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In 2014, BBT published its annual Hotlist analysing what would be shaping the world of business travel that year and beyond. One of the companies listed in the ‘disruptors’ category was Rocketrip – a tech startup that claims it saves firms more than 30 per cent off existing travel spend.
A year on we caught up with Rocketrip CEO Dan Ruch to get an insight on how the company has developed, where it’s going and trends in the expense management sector.
Can you give an overview of Rocketrip for buyers who are unaware of the company and what it offers?
The Rocketrip business model is simple: Rocketrip sets real-time budgets for each trip and rewards employees for beating them. Employees keep half of everything they save, which motivates them to go above and beyond to save the company money. In addition to the savings, Rocketrip's platform provides powerful reporting and analytics so travel managers and finance teams have insight into every aspect of their travel spend.
So how does it differentiate from similar companies in the market?
We're in a fortunate position right now in that no one is doing quite what we're doing. Two of Rocketrip's main features are 1) that our budgets are based on real-time data and availability in the market, making them realistic and fair, and 2) that employees are rewarded with cash and cash equivalents, making our points highly valuable. There have been other tools developed that work off of historical data and try to incentivise travellers with points and badges, but such systems don't drive the kind of engagement our platform is able to drive.
Plans for 2015 and beyond?
We're growing quickly. We've expanded our client base by more than 500 per cent over the past year, built out our engineering, sales, and marketing teams, and focused on refining our patent-pending algorithms. Now we're tackling bigger clients, beginning to work with Fortune 500s in addition to our mid-sized business clients. We find that once a company's annual travel spend reaches $1 million, they can really benefit from our program.
You claim Rocketrip’s business platform can help companies lower their travel expenses by “empowering employees”, can you give details about your platform and how lower expenses can be achieved?
When employees get to share in the savings they generate their behaviour changes dramatically. Take a simple example: if an employee is allowed to fly business class, why would they ever fly economy? Well, what if you told them they could keep half of the difference between the business class and economy seat? Right away the equation changes and the employee starts making more cost-sensitive decisions. There are dozens of ways employees save when their company uses Rocketrip: choosing earlier flights, night flights, or flights with connections; dropping down a star class for their hotel, staying in an Airbnb or with a friend; choosing a smaller rental car. Rocketrip gives employees the flexibility to have control over their travel plans while empowering them to choose less expensive options.
How can companies keep expenses low but still remain competitive when wanting to attract new talent who could be used to large expenses budgets?
Rocketrip is a valuable perk, and our customers and their employees recognize this. It's a huge culture-builder, with whole companies getting in on the fun and competing to see who can save (and earn) the most. In fact, some of our customers sign on with us specifically for the perk aspect of the program, and the savings are an added benefit.
Rocketrip's budgets are completely customisable, so companies can set higher budget thresholds if their employees are used to larger expense budgets. Plus, the bigger the budget, the more dramatic the motivation to save.
Rocketrip rewards employees who can show savings they have made when booking a trip, however do you think the league table style of savings among workers could lead to resentment from some employees who will always need higher expense budgets and maybe entitled to more luxury travel such as business class and will then become disengaged with this process?
Rocketrip is designed to be flexible and accommodate all types of travellers at a given company. There is never a penalty for going over budget. Many companies like having a competitive element to the program, so we showcase a leaderboard ranking top travellers, but other companies prefer to turn this feature off and keep the information private. Either way is fine with us; it really depends on the culture, and we work closely with each client to ensure their success with Rocketrip.
Have you seen any changes in behaviour in the way younger travellers are using their expenses? Do you think buyers are finding it harder to keep younger travellers compliant when it comes to travel and expenses?
Younger travellers want to book business travel as they book their personal travel, using their preferred websites and apps. If they're required to use certain travel vendors, they may look to the open market, find that they can book cheaper rates there, and become disillusioned with their travel program. It's one of the things Rocketrip solves, because open-market data can be completely tracked on our platform.
Another big trend we see for younger business travellers is the openness to using the sharing economy. Airbnb is popular among Rocketrip travellers of all ages who want to stay somewhere that feels more like a home than a typical hotel.
Click here to read what we said about Rocketrip at the beginning of 2014.