STARTUP STAGE: Clear Chain Travel wants to reimagine distribution through blockchain and AI

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Clear Chain Travel

Clear Chain Travel is bringing blockchain principles and AI-driven robotic processes to the groups and meetings space to improve transparency, drive efficiency and save costs.

A further element to the business is to provide distribution options to small hotels and local tours and activities supplies.

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

Clear Chain’s business model is comprised of three revenue-generating areas: bespoke IT development, licensing of standard IT services, and a consulting practice. The technology aspect applies artificial intelligence-driven robotic process automation (RPA) to our clients’ workflows and optimizes those automated workflows via smart contracts and other blockchain principles, saving clients money and time, allowing them to invest in growth and enter new markets.

Company

Clear Chain Travel

Website

Home

What inspired you to create this company?

The founders’ frustration with the status quo in travel technology, specifically the evolution of the industry to being controlled by a small handful of global companies, which has driven up costs for small and medium sized businesses to compete and thrive while suppressing the emergence of viable new entrant technologies.

Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.

  • Strengths – Clear Chain’s founders’ experience in travel and distribution technology; the application of RPA, blockchain and distributed ledger technology to costly everyday processes;
  • Weaknesses – An unclear path to widespread development and adoption of blockchain tech; the bad reputation of blockchain as a result of cryptocurrencies; resource constraints and need for additional funding to staff up and scale the business after bootstrapping for 10 months.
  • Opportunities – The fragmented market for and limited adoption of new technology for meetings and groups; huge untapped markets for the long tail of online travel distribution, specifically tours and activities; and the appetite of small and medium-sized businesses in the travel industry to find alternatives to existing technology and distribution providers.
  • Threats – The historic inertia of travel companies towards investing in new technology; reluctance of traditional travel investors to get involved in blockchain/DLT initiatives.

What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?

For the customer, in our initial phase Clear Chain enables our clients to provide a wider and richer range of online distribution alternatives for a) group and meetings business and b) local tours and activities, without the high fees from middlemen that make those investments cost-prohibitive.

The industry’s (excluding the global distribution cartel) pain points come from the lack of low cost, modern, scalable distribution technology are well-documented.

Secondly, there are no technology solutions that provide enterprise-grade process and workflow automation for the small and medium-sized companies that are the growth engine of the travel tech industry.

Lastly, customers and suppliers in each of our initial target segments will benefit from the transparency provided by having bookings and supply chain activity captured on the blockchain.

So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?

Our go to market plan comprises a mix of online and high-touch B2B demand generation campaigns that commenced on June 15. Clear Chain’s consulting practice will also generate new business opportunities for the company’s technology services.

These strategic engagements will provide an on-going learning opportunity for Clear Chain to begin to develop and commercialize low cost distribution, back-office process, and settlement solutions that can then be implemented more widely in our target markets.

Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.

Clear Chain’s three founders have been bootstrapping the company for more than 10 months and during that time, we’ve spoken with hundreds of executives and other decision-makers in the industry to identify what the solutions are to the pain points that we set out to address.

We’ve partnered with companies in two specific proof of concept trials that are already underway to further validate our plans and assumptions.

Clear Chain has also retained technology experts from outside of travel tech to understand where RPA and blockchain/distributed ledger technology have succeeded in other industries in ways that we can emulate and apply to the specific use cases that we are working on in our initial phase.

Regarding the size of the addressable markets that Clear Chain is focusing on in our initial stage, there aren’t specific data for the technology pieces.

The overall groups and meetings market is estimated (Allied Market Research) to be $869 billion in 2018, and in-destination tours and activities, which is the majority of our long-tail target market, is estimated to be $183 billion by 2020.

How and when will you make money?

Our business plan includes generating revenue from consulting engagements starting in Q2 2019, and revenue growth from deployment of the AI/blockchain technology solutions by the end of 2019 after the successful conclusion of the proof of concept trials that are underway now.

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?

Fred Bean: Fred founded and is the CEO of REBEL Travel Corporation, a provider of marketing, technology and consulting services to travel, tourism and hospitality companies around the world.

In addition to his role with REBEL, Fred serves on several boards and is an advisor to several travel technology firms and startups. Earlier in his career, Fred held management roles with Hyatt Hotels, Sabre, Worldres.com, Travelocity, Travelweb, and Cendant Corporation.

Steve Denney: Steve is a co-founder of CityFront Innovations, which integrates mobile and web apps with a proprietary tech platform to leverage artificial intelligence and blockchain in a single mobile engagement platform.

Steve is also a co-founder and principal at Marquedia Marketing Solutions, which specializes in offering integrated and holistic technology solutions for digital marketing. Steve successfully exited his prior software business when he sold Web Active Directory, an enterprise identity management software business.

Steve’s experience in the travel industry includes management roles in Travelocity, including General Manager of Travelocity Canada, and a variety of sales and management roles with American Airlines.

Michael O‘Connell: Michael has served in executive roles in the travel tech industry over the last 20+ years, including with Sabre, Pegasus Solutions, and American Airlines, specializing in opening new markets, directing strategic partnerships and M&A activity, and shepherding new technologies to market.

Michael will be the CEO of Clear Chain Travel, with responsibility for setting strategic direction, day to day operational decision-making, and serving as the public face and voice of the company in the travel trade media and industry events.

What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

The single area where we’ve encountered the most difficulty in establishing Clear Chain so far has been overcoming the bias against blockchain created by the many problems with the cryptocurrency marketplace – our platform does not include any bitcoin, ICOs, or other questionable crypto elements.

Also, the long-established bias against investing in new technology and towards keeping the status quo in the travel tech space.

Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?

The two primary reasons that Clear Chain is going to succeed (not just by being lucky) are 1) the breadth and quality of the founders’ experience in travel technology, management and operations have allowed us to identify solutions to long-standing problems with travel distribution and 2) the combination of AI and blockchain to address every day, some might say boring, process activities, which is an underserved area of interest for new technology startups in travel.

There is a tremendous and measurable ROI that can be achieved for clients within our target markets based on our research.

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