A diverse quartet of international sustainable tourism startups walked away with grants of up to €25,000 at the Booking.com Booster Lab in Tel Aviv last week, for which Pioneers Discover drove the process of startup selection as well as developed and managed the content and framework. After three days of workshops, talks and mentoring, accessibleGO, bitemojo, Questo and Knowers convinced the jury with their four-minute pitches on the last day.
This was the second event in the Booster Lab series, which began in Barcelona in December. The series, run by Booking.com B.V., is designed to give early-stage sustainable tourism startups the tools, guidance and possible funding that will boost their impact and drive their future success.
“It’s been terrific to win a grant here,” said Miriam Goldman, co-founder and CEO of accessibleGO, which won a grant of €25,000. “This is a real validation of all of the planning we’ve been doing up until now, and of our direction.”
The Jerusalem-based startup, co-founded by Galia Kut, has developed an online community and platform that offers content, reviews and relevant booking information for the disabled traveller.
“We don’t do a lot of pitching contests,” she continued. “Galia and I both left families with kids to come here, to learn and participate, because this opportunity was with Booking.com.”
“The information we got from the Booking.com representatives here confirmed that there’s a market need for what we do. What we’ve learned here is going to help us ensure that our execution is spot-on going forward.”
bitemojo, also based in Jerusalem, took away €25,000 to grow their business. They’ve developed food tours in conjunction with local outlets, which users can purchase and enjoy via the bitemojo app. Each ‘bite’ on the tour is claimed by showing the phone to the vendor, who gets paid by the startup at the end of each month.
“We’re tremendously honoured that one of the world’s biggest brands recognized bitemojo as an impactful startup,” said CEO Michael Weiss. “And as a startup that’s really making a change in sustainable tourism, in how people travel and how they experience destinations. I hope this will be another step on the path to success, and hopefully we can work with Booking.com one day!”
“bitemojo connects urban travellers with great food done by great people: small and medium businesses that are striving to make a living and want to be recognized for their great food. What we want to do with this grant is to add functionality to our product that will enable you to add purchases while at the store: upsells and even tipping.”
Questo, a startup that’s developed mobile app for playful self-guided tours and traveled from Romania to join the event, also earned a handsome grant to help grow their business, with a boost of €20,000. Meanwhile Knowers, a platform that connects travellers to the right locals for info, tips and services, was granted €15,000.
None of the startups emerged empty-handed. Paratrek, FarmGuests and Lightheat all won €500 Booking.com travel vouchers, while Trailze and Citynsider were each awarded a coveted pair of tickets to Pioneers’18, our flagship event in Vienna.
But the takeaways from the event will run far deeper than just the grants and prizes. The Tel Aviv startup scene is brilliant at harnessing the power of connections, and talk of collaboration was already in the air as proceedings wrapped up. bitemojo and Questo were openly discussing the possible ways in which their products could complement each other.
Furthermore the three-day Booster Lab is just the beginning of the relationship between the participating startups and Booking.com B.V. Each startup’s dedicated mentor and a pool of additional experts will support them in executing their growth plans and achieving positive impact over the subsequent months.
“It was amazing to see the commitment and energy everyone put in,” said Marianne Gybels of Booking.com. “The startups took it very seriously and saw it as a massive opportunity. Their willingness to learn was also very inspiring.”
“The startups showed the variety of how many different things ‘sustainable tourism’ can mean. It’s not just about being green. It’s about inclusive travel, bringing local back to local, and investing in communities when you travel. All while preserving local culture and natural resources. That came across really well today.”
“At Booking.com we’re so used to asking about what we’ll do in six months, or dealing with massive numbers, but the question of what to do to deal with tomorrow is still relevant to us. We can tend to forget that, so an experience like this is very helpful for us as well.”
Does your business want to connect with the startup world? Email Pioneers Discover on firstname.lastname@example.org.