of the business assigned to your partner? You will have to. So find a partner with whom you have that relationship. Don’t necessarily think “oh he or she is good at this, I’m good at that, this will work”. The tasks you’ll have to share between each other go far beyond a simple “business/tech” dichotomy. That being said, Benedikt is an incredible tech and product mind who has this ‘innovation through technology’ mindset. He’s won the robotics world championships twice! And me having a background in business innovation, and experiences in finance and the corporate world, us driving this vision together was and is creating this complementary emulation. We share the same drive to create something new, to innovate, to solve problems through technology. I don’t know that we would have been able to conceive the Locatee project and vision as clearly as we have if we didn’t bring these complementary skills together with this common passion. What would you say to someone leaving school now, who wants to start their own business? Do you have any advice for first time founders? My first piece of advice is: do it! If you’re thinking about it, if you have that ‘itch’, you should go for it. The decision criteria shouldn’t be the expectation of success or, on the contrary, the fear of failure. It’s the journey that is valuable – you will learn more and faster than in any kind of working environment. My second advice would be on what you should prepare for. The trust factor I mentioned in the relationship between founders, it’s also relevant when you start growing, when you hire your first employees, and even more as you scale. In a very short time frame, you will go from having a literal hand in almost everything, to having a multitude of functions, projects and tasks happening under your responsibility. When this happens, you need two things: have a pristine recruiting success rate and be able to trust and delegate. Again, most of the time a startup’s rhythm is meant to be fast. Fast growth, fast success, fast everything. You don’t have much time or margin to make mistakes when hiring, and you definitely don’t have time to check and course-correct what your team members are doing to ensure the delivery of your vision. So, learn how to recruit, and then learn how to trust. As Benedikt says, we as leaders need to frame the problems that need to be addressed in order to deliver our vision, then it’s up to our fantastic Locateam to come up with solutions. What has been one of your biggest failures, and what did you learn from the experience? I think, as a startup founder, you have to train, even brainwash yourself to not see things in terms of failures, and to not need to rank them or size them. So, there is no “biggest” failure which sticks more than the others, that would imply an emotional attachment to that experience. Failures must be part of the plan. You shouldn’t avoid them to preserve your ego. What you need to try to do instead, is to make them happen in a way that doesn’t damage the business, but instead generates insights on which you can build further. If you’re going to try something new – a product feature, a marketing initiative – do it lean, but see beyond as well – if this doesn’t work, what will I have learned? What can I then do with that information that will support the business? So I don’t have that one big failure in mind, but all these little ones which have helped us grow. But of course I should still give an example. I can talk about something that I guess happens to all startups: you have a customer in the pipeline, and that customer really needs that adaptation, that feature, that customization in order to seal the deal. And then you have to carefully evaluate whether this specific customer request fits into your plan, if the deal is worth the effort, and even more difficult, if the customer’s wishes are actually what they’ll really need and use. These are maybe the most difficult things to navigate, especially in a B2B context, it’s just more difficult to properly evaluate such requirements. What differentiates Locatee from its competitors? Since we started our business idea based on observing what we thought was an incredibly inefficient response to a real business problem – counting office occupancy manually – our value proposition needed to be smart and easy for the customer, while at the same time be conducive to a scalable business model. We are compatible with many different measurement sources, and re-use already existing data within organizations. Concretely, this means that employees, who are moving around the buildings with their laptops and mobile devices, are already “creating” office occupancy data points. We needed to build our technology so that we are able to translate this opportunity, these data points, in actionable data. On top of that, we understood that buildings and companies already have invested in a certain number of systems which also generate useful data for our platform. Locatee needed to be able to ingest those additional data points, regardless of what these are and the technology or hardware behind them. This makes us retrofittable, tech-agnostic, and this makes us scalable