First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ilan Twig: Like everyone, we are powering through it. We have children that we are homeschooling while attending to our day jobs. It isn’t easy, and I don’t believe it is sustainable. There is power in being there in person – whether in the office or meeting with others on the other side of the world. For most, we crave human interaction. We are enriched by human interaction. Business is no different. Being there in person empowers employees to build relationships, close deals and drive growth. It’s extremely difficult to close a big deal or build relationships over video conference.
Tell us about you, your career, why you founded TripActions.
Ilan Twig: Ever since an early age, I’ve always been curious about how things work. I got my first computer when I was 6. When I was 10, I developed my own version of Pac-Man because we didn’t have the gaming console in our home. At 14, I sold my first software. I think I was destined to be an entrepreneur, technologist and inventor. I started my career in Israel, where I was born and grew up. I had multiple roles in technology and even co-founded a company early on while in Israel. I later had an opportunity to move to the U.S. with HP to lead R&D, Development and Engineering. After four years with HP, I joined RocketMelt to lead engineering. There I scaled the team from 5 to 50.
TripActions is the second company that Ariel (CEO of TripActions) and I co-founded; the first was StreamOnce which we sold to Jive Software. After StreamOnce, Ariel and I were talking about what we wanted to do next. We focused first and foremost on our desire to build a company and culture that we’d both be proud to work for. Then we thought about where we could truly disrupt an existing industry that was ripe for reinvention and innovation. We focused on our experiences as road warriors and all of the challenges we experienced. From frustrating booking tools to having to front the cost of our own work travel, to being left stranded while on the road. We knew there had to be a better way that put the user first, solving all of the pain points of the business traveler so they can focus on being there (and all that they need to accomplish while there), instead of the process of getting there.
How does TripActions innovate?
Ilan Twig: Innovation is built into our culture at TripActions. We are constantly raising the bar for ourselves and the industry. We challenge the status quo and look to build a better way to solve the pain points of our users. We are agile and operate in an environment that inspires and encourages continuous, rapid improvement. The reality is that if we don’t continue to innovate, someone else will.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Ilan Twig: COVID-19 brought corporate travel bookings, and associated revenue to a halt as government restrictions and lockdowns on international travel came into place. However, true to the TripActions culture and spirit, our teams began driving rapid innovation, not just in our business but across the industry, to ensure our customers had the real-time data and actionable insights, paired with flexible corporate T&E management tools, to be able to protect their traveling employees and control costs. For example, over a weekend, our team built out a coronavirus dashboard within our product, giving corporate travel managers real-time data on the spread of COVID-19 in the context of their corporate travel data. For example, they could see where traveling employees were, where they have been over the previous 14 days, and where their travel plans would make them — available in reports and a visual live traveler map — to ensure they were out of harm’s way. The dashboard shows COVID-19 reproduction rates, CDC ratings and local government regulations and restrictions (like mandated quarantines, required face coverings, etc.) to be able to assess the safety of travel and protect traveling employees.
We also enhanced several capabilities within our product so that travel managers could easily restrict travel by continent, country and city, and adjust policy at an even more granular level. We then built this detail into the booking flow so that employees could assess the safety of the travel they were booking. We also made it publicly available in our TripActions Business Travel Recovery app to help build confidence in the safe return of the travel.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ilan Twig: Every day is filled with difficult choices. I find if I ground myself and the team around our north star of solving our customers’ pain points, the decisions are easier and more clear. When faced with a decision, we focus on what will make the experience better for our customers and users.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and TripActions in the future?
Ilan Twig: Personally, I escape stress and anxiety on a surfboard. Despite how it looks from the shore, it is incredibly peaceful catching waves. In terms of the future, like the best surfers catching a wave, I see TripActions coming out on top and thriving post-pandemic because of all the things we’ve done to rapidly innovate and help our customers be successful. At the end of the day, our customers’ success is our success.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ilan Twig: Our biggest competitor is the status quo — finance leaders and travel managers sticking with their current approach of stitching together multiple, disparate legacy systems to manage their corporate T&E because it’s what they’ve always known and done.
However, as a result of COVID-19, many organizations found themselves ill-prepared for the pandemic with those antiquated, legacy T&E systems. They discovered they didn’t have the real-time data and actionable insights they needed to protect travelers, or flexible T&E management tools and expert travel agents to get their traveling employees home safely. As a result, we see many organizations ditch the status quo for modern T&E management from TripActions. In fact, nearly 600 companies have switched to TripActions since the onset of COVID-19. We now have more than 4,000 companies who trust TripActions for their corporate T&E management needs.
In addition, we are constantly raising the bar and reinventing ourselves to best serve our customers and users. A great example of this is with our launch of TripActions Liquid™ earlier this year. TripActions Liquid is our revolutionary business payments and expense platform that’s finally putting an end to the hassles and frustrations of traditional expense management and the dreaded expense report. Again by focusing on solving our users’ pain points, we identified that payments and expenses were a significant frustration in their business travel experience — for travelers, for finance and accounting teams, and corporate travel managers.
When we built TripActions Liquid, we saw that we could solve for more than just the travel payments and expenses pain points to help all employees who need to be able to spend company money have a better experience. TripActions Liquid also benefits finance leaders with complete visibility and control over their business spend. So in this way, by focusing on solving the needs of all of our users, we continue to not only stay in the game but are continually reinventing it.