TripActions: A Prime Unicorn Rising from the Ashes
Only those who pluck up the courage to raise from failure can become successful. Nothing knows this better than Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig - two Israeli entrepreneurs whose curiosity for technology and math sparked a desire in them to get creative.
Cutting their teeth in various startups before launching their own venture taught both Ariel and Ilan of the three cornerstones of entrepreneurship - seizing an opportunity, finding a solution to a given problem, and relishing the success that comes as a result.
Set out to solve a variety of payment irregularities in travel experiences and optimize traveling as a concept, Ariel and Ilan developed one of the fastest-growing unicorns in history, called TripActions.
Mainly aimed at business travelers, TripActions takes the corporate world of voyaging and makes it far simpler, far more affordable - and organized to perfection. Want to find out more about Ariel and Ilan's story?
Same Ambitions, Different Pathways
Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Ilan grew up in a religious family that taught him the most important life values - devotion, perseverance as well as innovation. Ever since a young age, Ilan showed a proclivity for computing and even developed his own version of a maze arcade game called Pac-Man - all because he lacked a gaming console at home.
Shortly after, curiosity sparked an interest within the young intellectual, so he began designing his very first software. Selling the software when he was only fourteen years old, Ilan revealed his entrepreneurial abilities to the world and took pride in his efforts.
Playing around with knowledge felt efficient, and soon enough, Illan enrolled in The Academic College of Tel-Aviv, to upgrade his professional skills. In 1999, he got his Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.
Meanwhile, only an hour’s drive from Ilan, Ariel was born in Tel Aviv. The only difference during both of their childhoods was that Ariel's life revolved around math instead of computing. Being an impeccable math prodigy, he decided to attend Israel business College, where he got his economics degree in 2001. Hungry for more knowledge, a few years later, Ariel also majored in financial and information systems.
Whilst Ariel was immersed in his studies, Ilan tested his skills within the start-up world, creating his first company called Whitemaps LTD. However, for such a demanding task, Illan felt he was both too young and too inexperienced. Discouraged in a way, Ilan abandoned the project shortly after, only to find a job where he could explore all the avenues of scaling up companies.
During the early 00s, Ariel and Ilan both sent application letters at Mercury Interactive - unaware of what their next job experience would bring.
Exploring New Avenues
Come 2001, Ariel's application was accepted by a SaaS company that provided business technology optimization, called Mercury Interactive. Although inexperienced, his deep business' knowledge put him at one of the highest positions the company had offered - a director of R&D enablement.
Researching across broad technology areas, while simultaneously monitoring costs and managing the department's budget, were some of Ariel’s professional requirements that helped him expand his skills and learn more about business.
Shortly after, Ilan joined Mercury Interactive as a development manager. During his time at the company, the young engineer was supervising a whole team that had been developing web applications, software, as well as network systems.
Outside their daily responsibilities, the young Israelis were grasping knowledge on channels, ways to release a product, and techniques to better help them understand their customers' needs.
Somewhere in between, Ariel saw a potential business partner in Ilan, but he kept that for himself, quietly waiting for the perfect moment to address it. In the months that followed, the two found common grounds of interest and started lunching together whilst discussing their occupational challenges.
What came as a surprise to them both was the acquisition of Mercury Interactive, by HP Software in 2006. The reason behind this move was to help customers speed the delivery of new services.
Left with no other choice, both entrepreneurs-to-be flew overseas and all the way to Palo Alto, California, to work for the said company. Whilst Ariel worked as a senior director product manager, Ilan became the company’s development manager.
The unexpected promotion required that Ariel led a global team of over seven-hundred people, all providing various services to HP Software’s R&D labs. Even though working for HP Software was a tough nut to crack, it definitely taught Ariel how to tackle teamwork problems with ease.
At the same time, Ilan worked his way up to becoming the director of engineering and led over two-hundred people on developing both project and portfolio management.
Learning from Failure
Seeing Californian mogul companies rise from scratch inspired Ariel to design something of his own. In other words, this was the perfect time for Ariel to share his business plans with his already-a-long-time-friend, Ilan.
