Why I’m going to Travel Tech Con (and you should too)

If you haven’t seen it yet, Travel Tech Con is a conference happening this May at Yelp HQ in SF. As a travel tech enthusiast in SF, I’m pretty pumped. Here’s why.

The Obvious: Great topics + great speakers

I love that this conference focuses on several trends where there’s room for real innovation: Blockchain/Bitcoin, VR, IoT, Big Data + Personalization, AI, Innovation in Transportation, and open travel standards. Personally, I probably would have chosen payments more broadly over bitcoin, but nobody can argue that there’s going to be real change across all of these in the near future.

These are also topics where there’s room for a lot of growth outside of the duopoly of Priceline/Expedia and the airlines. A conference about ‘direct bookings’ or the future of aircraft cabin design would certainly be interesting, but there are more institutional obstacles to SF startups innovating there (and we’re all a little tired of hearing about direct bookings anyway :)).

Not to mention the extreme pain caused throughout the travel industry by the lack of open standards. Definitely down to help wave that flag.

Similarly, I’m excited because this conference features a lot doers. Each of the topics above is represented by a senior employee from a relevant company. From Adobe to Permutation AI, many of the people speaking have created successful companies — which I’ve found often leads to more actionable advice.

Less obvious: Some much needed travel sector camaraderie

Ever since Gary Tan of YC famously called trip planning software the ‘most common bad idea’, many folks in the tech space have written off all travel software along with trip planning (the idea is that you succeed with low retention — and trip planning is too infrequent for high retention). And they’re not wrong, there have been a lot of high-profile failures in travel. A good example of this was Brian Chesky’s recent publication of his fundraising rejection emails.

And since we’re regularly reminded of those failures, there doesn’t tend to be a lot of pride or camaraderie in the space. In fact, I think the opposite is true: those of us who can’t help but try to build something in the space have our heads down vowing to come up for air once we’ve proven everybody wrong.

Well, it’s time for travel entrepreneurs to come together, learn from each other and challenge each other in the way that you see in other tech sectors (e.g. I experienced way more camaraderie among Twitter-API-fueled startups back at Klout). And in my experience, Marina and Max have been two of the best organizers for SF’s travel scene.

Finally: The pitch competition

Who doesn’t love a good pitch competition? Especially when you can win things like a free ticket to the Phocuswright Battleground or a pitch session with Jet Blue Ventures.

Hope to see you there.