and sustainable (low lifecycle costs). Last but not least, our analytics solution enables both granular office occupancy view and portfolio-wide insights. This means that local teams get valuable information to manage their facilities, while global managers uncover data which are relevant to them. Can you elaborate on Locatee’s “space utilization insight”? In the construct and evolution of the culture of a company, particularly large corporations, office space is an underrated, but important element of it. Teams grow, contract, evolve, split, change names and change locations. It is up to management, local or global, to work with corporate real estate managers and facility managers and make decisions on office space – what type of design, what space to assign which team to etc. And these can be very emotional discussions. Without space utilization data, the discussion will remain on the emotional level. With space utilization data from Locatee, the discussion is about finding the right decisions and solutions, based on actual patterns, factual requirements. You can compare this to designing and managing a website with or without user analytics. It’s the same. Without analytics data, you can debate endlessly about a feature or a design. With data, the user’s behaviour will help you make that decision based on facts. On the other hand, you now have a very different use case for utilization insights, something that was already growing before 2020, but that has obviously accelerated dramatically due to the ongoing pandemic. That case is the rise of hybrid work. Whether hybrid work will become the majority or not if and when the pandemic is over, we already know today that a number of leading corporations will make it a staple of their structure after we’ve returned to the office. With hybrid work, you may be able to reduce the space required – although you need utilization data to confirm this. However this is only one part of the story. Your work environment needs to work for you as an organization, to attract the employee, to nurture the company culture, to foster collaboration. With the savings you may gain from reduced space, you will be able to increase the quality of the remaining space, and as a consequence, be able to impact employee satisfaction. Locatee was founded in 2015. How have your objectives and goals changed since the company has grown? The objectives have remained steady. We wanted to create a scalable, sustainable occupancy analytics solution to support business real estate decision making, and this is still the case today. If anything, the recent, dramatic circumstances that forced people to work from home for prolonged periods, has significantly increased the relevancy of our vision. What we are doing has the potential to transform the dynamics of the workplace. It’s not just about space optimization or cost reduction. What we uncover is way more profound than that. We dive in the relationship between employees, their employers, the office, productivity, company culture, collaboration, and we contribute to quantifying that relationship, something that, so far, was completely unattainable. This is what we strive to do: enable places where people love to work. We give corporations a way to understand their own performance as organizations towards their employees. Locatee is an example of technology enabling human-centricity. For some time now, companies have realized that their employees and their satisfaction and their engagement, are as crucial as any other asset. But what they have struggled with, is to come up with true, unbiased measurements of these. We enable a piece of this puzzle to be measured. What do you consider as Locatee’s most significant milestone so far? We have had a number of great achievements since founding Locatee with Benedikt. Convincing our first customer to use our solution, and then seeing the number of buildings we are serving grow and grow, with our solution now being rolled out in more than 50 countries. We reached a big milestone with the opening of our US office recently. The fantastic collaboration with our investors over the years and the support and wisdom they give to us on our journey to fulfilling our vision. Raising our Series A funding in 2020 was of course a very rewarding validation of all our previous work, as well as the $3.5 million (Editor note: around €2.8 million) Swiss Technology Fund grant which we received at the end of 2020. And of course, hiring our first employee and then growing the team and seeing this group of people flourish and take ownership of the vision we laid out with Benedikt, making it their own challenges. But I think that, as an entrepreneur, the most significant success you can have is simply when the customers validate that you are solving a pain for them. We regularly receive feedback from our customers highlighting how much the data we uncover is meaningful and valuable to them. Through these aggregated feedbacks, we receive the confirmation that we are at the core of the future of Corporate Real Estate. What is your long-term vision for Locatee? Locatee enables places where people love to work. As the role of the office