On Jan 13 this year it was announced that travel and expense management company Concur (Nasdaq: CNQR) would pay up to $120 million for the indispensable travel tool Tripit (Kevin May Tnooz story here and press release here). I had a chance to speak last week with Michael Eberhard, Concur's EVP and GM Asia Pacific (pictured) about Concur, the deal and their combined plans for Asia. Three themes from the discussion
1. Asia is a big priority for Concur and TripIt. They are planning to spend a lot of time and money targeting customers in this region;
2. There will be stronger links to travel booking in TripIt. Concur are a large travel management company and are looking to bring that to TripIt; and
3. The social media parts of TripIt are here to stay. I expressed some doubts about the usage of the social media features but Concur remain convinced that these are important features that will be worked on and pushed.
Full interview notes below.
The BOOT Asks: What are your plans for TripIt post acquisition?
Eberhard: The main goals of the acquisition was to increase investment into all of the TripIt solutions (free, pro product and core business product). Helps [Concur further target] unmanaged biz travel especially those still craving data at deeper level than an itinerary.
The BOOT Asks: I use TripIt extensively for travel planning and co-ordination, but I have not found the social media parts (finding who is in what location) that useful or result in any connections while on a trip. Do you see value in the social media elements of TripIt?
Eberhard: We see the social media parts as important. Personally, prior to the acquisition I made a connections with friends, including one running a marathon in Asia. Combined with mobile and groups will give friends, family and travel managers information and visibility they have not had before.
The BOOT Asks: What are your non-English and Asian plans?
Eberhard: Concur had a lot a success across Asia with existing customers. We are now moving into AsiaPacific to acquire and service customers locally. We will increase staff in Hong Kong and Singapore and through our joint venture in Japan.
The BOOT Asks: Why did you launch a joint venture in Japan and what is the biggest thing about the Japanese market that surprised you?
Eberhard: some of our largest customers have travellers and employees using Concur inside Japan but we have not been acquiring new customers. To address this properly it made sense to do a JV with a local company (press release here).
The number one surprise about the Japanese travel market is that the market is more fragmented than we expected and processes are unique.
The BOOT Asks: Concur is (in part) in the expense management business. What is the weirdest expense you have seen an employee try to charge?
Eberhard: Most companies have some level of fraud. We have examples of lavish parties, including weddings being charged by employees.
I use TripIt religiously to help me cover 200,000 miles a year in travel. It is always a challenge to see how a start up will fare inside a multi-billion dollar company. Concur seems like a better home for TripIt than a media company or OTA due to the focus on travel and expense management rather than a retail or media model. As I tweeted when the deal was announced - this the first deal of 2011. Is also the first of my list of seven do-overs/reboots (Triporati, Tripit, NewTravelCo/Travelpost, Getaroom, Voyij, Wego and Hotelscombined) to get bought out.
I have to admit upfront that I had not heard of Concur prior to this deal. If you are like me in this regard, let me share with you some of the background provided by Eberhard. At the core the company is a "provider of travel and expense management solutions". Market cap is around $2.7b (as of today). They claim 15 million users in 90 countries including big companies like Unisys, Ericsson, JCPenny and Cable & Wireless.