Troop, which last year raised $8 million in Series A funding and this year partnered with business travel technology provider Spotnana, uses data analysis and algorithms to help users find the optimal location and time for meetings and events. Troop CEO Dennis Vilovic spoke with BTN’s Michael Baker about the trajectories of Troop and corporate meetings. An edited transcript follows.
What level of client growth are you seeing?
Dennis Vilovic: 2019 was the first year where we had revenues and our first customers. Then in 2020, the pandemic started, and we all know what happened in the industry, but we had managed to triple the business. 2021 we almost tripled again, and this year, we have doubled so far. We are growing on the people side. That’s where we used the investment we raised last year.
What growth are you seeing with SME clients?
Dennis Vilovic: We are getting great traction there as well as well as in the nonprofit world. We have a few nonprofits utilizing the technology. We always say what we do is relevant for any type of company. We are a small company, 40 people, but we are fully remote, so we use our own technology to figure out where should we have our in-person events. We built this product in the end for us, and it must work for us, then it will work as well for everyone else.
Where on you in launching the booking side of Troop?
Dennis Vilovic: We initiated that earlier this year. We have a live connection with Spotnana today where we can facilitate hotel bookings. We are finalizing the flight bookings there as well. We are bringing the expense piece in right away, through [corporate card and expense platform provider] Center, and that will be the first version of being able to offer an end-to-end solution. We built this open ecosystem, so we will add more partners into those different areas as we grow, but at least we started with some strong partners.
Have you secured any travel management company partners?
Dennis Vilovic: We are working with one TMC in Germany, a small one, and we are going into a partnership deal with another one. We always said there are massive opportunities, and we have been in contact with TMCs from the very beginning, but it’s difficult to bring these technology innovations into those TMCs at times.
“We built this product in the end for us, and it must work for us, then it will work as well for everyone else”
In a post-Covid world, has your strategy changed?
Dennis Vilovic: This is what leadership is thinking about right now: How can we build a culture with this hybrid workforce? From my own experience, building a culture in a fully remote company is very difficult, [but] we need this connection, so we have to facilitate it. Everything in the end is related to the way we are connecting today, and that is where we are helping out. We have this technology that supports all these business units and satisfies all their requirements and allows you as a company to be in this hybrid workforce while building the culture and achieving your sustainability goals. That’s what companies are thinking about today, and that’s where our big opportunity is. We couldn’t see Covid coming, but we started with this concept a few years before Covid emerged, and today we are still doing the same core as we started in 2017. That gives us a technology advantage, and we have to make sure that we are increasing the rate of innovation in order to cover this whole product, which we want to build.
What new skills does this require from planners?
Dennis Vilovic: It’s uplifting the profession, to be honest. Meeting planners are becoming senior consultants. You go to these people because they have specific knowledge in specific areas. You don’t go to them to book a hotel and flight. Technology can do that. … It’s a great opportunity because your work becomes very strategic. Previously, travel and meetings was always seen as a support service, and it’s not, so as an industry, it’s a great moment for us.
What effects would challenging economic times have on the industry?
Dennis Vilovic: It impacts travel in general, but I don’t think it impacts meetings as such, because I really believe there is no substitution to meeting in person. You have to meet in person when you want to bring people together to work toward the same vision, basically, and this is what companies are all about. …You don’t need these big offices anymore, so people use these budgets to have unique experiences, and people become very flexible on considering alternative destinations. Before the pandemic, when we were pitching to customers that we can help them figure out where to meet, they’d say, “We always meet there. We know where we’re going.” Today people want to have an idea of where would be a good place to meet, and not only on cost: on ease of travel, on efficiency, on maximizing the facetime of these people in the destination. People want to come together.