When it comes down to what startups need to survive, the essentials can often be boiled down into two things: access and resources. In a partner-heavy industry like travel, being left out of the supply chain dynamics simply isn’t an option for young companies. Irrespective of fundraising status, customer base or business model, founders almost always need to figure out how to acquire inside access into a tight-knit space to get a meaningful foothold in the industry.
Access is also becoming a lever that can be directly manipulated by founders in travel - with assistance from forward-thinking corporate initiatives that open up the communication pipelines and distribution of resources between startup and enterprise players.
One such program is Amadeus for Startups. As a partner to Voyager HQ, the program provides members with insight, support, and accelerated time-to-market for startups looking to access the Amadeus ecosystem. Given their sheer size and scale, global technology firms can be challenging to navigate for startups. It’s not always clear the right point of contact for a project, and even when a relationship is established, that contact may not have the tools or willingness to shepherd a startup to the right person internally. The Amadeus for Startups program addresses these challenges head-on, by streamlining access to both people and product.
To learn more about the program, we spoke with Alix Argüelles, the VP of Online for Amadeus North America.
To start, what exactly is a GDS?
GDS stands for Global Distribution System. It’s a system that aggregates travel content such as flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and insurance, and makes it available to travel sellers through one single connection.
Amadeus has long been known to be one of the world’s leading GDS companies. However, we have recently moved away from the term GDS in favor of a “Live Travel Space” because what we offer actually goes way beyond just traditional distribution. To meet the fast-changing needs of our customers, we are building an open, dynamic, and connected space where all industry players can join and collaborate to deliver memorable journeys. It’s a space for our customers to grow with solutions that are tailored to the way they do business and serve travelers.
Which products can I use for my startup?
The best product for your startup to use depends on your model and what you hope to accomplish. We provide a sandbox for connecting to our easy-to-use APIs, which lets you access one of the world's largest repositories of travel records, as well as our industry-leading technologies such as flight search, hotel content, travel intelligence and much more.
Most of our startups use Amadeus Web Services to connect to our system and have full control over their user interface.
How does Amadeus’ startup program work?
The program was established as a startup within Amadeus to pull all the best assets of our organization into one place. We provide a gateway for emerging companies to access technology and industry expertise with a consultative approach. Every startup has its own unique needs and challenges, depending on its phase and growth trajectory. We work with each startup team on a bespoke engagement that provides access to our products, including training, and a network of partners to help develop the business and grow it.
What is Amadeus’ unique role in the current travel technology landscape?
Amadeus is a trusted travel technology partner with global reach. We provide a complete platform that supports the end-to-end travel experience for customers that are just starting out, in a growth stage or well established.
We are able to aggregate content outside of our core system and make it seamlessly available to our partners through our new revolutionary Amadeus Travel Platform, which gives travel companies of all sizes and scope access to whatever content they need, in whatever format they need it. We are constantly evolving, investing in new innovations and co-creating with our partners to better serve them and their customers.
We’ve also invested over €5 billion into R&D in the past few years (which on average is 16% of our annual revenue) to improve our technology and advance open source systems, big data and cloud-based architecture. We’re evolving our travel platform so all of our customers can access more content, including ground transport and destination services, via more channels and devices, helping them remain competitive and sell travel in an efficient and personalized way. All of these initiatives position us at the forefront of the global travel ecosystem.
What types of companies or technologies can Amadeus work with?
Pretty much anyone. If you are in travel, we can work with you! Amadeus works with and supports all sorts of companies… from OTAs and metasearch companies to both leisure and business agencies, to corporations, and that’s only on the Travel Channels (or distribution) side. We are also the technology behind hundreds of airlines, hotels, and airports. We like to say that Amadeus is the biggest travel company you’ve never heard of.
Are there any types of startups that Amadeus cannot work with?
You have to have a clear business plan, a minimum viable product and investors. If you have those things, and we are a fit, we’ll find the right spot internally. If you are in travel and you need technology or data, we can likely help. If not, we have access to a large network of resources within our Amadeus for Startups community. We will strive to connect you with the right people.
What are the challenges to working with large technology companies that startups may not be aware of?
The biggest challenge for a travel startup is learning the industry. It can be quite complex especially if you are going to be selling flights! We find that most startups underestimate the complexity of the travel industry.
Startups and large companies, in general, are different models. Startups have smaller teams focused on a clearly-defined problem, and thus can be more nimble. Amadeus is a global company solving problems across all segments of travel. Our massive global scope and reach require rigorous prioritization, which may mean a little extra patience for a startup. It’s worth it though because the stronger a startup aligns with the problems we are solving, the more fruitful the partnership ultimately will be.
How does Amadeus hope to grow its own business through startups?
We know the future of travel lies with evolving technologies. We are committed to helping the travel industry grow through innovation and connecting companies across the ecosystem. It’s in our best interest to have these connections. If we can help a startup early on, and create a good experience for them, then they’ll continue to grow with us. Everyone wins!
How do the commercial contracts work for working with Amadeus?
Amadeus uses a Travel Services Agreement contract with our startup partners. This contract allows the startup to connect to the Amadeus production system and provides access to our products and services. For specific details, we recommend reaching out to us so we can discuss your startup in particular. Every situation is a bit different.
Can VHQ get me a discount?
Voyager HQ is a strong partner of Amadeus for Startups and can definitely provide the introductions to the program. Amadeus also provides special flexible commercial agreements to our startup partners. We can guarantee a consultation within 30 days for all startups that are members of Voyager HQ.
Are there free services I can leverage?
The Amadeus for Startups program provides consultancy and test access at no charge. We want to make sure that our products and services are a good fit for your business, and the best way to do that is to offer access and learn as we go.
Does the startup program make investments?
Amadeus for Startups does not invest financially in our partners. However, we do invest time and efforts. For financial investments, you would need to look at Amadeus Ventures or some of our partners in the Amadeus for Startups ecosystem to which we will gladly connect you.