Brainstorming ideas felt natural to the duo, and helped them figure out that companies lacked a certain something to help organize their business systems to enable easier communication. Having worked with massive teams already, Ariel and Ilan knew that streaming all information within a single social platform could largely facilitate data management.
Reaching out to an investor, called Arif Janmohamed, the duo presented their idea over a bowl of hummus. It is safe to say that Arif was quite impressed, not so much so with the idea but with the bursting talent Ariel and Ilan had showcased. The three closed the deal shortly after and crowned it with a $1.4 million investment.
A few months of hard labor later, in early 2012, StreamOnce was officially launched. However, the company wasn't half as successful as the duo had imagined. Over a one- year period, StreamOnce recruited only five employees, and collaborated with two major companies, Jive and Box. Despite the fact that the company couldn't get a proper market fit, the relationship Ariel and Ilan developed with the existing brands was more than satisfactory.
In fact, both Jive and Box offered to acquire the company in 2013. Due to negotiation reasons, Jive was the one that ultimately acquired StreamOnce. Along with StreamOnce, Ariel and Ilan continued their working journey at Jive - the former as a VP product manager, and the latter as a VP engineer.
Armed with a powerful life lesson and ironclad knowledge, the young entrepreneurs were far from done. On the contrary, they emerged back on the market even stronger, far more experienced, and starved for business success.
By 2015, Ariel and Ilan were still eager to make a difference, but this time, they began thinking bigger. First and foremost, the two wanted to design something that would be worth putting their blood, sweat, and tears into. Driven by the idea of disrupting an existing industry, the duo made it their goal to reinvent one of the ripest industries to date- the travel industry.
Fixated on their personal experiences, Ariel and Ilan realized the many flaws within the industry - from its ineffective booking tools to its sky-high traveling costs. To solve the issue, the two focused mainly on the product fit. Resolving the issues that frustrated business became their sole preoccupation.
With this in mind, Ariel and Ilan launched TripActions in 2015. Having received a $4 million seed round, led by Zeev Ventures, the duo had sufficient funds to kickstart the company as intended. A year later, the company secured another round of dazzling $14.6 million, this time led by Oren Zeev Ventures.
For over two years, TripActions operated secretively, employing people to work on perfecting their product. It wasn’t until 2017 that the company launched out of stealth mode, and ever since, TripActions has worked on sourcing quality hotels and flights with the help of various travel booking sites, like Priceline, Expedia, and Booking.
The philosophy behind the business was to narrow down the options for business travelers, according to their provided information. Most importantly, the inventors thought of a way to cut their customers' costs, by charging them a $25 trip fee upon booking a hotel or a trip. What distinguishes the platform from the rest of its kind is the fact that once those $25 are charged, no additional costs are required.
Easy as it seems, this functional tool would lead Ariel and Illan to an even greater challenge.
Challenges to be Won
Early in 2019, one of the major US airlines, Delta, blocked TripActions from most booking sites. This happened mostly because the company had an issue with how TripActions arranged its fare classes.
Looking to overcome the hurdle, TripActions implemented Next Generation Storefront, a tool that allowed travelers to compare the best flight offers and perks, such as available Wi-Fi or reserving the cheapest seats on board. As Delta agreed to collaborate with TripActions yet again, people began using the platform more than ever before.
Just as the company skyrocketed its revenue to over $100 million annually, Covid19 pushed TripActions limits once again. Unfortunately, Ariel and Ilan had to lay off some of their best working staff this time.
Even so, the company fought with all its might to survive the storm and even raised over $1.3 billion in funding to keep the business alive and kicking!
The company witnessed massive growth potential in the coming years, and experts are now predicting that TripActions did a job ten times better than any other service provider on the market.
Although stagnant during the pandemic, TripActions plans on living up to everyone’s expectations - their own, the market’s, and their client’s.
As far as Ariel and Ilan are concerned, they are intending to emerge stronger than ever from the crisis, and dominate the travel industry all over again. Even more, TripActions will continue to raise the bar of quality with its competitiveness, efficiency, and most of all, affordability.
Without a doubt, TripActions send a loud and clear message to the travel industry- that it is here to stay, and do outstanding business - as usual!