Redeam startup the big winner at Phocuswright Conference

Leith Stevens, Redeam's vice president of business development, at the Phocuswright Summit.
Leith Stevens, Redeam's vice president of business development, at the Phocuswright Summit. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The buzzwords were many at the Phocuswright Innovation Platform's Summit -- blockchain, artificial intelligence, personalization -- but the ultimate winner of the General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation and a $100,000 prize, was a startup dedicated to combating paper vouchers in tours and attractions.

Redeam, represented by vice president of business development Leith Stevens, won the award during the 2017 Phocuswright Conference here after competing against 23 other startups.

"Here at Phocuswright, innovation is a big part of our ecosystem," said Pete Comeau, the company's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Before the Summit this year, Phocuswright in September held a standalone Battleground competition for early-stage underfunded startups in California. Redeam was one of the winners of that Battleground event, as was Waylo, a hotel price prediction and tracking application.

Comeau said Battleground events were also held in India, where mileage-earning app Mileslife was named the innovator of the year for Asia Pacific, and in Europe, where Conichi, which aims to digitize hotel operations, emerged as the winner.

All four Battleground startups had stage time at the Summit. The other featured startups came from applications Phocuswright had received from companies around the world.

In the nine years the event has been produced, Comeau estimated, Phocuswright has screened around 1,500 innovators and accepted just over 300. Those startups have collectively raised more than $2.3 billion in funding, and 45 have been acquired.

Once startups reach the Summit, they have six minutes on stage to pitch their company to judges dubbed "the Dragons," a panel of industry experts. Then, for three and a half minutes, they enter the "Dragons' Den" to be grilled on specifics.

Comeau said the Dragons cast their votes based on a number of factors: technology innovation, business model innovation, potential business value, how good they are at selling their concept, the quality of the management team and the potential to create breakthrough value in the travel industry.

In addition to the General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation, which comes with a $100,000 convertible note from General Catalyst, Redeam was also named the winner in the startup category.

Stevens, who presented the company's business model, said Redeam addresses a wide-ranging problem that affects every tourist attraction that distributes tickets.

If a customer buys a flight ticket from a reseller like an OTA, they receive a real ticket via email. Later, they will receive a barcode boarding pass on their mobile phone they can have scanned at the gate, he said.

"Not so for tourist attractions," said Stevens. "If I were to go to that same reseller and buy a tour of a museum, or an observation deck or a hop-on, hop-off bus ride, I don't get a real ticket. I get a voucher, and this is a PDF that they send me that I need to print and bring to the attraction."

That voucher is brought to the attraction, where the purchaser commonly waits in line to redeem it. Then, the attraction staff needs to verify and reconcile each voucher and invoice the reseller."

He added, "And this, collectively, costs tourist attractions billions of dollars each year."

Redeam solves the problem with an on-premise tablet-scanning solution that will scan a voucher from any reseller and issue a ticket. It can be integrated into ticketing and reservation systems, Stevens said. If a voucher doesn't have a barcode, the scanner can read the text. The system can even scan and accept handwritten vouchers that might come from, say, a hotel concierge. All languages and currencies are accepted. A 3% fee is levied on each voucher processed.

Conichi, the startup focused on digitizing hotel operations such as check-in and checkout, was the runner-up in the startup category.

In the emerging category, the winner was UpLift, which finances consumer trips with loans and enables flexible installment payments. The runner-up was Mezi, a platform supported by a hybrid of artificial intelligence and human agents that agencies can white-label to provide a chat app for travelers. Mezi also won the OAG Award for AI Innovation., which standardizes beach ratings and produces high-quality, rich content for each beach it rates, won the Brand USA Marketing Innovation Award, with the condition that it begin categorizing U.S. beaches (international expansion plans are in the works for the Berlin startup).

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