evolves, it becomes less of an obligation, and more of a strategic asset to achieve very concrete and important goals in the areas of productivity and talent attractivity and retention. The ability to manage, orchestrate spaces in which employees want and love to work in, is going to be crucial. This will change the dynamics of the corporate real estate manager function. Just like the marketing function received an enormous boost when digital marketing started inundating the whole organization with cold, hard data about marketing performance, a similar wave is about to hit the workplace, again thanks to technological evolution. Expectations towards the employer and the office are evolving, quickly. We conducted studies which showed that after the pandemic, a majority of employees will want to go back to the office, but ‘differently’, and for different reasons. For collaboration, for social interaction, for culture-building, to grow and nurture a sense of belonging that is important to all of us. At the same time, companies will realize that their office isn’t an obligation nor a liability – it is an asset to foster collaboration, to build culture, to optimize efficiency and productivity, and to support employees in becoming their best selves at work. To achieve that, companies will need to discover what types of space work best for their people. Going further, companies will even need to discover what ‘combinations of spaces’ work best for their people. The equation is not simply office / home. The demand will evolve towards even greater flexibility – access to satellite offices or shared spaces etc. Whether it is to reduce a commute, or work from abroad alongside a vacation period, or to collaborate with specific teams or people during a project. The motivations for choosing to work from a specific location at a specific time will become more diverse. And at the centre of this, is the company, the CREM, tasked with managing and orchestrating this. Complexity has gone through the roof, and data is required to make sense of it all, and to make the right decisions. What was it like growing your team? What are the challenges and surprises you encountered? What tips do you have for building a solid team? As a founder, it’s easy to have the naïve feeling that you’re the smartest person or that you know the customer’s problems and solutions best, so you instinctively tell your team what to do. They’ll get it done, but won’t do much beyond what’s expected, not because they can’t or don’t want to, but because you don’t let them. In this environment your team members become mercenaries. In contrast, if you come with the initial business problem, lay out what the customer said, and then engage the team in the problem-solving process, your team now feels empowered and turns into a powerful group of missionaries. This leads not only to better solutions, but also to a better team and ultimately a better company. So, the team comes first. Diversity in the team, yes or no? Why? Yes, as we are a diverse team from a nationalities and cultures point of view. We have 21 nationalities in the team and speak 14 languages. But we also have our challenges, not unlike a number of tech companies, when it comes to diversity. It’s something we are aware of and are working on – this is part of the training we provide to hiring managers for instance. Beyond enabling diversity in the recruiting process, we also make sure that diversity is embraced as a value in the company. This means we’re committed to creating a safe environment for any of our employees, at the professional and interpersonal levels. Today Slerp , a leading e-commerce partner for premium restaurants and hospitality brands, has closed Seed and Series A rounds in quick succession, raising a total of approx. €8.1 million this year. These two rounds have been led by Eight Roads Ventures, Jigsaw VC and supported by TrueSight Ventures, Aldea Ventures, as well as high-profile angels including Rumi Verjee, founder of Dominos UK & The Rumi Foundation. The fresh funds will be used to further build out the platform and expand the team, across all functions, gearing up for international expansion in Europe. Founded in 2016, Slerp provides a customisable e-commerce solution for hospitality brands, enabling them to transact with customers directly from their own websites, whilst controlling their brand image, customer data and settings. Until recently, the main option for the sector has been marketplace or aggregator delivery services who charge high commission and focus on on-demand orders. Slerp takes just 7.5% in fees and provides a suite of other wrap around services, such as digital marketing and management of the complete ecommerce process for all order types. This enables partners to accept direct orders, manage production planning and connect to delivery services of their choice (or deliver themselves). Brands who use the platform include Jose Pizzaro, The Savoy, Galvin Restaurants, Ottolenghi, JKS Restaurants and Gaucho, with the startup having processed over 200,000 transactions in the last 6 months alone. Slerp has seen 500%+ percent growth this year compared to the same period last