SM: Where did you get the idea for your current venture? Did you have prior domain experience in the travel segment?
BT: First and foremost at Mobissimo we are travelers ourselves. We have felt the pain of endless attempts to search and book tickets online.
In my prior venture I found myself traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Europe, as well as various other places, and I was booking flights and hotels as often as a travel agent would. Scouring multiple web sites for the best deals was anything but quick and easy. With my expertise in data extraction and aggregation I decided to create the best travel search engine possible, the goal of which was to simplify the search process and get a better view on all travel offers.
After I had this idea I reached out to people in my sphere with technical backgrounds and travel domain expertise. I started Mobissimor with Svetlozar Nestorov, a childhood friend who was in the same group at Stanford as Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Lucia Carniglia who is a tourism industry expert who had worked for Swissair and is now CEO of a chain of luxury hotels.
Our vision is reflected in the name. In Italian the name Mobissimo means “the ultimate in mobility”. Our idea is to help people move around in the world quickly, simply and easily.
SM: What was the market landscape like when you founded the company?
BT: The emergence of ticket less booking has made a huge difference in the travel landscape. For the first time you could buy your ticket in the morning and travel in the afternoon without having to wait for, or pass by, the travel agent to pick up your ticket. The Internet has helped the travel industry to move and change tremendously.
The airlines adopted electronic ticketing which enabled virtual transactions. Originally there were a lot of players there as well as a large number of special Web fares that the user had to navigate, one by one.
The traditional travel agent model moved online with Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz providing their first fare offerings to users in the late 1990s. These merchants sell their inventory as a ‘points of sales’ for participating airlines.
SM: That is not a user friendly environment.
BT: Not at all, and it got even worse. Next there was the explosion of low-cost carriers all over the world. All of this created a jungle of places to look for fares, with huge implications for the consumer. People may have known about the major airlines’ fares, but they didn’t have a clue about what all these new companies were offering.
For the user, none of these services were comprehensive and because of that people weren’t able to quickly uncover the best rates. This is the environment where the metasearch travel comparison sites came into the game. We came into the market alongside emerging companies such as FareChase, Sidestep and Kayak.