CHAIRMAN AND CEO
only as an expense management technology supplier, Concur in the past
few years has expanded
its product and service offerings to travel
booking, analytics, payment reconciliation and
mobile travel features,
an evolution that CEO
Steve Singh said has
let Concur “drive the agenda in the corporate travel market.” He called that Concur’s “single biggest
As it seeks to further grow its customer base—
from about 10,000 at year-end 2010 to 20,000 by
fiscal year 2012—Concur has outlined growth into
new geographies, the small and mid-size markets
and new product segments. The company in 2010
also announced a series of new partnerships and
expanded its relationship with American Express to
include its business travel unit, as well as the commercial card division. “It’s been a fantastic source of
new customers,” Singh said of Amex.
But Amex has not been the only source of customer
growth. Concur expanded its own sales force, which
typically delivers 75 percent to 80 percent of new customers, and also forged a multi-year global alliance
with Amadeus. The companies last year integrated
Amadeus’ eTravel Management booking tool with
Concur Expense and Amadeus’ ticket reissue service
and fare search engine into Concur Cliqbook Travel.
To reach the small and midsize market, Concur
also introduced its new Breeze solution that customers can download from the Web or mobile application stores from Apple, BlackBerry and Google.
Amex also is marketing Breeze, designed for companies with fewer than 250 employees. Concur also
plans to introduce a new version of its direct-connect
platform and application programming interface,
which will allow third-party developers for the first
time to connect to the Concur platform.
Singh has headed Concur for 15 years and makes
his seventh appearance on this list. Though 2011 is
less than one month old, he’s already making a bid
for an eighth appearance with Concur’s Jan. 13 announcement that it plans to acquire TripIt for at least
MARY ANN MCNULTY
COFOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
Announced this month, Concur’s acquisition
of TripIt will end the emerging phase for a
technology firm whose easy-to-use online
itinerary aggregation service first begged the question, perhaps inadvertently, “Whose data is the
itinerary?” TripIt co-founder and president Gregg
Brockway, slated to take a senior role running the
TripIt By Concur business unit, always advocated
travelers’ rights to and power over their trip data,
and it has paid off through the business travel market’s most successful startup story in years.
TripIt’s core service—enabling users to build better itineraries simply by forwarding to TripIt those
they received by email from travel agencies, online
booking tools and consumer services—rattled a
traditional sense of enterprise-level controls over
traveler info and helped usher in a new era of traveler independence, starting three years ago when
TripIt had fewer than 10 employees. It now has 50.
Having initially claimed that TripIt was “not authorized” to import data from Sabre itineraries, the
global distribution system giant in 2008 invested in
TripIt—not that it mattered in terms of cementing
TripIt’s impact. Brockway asserted that the data is
indeed owned by the travelers, and no one objected. TripIt simply counted users as the service grew
exponentially. Meanwhile, it became clear that mobile apps and social media were going to be huge in
corporate travel and TripIt was all over both—again
with naysayers, particularly on the social side.
“Who wants their friends and colleagues in social networks to know every detail of one’s travel
plans?” some corporate travel pros asked. Tons of
people, the people said.
“I like to think we helped shape the way people
think about what travelers want,” said Brockway.
“Our starting point was, why are travelers always
complaining about the state of things? There was an
attitude in the industry that you don’t have to pay
attention to that and the companies are the real customer. We have always liked to think the traveler was
the real decision-maker and we were part of helping
the industry become more traveler-centric.”
TripIt also tapped into the platform concept,
making available to third-party developers the trip
data—always with the traveler’s permission—that
could power new apps and website services from
expense reporting to flight information. Brockway
believes this approach holds even more promise for
new, traveler-centric developments than do TripIt’s base products. “Sharing the data will unlock a
whole lot of value for the ecosystem,” he said.
TripIt was everywhere in 2010. Its penetration into
the corporate market was underway with not only
thousands of corporate traveler users, but also through
a travel management company program that started
with BCD Travel and continued with dozens more.
Forget the traditional paper itinerary; even the following generation of email itineraries faced their killer.
In March, TripIt made its first formal entry into the
corporate market with its free Groups service, which
within two months grew from 1,000 to 10,000 company users—that is, companies with TripIt users, if
not also companies whose travel management pros
chose to use TripIt. At Google, where travel manager
Michael Tangney has taken an active role in the use
and promise of TripIt, there were 4,000 TripIt users
as of September. That service since has evolved into a
fee-based offering with administrative controls.
TripIt also started signing up third-party tech firms
like Cornerstone Information Systems. By August,
TripIt had “arrived” so dramatically that it drew sniping from Rearden Commerce CEO Patrick Grady,
who chided it as naturally a “feature” rather than a
company and, to his credit, predicted TripIt and its
ilk would be acquired by bigger players.
Along the way, TripIt’s competition also grew as
WorldMate tweaked its products to incorporate an
email-forwarding option while the likes of Concur,
Sabre, Rearden and others updated their itinerary,
mobile, social and platform offerings. American
Express and Carlson Wagonlit Travel by mid-2010
announced their own mobile itinerary partnerships
with some of those rivals.
Taking TripIt into its next stage, Concur announced it “intends to fully support and continue
GLOBAL TRAVEL MANAGER
There are few
new ideas in
travel management, which is why
it’s noteworthy when
a handful even if it
seems others would
be hard-pressed to
to new technologies, all on top of his intimate knowledge
of procurement systems.
copy them. Better yet is when they share their new
ideas publicly, and Google global travel manager Michael Tangney has done plenty of that. Tangney’s innovative program, which gives travelers more latitude
with the company’s money thanks to a rate cap system
that rewards them when they spend less with the ability
to spend more another time, has been discussed on the
conference circuit for a couple years. But Tangney also
has emerged as a rare travel professional who understands travelers, gets the travel industry and is attracted
The Google program leverages technology the firm
built for itself but, even so, a number of industry professionals have reconsidered their own approaches in
light of it. A big reason is that it simplifies policies and
empowers travelers. For example, while Google has a
travel management company, it doesn’t require employees to book through it. The company retains a key element of control because travelers still must enter trip
details into a proprietary trip-management system to
obtain an identification number, without which they
are not reimbursed.
“What I see as a great opportunity in this industry at
the moment is to figure out a way to take agency information and take non-agency information and to group
that together,” Tangney said at an NBTA event in September. Travel managers could use the data, he argued,
to watch for noncompliance patterns and engage travelers through social media platforms to uncover why they
didn’t follow travel policies.
Tangney’s ideas about more open and traveler-friendly
management do not stop there. For example, he advocates the possibilities of using of a tool like TripIt and its
Groups function to consolidate booking data from multiple sources and potentially enhance support for safety
Tangney also said, “There is great potential for replicating or replacing what the traditional TMCs do in
terms of tracking data and sharing that information with
suppliers.” Perhaps seeking to avoid an anti-TMC label,
Tangney also said agencies do retain fundamental value
in terms of supporting complex itineraries, being “an
easy way” to book trips, and offering a channel for the
corporate negotiated rates.
Luckily for the new ideas camp, Tangney is more likely
to elaborate than to keep his remarks to himself.