Written by Nino Melikidze, founder of Plannd and the finalist at THE techstars startup weekend Competition
Plannd is an all-in-one travel planning tool. From business trip tracking to health and safety related alerts, Plannd has your company feeling ready and safe to get back into travel.
I think it’s so interesting that February is only three months ago. Considering how much has changed since then. Many of us feel like we’ve lived through a whole lifetime during the past few months. From losing jobs to shutting down businesses, the crisis that enveloped the world has affected all of us in one way or another. In my case, it was my business, or should I say, a plan for the business that had to change completely.
Prior to the pandemic, back in February, I was actively researching and interviewing companies regarding corporate travel operations. Learning about their organizational pain points and travel plan visibility. Although I was still very early stage, the signs seemed generally promising. Corporate travel seemed to have many opportunities to look into and the interviews were leading me in the direction of a coordination and planning tool.
However, as I moved on to actively prototyping a solution, the pandemic struck. Then it was just one restriction after the other. Countries closing borders, states of emergency, complete non-essential business shut down, limited travel and many more. As we all know, the travel industry has been hit the hardest. Especially corporate travel. As most employers reduce their workforce and scramble to reduce their expenditure while moving all operations remote, the mere thought of actually traveling somewhere for business is being dismissed. Nobody knows when it’ll be safe again. Nor do they know when it will be necessary.
Among all of the ambiguity, only one thing can be said for certain: traveling for work will never be the same again.
At first, I was almost in denial. This will end and I can get back to business, I thought to myself. However, as half of April passed with no signs of normality in sight, I realized that we might all be in this for the long run. Airlines ramping down operations and laying off staff. Employees taking pay cuts. The travel industry is looking grim these days, with quite a few companies legitimately worried about their survival (e.g. travel agencies, booking platforms, etc.).
So where does this leave me? I scheduled a few more discovery calls and tried to learn what companies think about travel now. What are their biggest concerns going forward. What will convince them to get back on the road and when.
These thoughts and conversations inspired the idea for a pivot: travel health and safety related alerts. Customized notifications and data summarized based on where a person is traveling to. All I needed was a way to formalize and test the idea.
I was lucky to stumble upon the Covid Relief Techstars Canada Startup Weekend. A completely virtual, Canada-wide startup weekend focused on tackling problems created by the pandemic. It was a perfect opportunity since they allowed submissions of your own idea, granted you could gather a team interested enough to work on it with you.
I got incredibly lucky with the team that gathered to work on this idea with me over the weekend. They were passionate and each person worked on an area they were knowledgeable in. The project was named “HealthBot” and the idea was a consumer facing app which allowed putting countries and trips on your watchlist for health and safety updates. We surveyed the participants to gage interest and understand people’s travel concerns. As a result, the idea itself passed with flying colors! Our team ended up making it into the top 3 winners, placing third out of over 20 teams participating.
Although I had no desire to completely change what I was working on, the weekend inspired the pivot for my startup. It now became a complete travel planning tool: simplifying operations through business trip tracking and enhancing employee safety through relevant, destination based health updates. I am actively working on a presentable prototype as we speak.
I may not know when travel will begin ramping up again but my one hope is that whenever it does, my startup, Plannd, and I will be there to help companies safely and efficiently get back into it. To work on building new relationships and acquire clients around the globe.
Covid-19 might be a phase the world is going through, but employee safety will always be a priority.
For those who are interested, there are a few health and Covid-related update solutions out there which can be referenced prior to any travel being planned. They include:
- SafetyWing – Flatten the Curve https://flattenthecurve.global/
- International SOS – Pandemic Preparedness https://pandemic.internationalsos.com/
I am also still looking for more companies to interview regarding travel operations and covid impact, so if you’re interested, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!