EXPEDIA GROUP TECHNOLOGY — INNOVATION
Creating a More Sustainable and Accessible Future for Travelers
Introducing the Accelerator initiative finalists for 2023
Travel is a force for good and a belief that is central to everything we do at Expedia Group. It guides our commitment to making a positive impact on the world. It also means we recognize the importance of being a responsible and sustainable business; not just for our own success, but for the well-being of our planet and the communities we serve. We’re delivering on this commitment by working on improving access for underserved travelers, democratizing the travel business by creating a fairer travel economy and continuously striving for innovation to shape a sustainable future for travel.
As part of this effort, we launched the first Expedia Group Accelerator initiative last September. It is designed to advance innovation in the travel industry by supporting startups and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to fast-track their growth and innovate on Expedia Group’s purpose-built technology platform. The first program focuses on empowering companies that are working to increase access for underserved travelers. Next year, the Accelerator initiative will launch an additional program focused on co-developing new capabilities.
“We’re excited to leverage our expertise with Expedia Group on how we can make the world accessible; that’s our purpose as a company.” — Alvaro Silberstein, co-founder & CEO of Accelerator finalist Wheel The World
After careful consideration, we’re thrilled to announce the 12 finalists for this year’s program who were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants across the globe. Each company is a true trailblazer with its own unique story and works tirelessly to break down barriers for travelers.
Increasing access for travelers with disabilities
- Becoming RentABLE was founded by Lorraine Woodward after years of frustration in trying to find accessible short-term rental properties for her family’s vacations. Through the years, Lorraine has seen a real need for an accessible property each time she talked to her renters, many of whom haven’t had the ability to vacation, due to lack of access, until they found her accessible rental. Lorraine and co-founder Jennifer Springer aim to improve accessibility in the rental property market, looking beyond the wheelchair toward a broader range of accessibility accommodations.
- Be My Eyes is a mobile app that connects people with sight impairments to volunteers through live video. After noticing that people who are blind would often video call family members for help in solving what seems like everyday tasks, Be My Eyes was founded to create a video-calling platform for the visually impaired that is staffed by a network of volunteers so that they don’t have to solely rely on family and friends. Since the company launched in January 2015, over six million volunteers have signed up to assist blind and low-vision users.
- Handiscover was founded by Sebastien Archambeaud after his son became a wheelchair user, and he was challenged to find accessible accommodations for their vacations. Leaning into his background in technology, Archambeaud built Handiscover, an accommodation booking website for travelers to search and select accommodations based on their mobility needs.
- iAccess Life is a mobile app that allows travelers to rate and review locations such as restaurants, hotels and other attractions based on various aspects of their accessibility needs. Founded by Brandon Winfield and Sayeed Mehrjerdian, iAccess Life empowers travelers who are disabled to “know before they go” and feel confident planning trips to new locations.
- Sociability is a mobile app that helps people who are disabled find accessible locations. After relocating to Oxford in the United Kingdom from Australia, Matt Pierri noticed the lack of centralized accessibility information and created an app that allows the community to find, tag and share accessible places so that others can enjoy them too.
- Wheel The World is an online resource for accessible travel experiences, empowering travelers with disabilities and seniors to explore the world without limits. After his experience trekking Patagonia in a wheelchair, Alvaro Silberstein was inspired to found Wheel the World alongside Camilo Navarro, enabling everyone to travel the world — regardless of ability.
Advancing travel equity
- Flywallet is a digital wallet and savings account that makes booking travel more affordable, accessible and sustainable. Founded by Thomas Negrit and Alejandra Fernandez, Flywallet combines data, APIs, blockchain and Web3 to gamify budgeting and paying for travel, helping to reduce the financial burden and lower carbon emissions.
- Green Book Global is a platform for Black travelers to share destination reviews and ratings, book trips and earn cash for travel. Lawrence Phillips founded Green Book Global in 2018 to inspire and empower Black travelers to explore the world. It rates locations on the experience of “Traveling While Black” to help its community feel safe, and works with destinations to become more inclusive.
Empowering women and LGBTQIA+ travelers
- GeoSure combines data from tourism and travel alerts, health, economic and crime statistics to provide hyper-local safety data for travelers, especially women and the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2014, Michael Becker and Dr. Don Pardew set out to make travel safer and more predictable by offering real-time data and analysis on destinations across the globe. GeoSure is now available in over 65,000 cities and neighborhoods worldwide.
- Greether is a travel safety platform that connects women travelers to local women guides so they can experience the destination’s culture firsthand with peace of mind. An experienced solo traveler, Vanessa Karel founded Greether in 2021 after interviewing 500 other women travelers — 90% of whom identified safety as their primary concern.
- misterb&b is an online platform where travelers can choose from over one million private rooms, apartments and LGBTQIA+-friendly hotels and connect with local guides. After experiencing homophobic discrimination during a private room stay, Matthieu Jost, CEO & co-founder, started misterb&b so that no travelers would feel unwelcome based on their sexual identity.
- SoloTrvlr is a travel app for women to explore over 100 destinations, through the eyes of women that know it best. Kim Callender founded SoloTrvlr in 2021 so that women can plan trips with the input and experience from local women and make solo women travel accessible and safe for all, regardless of age, race or sexuality.
The passion and drive from these companies to create a more equitable travel experience for every traveler pushes the industry forward. On a personal level, I’m incredibly excited to work with the finalists and get to know each of the founders as we work together to make travel more open, accessible and inclusive.