TripActions Founders: Ariel Cohen (CEO) and Ilan Twig (CTO)

TripActions: From a bowl of hummus to a $1B+ (and growing) valuation

This is the untold story of our relationship with the TripActions founders — through two companies, an acquisition, a set of of seed, Series A and Series B financings and now, a $154M financing round that values their second company, TripActions, at over $1B.

It began with a bowl of hummus.

Every world-changing company has its own origin story. Apple famously started in a garage in Los Altos. Facebook was born in a dorm room at Harvard. Google grew out of a chance encounter at an orientation meeting for Stanford grad students.

Our journey with TripActions — a company I believe will end up changing the $1.3 trillion business travel industry the same way Netflix has changed the way we consume content — began with an introductory conversation over a bowl of hummus.

It was the spring of 2012. I’d heard through the Silicon Valley grapevine that Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig were looking for seed money for their new startup, StreamOnce.

So I reached out to Ariel and invited him to lunch. He chose the restaurant. He raved about the Hummus at this new downtown Palo Alto restaurant, Oren’s Hummus... and he wasn’t wrong. So, over a delicious bowl of Hummus, we talked about StreamOnce and the problem it solved — allowing business users to communicate across incompatible chat platforms.

It was a good idea, but that’s not what impressed me. It was Ariel himself. From that one meeting I knew that Ariel was someone I wanted to be in business with for a long time. And when I later met Ilan, I felt the same way and knew this was a special team.

It’s a cliche in my industry, but it happens to be true: You invest in people, not companies. And I knew that both Ariel and Ilan were exceptional entrepreneurs. Ariel is a technology executive who led large, high-performance teams at Jive, HP and Mercury. Ilan is a gifted technologist and a strong leader in his own right, who had also cut his teeth at Jive, HP, Mercury, and a startup along the way.

So, in 2012 along with our friend and angel investor, Oren Zeev, Lightspeed invested in the seed round to get StreamOnce off the ground. And thus began a journey that led to our now 6 year partnership with Ariel and Ilan.

Less than a year after its initial funding, StreamOnce was acquired by Jive Software in 2013. Two years after that, Ariel and Ilan left Jive, hungry to launch another startup. This time they called me, and we met at Lightspeed’s offices.

They had an idea on how to make the process of recording and filing business expenses less painful. While I was impressed by the initial concept, I wasn’t quite convinced of the opportunity and encouraged them to think bigger and broader.

Two months later, Ariel and Ilan reached out again. They had dramatically pivoted from their initial idea and had come up with an elegant and innovative idea… the inception for TripActions. They wanted to gamify business travel booking by offering incentives to employees to save their companies money. This, I thought, could be a real game changer.

While it’s come a long way towards building a full corporate travel management platform, TripActions started with a simple yet ingenious premise –by influencing business travelers to treat company travel budget the same way they treat their personal travel budget. By allowing employees to share in any travel cost savings — through an Amazon gift card, flight upgrades, or some other incentive — TripActions would help businesses shave 25 to 30 percent off their travel budgets.

But the gamification platform was really just the beginning. After talking to their initial customers, Ariel and Ilan realized they needed to address the whole travel experience — not just travel gamification, but also mobile and web travel booking that’s complemented with innovative, 24/7 support while on the go.

They ended up designing a beautiful, intuitive mobile and web-based app that’s a modern full-fledged travel management platform for enterprises, one that incorporates both your company’s policies and your personal preferences. Their AI engine personalizes your booking experience, resulting in fast and seamless travel booking. You can book a flight and a hotel within six minutes, without ever touching a human being. The platform notifies you if your flight is delayed in many cases before the airline does, and TripActions’ pro-active travel support will contact your hotel to let them know that you’ll be checking in late. And if your flight is canceled or you need to change your itinerary in transit, their in-app travel chat will help resolve your problems in record time.

With TripActions, business travelers know they’re covered so they can focus on being there (or being present) for the big meeting instead of worrying about how to get there.

None of this happened overnight. Going from the initial idea to a platform that now manages travel for thousands of corporate customers (including innovators like Dropbox, Lyft and Twilio) was a fun, but challenging three-year process. As a partner from the beginning, Lightspeed, Zeev Ventures and the founders have celebrated the big and small wins, and worked the team through the setbacks.

From the seed round, the Series A and our pre-emptive Series B investment earlier this year to today’s $154M financing, in which we are excited to welcome our friends at Andreessen Horowitz to the team (and in which we are participating), we’ve provided funding, advice and support through the company’s journey.

We are honored to have participated in the company’s evolution from its humble beginnings in a small office in Mountain View to a globally distributed company with 7 offices, hundreds of employees and a happy and growing customer base. We are amazed by what Ariel, Ilan and the team have already achieved and built and we are excited to help and support them through the company’s next stage. It won’t necessarily be easy. TripActions is tackling a massive industry and dancing with Giants. But it’s an industry ripe for disruption, and Ariel and Ilan are in it for the long haul to build a company that endures. I think they’re well on their way.

At Lightspeed, we’re extremely excited about our long partnership with the TripActions team as they rethink the Business Travel market and bring the power of machine learning, cloud computing and modern applications to business travelers. For more information on TripActions, visit www.tripactions.com

Onwards!

Arif Janmohamed is a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. He focuses on investments in enterprise IT and infrastructure and sits on the boards of a number of rapidly scaling companies, including Netskope, Qubole, Mist, Split, TripActions, and OverOps. In his free time, Arif plays ice hockey with his wife, who yells at him for never passing the puck to her.

Lightspeed is an early stage VC firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in the enterprise and consumer sectors. Lightspeed has backed 300+ companies globally in the past two decades including Nutanix, AppDynamics, MuleSoft, Snap and Nest.