Adioso, the flight search engine for flexible travelers, has hired former Jetstar head of strategy Azim Barodawala as its CEO. The Melbourne-based startup is getting ready to raise new capital as it prepares the global rollout of its first localized product.
Founders Tom Howard and Fenn Bailey say that Barodawala’s guidance will help Adioso cement relationships within the airline industry.
“We really try to understand problems from both a consumer and airline point of view, but, not being airline people, we can only make the best guess. We can develop things in accordance with economic principles and what we want to make out of the commercial realities, but I thought that since we are not natives of the airline industry, there would always be limits to how we do things,” says Howard.
“It’s refreshing to have Azim on the team to identify the primary airline needs we should focus on and start some of those conversations.”
Barodawala’s understanding of the airline industry will be valuable as the startup prepares the global rollout of its new localized product in October. Adioso isn’t ready to reveal too many specifics about the product, which will first launch in Australia, but says that it will be tailored for customers in different cities and be much faster than current flight search platforms. Adioso’s localized product will make it faster for consumers to find information about fares to the most popular destinations from their area, with search response times under a second.
As its localized product gains traction, Barodawala will guide Adioso as the company establishes partnerships with airlines, tourism boards and other organizations in the travel industry.
“There are regional differences. How we talk to airlines in Australia is different from how we talk to carriers in the U.S. Asia is completely different as well,” says Barodawala.
When we first profiled Adioso back in 2010, the company faced the same problem as much of the travel industry: it had to rely on data powered by products that were first developed in the 1960s and 1970s. There was no complete, real-time database of fares and availability.
As a result, Adioso’s team had to build its own search technology so users could enter queries like “New York City To London In December For 10 to 15 days.” That meant destinations were limited, Howard explains.
“You mentioned the coverage we had on TechCrunch. The most striking feedback in the comments, the biggest objection, was that our destination coverage was so poor. That was totally valid. That was a given due to the industry constraints on the availability of data at that time.”
He adds: “The reason all travel agency and airline Web sites work the same way is that they were built to fit in with the way the tech works. Sabre is the biggest product along with Amadeus and one or two other companies that control the distribution of flight data. Everything is constrained in this idea that if you do a search for flight prices, you have to know where to go and your departure and return dates, plus or minus three days.”
Now Adioso has access to more flexible search infrastructure that didn’t exist when it was founded and its taking advantage of those resources. Over the past six months, Adioso has seen a 127% increase in the gross value of leads referred to airlines and online travel agencies, which is now at just under $6 million a month. Initial consumer revenue started flow to Adioso in the past three months.
Since online travel agencies are charged per user query by the databases that fuel their flight search engines, Adioso has to roll out its localized search product gradually in order to break even. Its founders say a slow and deliberate approach, however, will have the benefit of allowing them to build stronger user communities in each city by offering events and other promotions. As Adioso localizes, it will be able to use its data to help travel verticals reach new customers.
“We’ve been trying to expand the concept of travel search products beyond being specifically about travel,” says Howard. “They can see how to get their travel products in front of people and where their interests might be. For example, they may be traveling to see their favorite football team or go surfing. We’ll allow them build something more engaging and exciting. We can partner with surfing Web sites, sports leagues, promoters of music festivals because of the tech we built.”