After operating in stealth mode since late 2019, a new corporate travel platform called Spotnana is launching this week with $41 million already raised and several industry veterans involved as investors, advisors and executives.
Spotnana co-founder and CEO Sarosh Waghmar, founder of travel management company WTMC, says the cloud-native, API-friendly platform is "not just a booking tool or a better UI; this is something much fundamentally deeper -- like an Amazon Web Services for travel."
Waghmar and co-founder and CTO Shikhar Agarwal raised a $7 million seed round in 2020 and $34 million in Series A funding round in July, led by ICONIQ Capital and Madrona Venture Group with participation from Decibel and Mubadala Capital.
Madrona managing director Steve Singh, founder and former CEO of Concur, becomes chair of Spotnana's board, and ICONIQ Capital general partner Greg Stanger, former CFO at Expedia and Duetto, becomes a board member.
Bill Brindle, former COO of American Express Global Business Travel and Hogg Robinson Group, is Spotnana's vice president of operations, and Johnny Thorsen, founder of ConTgo and a former executive with American Express, Mezi, Travelport and others, is head of strategy and partnerships.
Waghmar says the idea for Spotnana developed out of his experience in 2016 at WTMC when the company built "the first NDC pipe in the world" with American Airlines.
"It's back then I realized the future of travel is in the plumbing. If you fix the plumbing ... at the end of the day you can make the customer and the supplier win," he says.
"What Spotnana is doing is not only building out the booking tool, but all the mid-office and systems of record, all the way down to the content and distribution stack. We are connecting with the airlines and suppliers directly -- that is what makes it so unique. The whole premise is not built on a legacy tech stack."
Spotnana provides travel inventory from dozens of sources and connects to third-party technology providers for human resources, expense management, sustainability management and other services.
The company is also making its technology available to agencies and travel management companies.
"Travel has been a very closed kind of business model, everyone builds things for themselves and then tries to integrate them with third parties," Waghmar says.
"We are allowing other people to build on top of Spotnana. It's an open platform and that is fundamentally something that has never happened in travel."
Waghmar would not name clients but says the company already has more than 50 customers, most that are corporations with multiple offices around the world and two that are TMCs who will replace their technology stack with Spotnana's platform.
Spotnana employs usage-based pricing, which Waghmar says has been well-received by clients, particularly some that were stuck with costly contracts even as travel came to a halt due to Covid-19.
When asked how Spotnana compares to some of the other, newer travel management solutions like TripActions, Waghmar says: "We are in a different swim lane. This is an entire platform, so other TMCs can use this platform, other technology providers can use our tools and build on top of it. ... And secondly, we are going after a very different set of customers that have a global footprint and are looking to solve for their companies globally."
Waghmar says Spotnana's cloud-based micro-services architecture means it can be deployed for employees in dozens of locations around the world in a matter of weeks.
Spotnana currently has about 120 employees and is "rapidly hiring" across all departments.
"This window of opportunity, as unfortunate as Covid has been for all of us personally, from a business travel perspective, it's really made people pause and think, moving forward [with] what do I want? How do I want my organization to travel? What do we want to provide for our employees for the future of work?" Waghmar says.
"That has created a lot of conversations and customers have been very receptive, including some of the world's largest buyers, who have shared on numerous occasions that if ever there was ever a time to rebuild travel, this is the time."