year. The fresh investment places the company in pole position to capitalise on the growth of home dining and the delivery sector, projected to catapult over the next few years. “Slerp provides a very different service to marketplaces in this sector. We are powering the next evolution of online ordering by becoming a digital business partner to brands, enabling them to have a direct relationship with their customers and significantly more control of their online channel. Because our roots are as food brand owners and establishment operators, we have purposefully listened to our peers to create a platform solution that provides significantly more control compared to marketplaces, and contributes to both the top and bottom line for businesses. It’s a very exciting time for the sector as it trends towards being more omnichannel and digitally enabled,” said founder, JP Then. Davor Hebel, Head of Eight Roads Ventures Europe commented, “Slerp has enabled hospitality businesses who have been hard hit during the pandemic to launch an online offering quickly and to continue serving customers through successive lockdowns. As the economy re-opens, these businesses have an established new business line which will strengthen them for the long-term and allow them to reach a much broader customer base. We have been very impressed by the rapid growth that Slerp has achieved over the last year. We are thrilled to partner with JP and the team as Slerp looks to power hospitality ecommerce across Europe.” Slerp has enabled brands to offer local on-demand ordering, as well as nationwide delivery, supporting industry trends that show greater online penetration of the hospitality industry in the last year. Recent research by Slerp and KAM Media has also shown that demand for ‘dine at home’ solutions from restaurants remain very high, with 9 out of 10 people wanting brands to continue to offer a direct online ordering solution. Chris Galvin at the Michelin starred Galvin Restaurants added: “Slerp has enabled us to connect directly with thousands of new customers and is the best in class of it’s type. The platform has allowed us to deliver the Galvin experience across the country. We see it as an essential revenue stream, and are already seeing customers using at home and in-restaurant services, for key occasion at home. Though we have paused as we reopen our sites, we have big plans for Galvin at home.” Their research also showed that 11.5 million UK adults (22%) have ordered a ‘cook at home’ meal box in the last 12 months, with an even larger proportion (40%) intending to purchase in the future. It also signalled that 62% want their favourite restaurant brands to start selling ‘cook at home’ meal boxes nationwide. Farmers and food businesses, like restaurants, deal with the same issue: a fragmented supply chain. Secai Marche wants to streamline agricultural logistics, making fulfillment more cost-efficient and enabling food businesses to bundle products from different farmers into the same order. The company is headquartered in Japan, with operations in Malaysia, and plans to expand into Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. This week, it announced 150 million JPY (about $1.4 million USD) in pre-Series A funding from Rakuten Ventures and Beyond Next Ventures to build a B2B logistics platform for farmers that sell to restaurants, hotels and other F&B (food and beverage) businesses. This round brings Secai Marche’s total raised to about $3 million. The capital will be used to expand its fulfillment infrastructure, including a network of warehouses and cold chain logistics, hire more people for its engineering team, and sales and marketing. Secai Marche was founded in 2018 by Ami Sugiyama and Shusaku Hayakawa, and currently serves 130 farmers and more than 300 F&B businesses. Before launching the startup, Sugiyama spent four years working in Southeast Asia, including managing restaurants and cafes in Malaysia. During that time, she started to import green tea from Japan, intending to sell it directly to customers in Malaysia. But she realized supply chain inefficiencies not only made it hard to meet demand, but also ensure quality for all kinds of ingredients. Meanwhile, Hayakawa was operating a farm in Japan and working on agriculture control systems that predicted weather and crop growth to help farmers maintain consistent quality. Both Sugiyama and Hayakawa ended up at consulting firm Deloitte, researching how to create a more efficient supply chain for Japanese agricultural exports to Singaporean F&B businesses. Policies implemented by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration aim to increase Japanese agricultural exports from 922.3 billion JPY (about $8.5 billion) in 2020 to 2 trillion JPY (about $18.5 billion) by 2025, and 5 trillion JPY (about $46.1 billion) in 2030. Seche Marche’s goal is to make it easier for farmers to sell their crops to F&B businesses domestically or overseas. “We found that not only farmers in Japan, but also all farmers in Southeast Asia have the same problem in terms of the current supply chain,” Sugiyama told TechCrunch. “So we left Deloitte and started our own business to connect