Handicapping PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit

The PhoCusWright Travel Innovation summit provides an unparalleled opportunity for companies to showcase their latest and most prized works of development wizardry to an audience of influential travel industry leaders.

Chaos Calls at the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit
Creative Commons License photo credit: antitezo

Chaos Calls is the PhocusWright Conference theme as Travel Innovation Summit presenters take aim at the well established industry players.

Handicapping this event is a difficult challenge – There is no daily racing form, and aside from Goby participating, and Amadeus winning last year, there is little in the way of past performance comparisons.

Embracing the spirit of the PhoCusWright Conference’s Chaos-Calling theme, it was difficult resisting the temptation to launch a full parimutuel betting operation (although no one can deny that it would add an interesting new dimension to the competition.) Instead, I reached out to the learned experts also attending the conference including the press, bloggers and the innovators themselves to capture their predictions.

With several companies have been in stealth mode, operating limited beta programs and in some cases, using the stage of the Innovation Summit as their launch platform, in no way should these predictions be considered scientifically derived.

The best description of this projection would probably be aggregated guessing – in many cases, with no basis of experience with a majority of the products being presented. In other words, if you are reading this, keep your money in your pockets.

The group was asked to predict finish order of the top seven companies, ultimately encompassing the three runners-up, three finalists and the Best of Show winner. There were 22 total responses.

To simplify the voting process, votes were taken without consideration to the categories of each participant, so the respondents were voting based on their prediction of innovation, not who would win in the various categories.

The following 32 companies are competing for the Travel Innovation Summit’s coveted “Best of Show” award:

Company (Category) – Presenter, Position

Competition Rules

Now that we know the players, there is a summary of the process.

There are two rounds in the competition. The audience votes in the first round to select finalists; a panel of judges then votes for the finalists.

In the first round, each innovator receives 9 minutes on stage to explain their innovation. The demonstration is followed by an approximately 1¾ minute Question & Answer period before the audience votes.

The audience is advised to vote on the following criteria:

  • Technical Innovation
  • Business Model Sustainability
  • Marketplace Impact

Sonata software, the only Alpha presenter this year, will have 4½ minutes to present, with the audience voting their opinion of the idea.

Based on the audience vote, four finalists are selected:

One winner from each of three categories:

  • New: Company is less than 18 months old
  • Emerging: Company is 18 to three years old
  • Established: Company is over three years old

One additional at-large finalist (the innovator receiving the highest score while finishing second in its category) is also selected.

The four finalists advance to Center Stage on Wednesday for a final 4½ minute presentation before the judging panel to compete for “Best of Show” honors.

Three additional runners-up will also have 4½ minutes each to present during the Center Stage portion of the conference, but will not be judged and are not eligible for the Best of Show title.

The Judges

An esteemed panel of judges with a wide range of backgrounds – ranging from a journalism and education to industry executives and venture capitalists will select the show winner from the four Travel Innovation Summit finalists.

The 2010 judging panel is:

Panel Predictions

There are several methods to predict the winners of the competition, including a popular vote, consideration of the various categories and of course, the staged voting with selection of finalists and the Best of Show Winner.

Why evaluate the different methods? They wind up working a lot like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences changing the voting for Best Picture this year at the Academy awards. It changed from a single vote for best picture to the movie that gets the highest score based on multiple votes. As a result, a film getting the most first place votes that would have won in years past, might not win now if voting becomes polarized.

Here are the predictions by our learned group of bloggers, press and innovators for the companies achieving Runner-up, Finalist and Best of Show status respectively and the associated odds:

Runners-up (Three places)

  • Off & Away – 5th Place at 16:1
  • gogobot – 6th Place at 16:1
  • SilverRail – 7th Place at 18:1

Note: Odds are for these groups making the cut as a runner-up

Finalists (Three places)

  • Hipmunk – 2nd Place at 4:1 (Tie)
  • Vayant – 2nd Place at 4:1 (Tie)
  • Amadeus IT Group – 4th Place at 6:1

Note: Odds are for these groups making the cut as a finalist

Best of Show (One place)

  • Everbread – 1st Place at 3:1

Note: Odds are for this group to win

Coincidentally, the voting aligned very well with the category breakdown. Based on the projections of the respondents:

  • Amadeus IT Group wins the Established category
  • Vayant wins the Emerging Category
  • Hipmunk wins the New Category
  • Everbread would be the At-large Finalist

You may ask how Everbread could beat Hipmunk if it came in second in its category? It all has to do with the staged voting.

Hipmunk earned the higher score based on its odds of becoming a top four finalist. When those four companies are considered among themselves, Everbread wound up having more first place votes, so it edged past Hipmunk to grab Best of Show.

My Assessment

One question for the voters – So what’s the deal with this unhealthy air search obsession?

Of course, I am half joking. At least based on the tallies by the press, bloggers and participants that voted, the Travel Innovation Summit is looking a lot like Google’s Travel Ecosystem graphic that was produced with the announcement of the ITA Software acquisition.

I fear the FairSearch.org group might be a bit disappointed to see the sentiment that so much innovation is perceived to be taking place in the air search arena…

My guess is that this will be a hot topic, not only at the Travel Innovation Summit, but for the PhoCusWright Conference as well. It will be fascinating to see what discussions wind up taking place on Center Stage.

Seriously, it looks like this may be a very close Innovation Summit competition. With such compressed time frames available for demonstrations, the deciding factor in the judging may not actually be proving the merit of the underlying technology, but the capability of the presenter to lay out a compelling narrative that persuades the audience and judges to swing in their favor.

I will go on record as saying that there is nothing more exciting in a horse race than a long-shot surprising the favorites in an upset. With Chaos Calls as the conference theme, I couldn’t see a more appropriate conclusion to the Travel Innovation Summit.

Maybe we can get some hotel or destination technologies coming out of nowhere and nipping the air guys at the wire…

I will update this post once the final results are announced.

Good luck to all the competitors.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.