Dan Ruch is currently the President at Rocketrip, a travel management and rewards platform that engage employees as partners in managing travel costs. Prior to Rocketrip, Ruch held positions at TACODA and GroupM where he dealt with several well-known brands. The Makegood recently spoke to Ruch about the funding Rocketrip received from Canaan and Genecast.
The Makegood: Congratulations on your first round of funding with Canaan Partners and Genacast Ventures for Rocketrip. Could you elaborate on how you came up with the idea for this company, and why you thought it was a vital platform for travel management?
I was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Genacast and along with its founder Gil Beyda, was hunting for concepts that we thought would work as a viable standalone business. We explored several industries (mobile technology, foreign exchange, consumer travel). Diligence in the space made it clear that there was a real opportunity in business travel. Many brick and mortar intermediaries exist in the travel market that, for the most part, aren’t very relevant in a digital world. It’s an antiquated sector ripe for disruption. As investors we get excited about those opportunities – as there aren’t too many of them left. I then met my co-founder, Gillian Tee, and we started building a prototype. Genacast financially supported that early effort.
The Makegood: What does the funding Canaan is providing do for Rocketrip? How will this help the future of the company?
The recent funding will give us room to iterate on our product. What we’re doing — predicting expected spend in a parallel universe scenario on a given flight, hotel, or car rental, for a given employee at a given company, in real time — is not trivial. There’s a lot of data science and a lot of technology behind that, and we’re focusing the majority of our efforts there.
The Makegood: Could you elaborate on Rocketrip’s incentive platform? How will this incentive platform be even more beneficial to users?
The incentive platform is what motivates behavioral change. At the end of the day, Rocketrip isn’t a travel company. Travel is just scratching the surface. What we’re trying to do is change the way employees THINK about the decisions they make at the office. Do I really need to fly business class even if I’m allowed to? Do I really need to stay at the Four Seasons? These questions typically don’t even get considered, unless there’s a reason to consider them. Putting a share of the savings in their pocket based on an employee’s answer to those questions is what drives that inner monologue in the first place.
The Makegood: What kind of technology is integrated into the Rocketrip platform? How does Rocketrip save employees money while still earning a profit?
Our technology platform is complex as we have several business units that are heavy on API integrations as we interact with many external data and service providers. We are building a data arsenal that plugs into a variety of travel data providers (Global Distribution Systems, Online Travel Agencies, Metasearch providers). This data warehouse then informs our predictive pricing algorithms, which are a beast in and of themselves. Then we have our receipt ingestion platform which automatically parses and stores travel receipts, and a redemption catalog and shopping engine that drives the incentive side of our business. That’s just the start of it.
As far as how we make money, Rocketrip doesn’t make money from our customers unless we save them money (and their employees MAKE money). In other words, we share in the value we are able to generate. We don’t charge a fee to use our platform, which is very different than how the rest of the business travel industry works.
The Makegood: What are your plans for the future of Rocketrip? How are your other partnerships or investors going to be beneficial for the company’s future?
Right now it’s all about the product and the user experience. Each day as we invest more heavily on the product side, the quality of our algorithms increases. This is where we differentiate from our competitive set, and it’s a very, very hard problem to solve. Customizing the product to meet the needs and desires of individual employees is also a big focus for us.
The Makegood: Thank you, Dan.