not only farmers in Japan, but farmers in all Asian countries.” Secai Marche’s logistics management tech is what differentiates it from other wholesaler platforms. It uses an AI-based algorithm to predict demand based on consumption trends, seasonal products and farmer recommendations, said Hayakawa. Secai Marche runs its own warehouse network, but mostly relies on third-party logistics providers for fulfillment, and its platform assigns orders to the most efficient transportation method. This allows F&B businesses to consolidate orders from farmers, so they can order smaller batches from different places without spending more money. About 30% of Secai Marche’s products are shipped to other countries, while the rest are sold domestically. Secai Marche is reaching out to farmers who want to increase their customer base. About 30% of its products currently come from Japanese farms, 50% from Malaysia and the rest from other ASEAN countries. Sugiyama and Hayakawa said the COVID-19 pandemic affected Secai Marche’s expansion plans because it originally planned to enter Singapore this year, but had to slow down since they were unable to travel and meet with farmers. On the other hand, many farmers have started selling directly to consumers through social media like Instagram or Facebook, and have approached Secai Marche for help with fulfillment, logistics, repacking and quality control. Correction: Funding in amount corrected to say $1.4 million instead of $1 million. Telemedicine, in its original form of the phone call, has been around for decades. For people in remote or rural areas without easy access to in-person care, consulting a doctor over the phone has often been the go-to approach. But for a large swath of the world used to taking half a day off work just for a 15-30 minute doctor’s appointment, it may seem like telemedicine was invented only last year. That’s mostly because it wasn’t until 2020 that telemedicine, in its myriad forms, debuted into the mainstream consciousness. It’s impossible to predict how healthcare institutions will operate post-pandemic, but with so many people now accustomed to telemedicine, startups that provide services around virtual care continue to be poised for success. Telemedicine has faced an uphill battle to become more relevant in the U.S., with challenges such as meeting HIPPA compliance requirements and insurance companies unwilling to pay for virtual visits. But when COVID-19 began raging across the globe and people had to stay home, both the insurance and healthcare industries were forced to adapt. “It’s been said that there are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen,” said StartUp Health co-founders Steven Krein and Unity Stoakes in the company’s 2020 year-end report. That statement couldn’t be truer for telemedicine: Around $3.1 billion in funding flowed into the sector in 2020 — about three times what we saw in 2019, according to the report . A health tech fund and insights company, StartUp Health counts Alphabet, Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz as some of its co-investors. Now that people see the benefits and conveniences of “dialing a doc” from the kitchen table, healthcare has changed forever. It’s impossible to predict how healthcare institutions will operate post-pandemic, but with so many people now accustomed to telemedicine, startups that provide services around virtual care continue to be poised for success. The state of telemedicine Major players in the field now look at the state of healthcare as, “before COVID and after COVID,” Stoakes told Extra Crunch. “In the post-pandemic world, there’s a significant transformation that’s occurred,” he said. “It’s all accelerated; the customers have shown up. There’s more capital than ever and consumers and physicians have adapted quickly,” he added. In the U.S., healthcare is first and foremost a business, so while there are treatment approaches that have long been proven to improve patient outcomes, if they didn’t make sense financially, they weren’t instituted at scale. Telemedicine is a great example of this. A 2017 study by the American Journal of Accountable Care showed that telemedicine can be quite useful for managing healthcare. “The use of telemedicine has been shown to allow for better long-term care management and patient satisfaction; it also offers a new means to locate health information and communicate with practitioners (e.g., via e-mail and interactive chats or video conferences), thereby increasing convenience for the patient and reducing the amount of potential travel required for both physician and patient,” the study reads. But as we’ve seen, it took a global healthcare emergency to drive widespread adoption of virtual healthcare in the U.S. Now that investors recognize the potential, they are increasingly pouring money into startups that promise to take telemedicine to the next level. Some of the investors backing these newer companies include StartUp Health, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, Alphabet, Kaiser Permanente Ventures , U.S. Venture Partners, Maveron, First Round Capital, DreamIt Ventures, Human Ventures and Tusk Venture Partners.