October 4, 2019

The problem with paper

It’s January 2012, and Tony Bean is stuck. He’s in Geneva airport on his way home from a skiing holiday, and his flight has been delayed by several hours. Before the trip, Tony had duly printed his flight information – and, of course, folded it up and never looked at it again. He realised in that moment, with his travel details stowed in some unknown pocket, that this system was outdated – and that something had to change.


Cut to the following year, summer 2013. Alisdair Luxmoore and his wife are on safari in Tanzania, en route to the Ngorongor Crater. Sitting in the back of a Jeep, surrounded by bags, Alisdair wants to check the details of their next flight – so, naturally, he has to embark on a three-minute rummage to find the information. He turns to his wife, only to realise that she’s playing solitaire on her iPad. And that’s when it dawned on him.


“This information,” he says,  waving his rather sad, crumpled itinerary whilst pointing at the ipad, “should be on there.”


Collaboration… and finding the cash


At this point, the two men were strangers. But Tony was the founder of an agency that created apps and mobile strategy, and Alisdair, of a virtual travel company; both were well-placed to find a techy solution. And so, each in their own way, they got the ball rolling.


When he finally made it home from Geneva, Tony began by calling up his tour operator, VIP Ski. He pitched them an app that would contain their clients’ chalet, resort and travel details in one place – a sort of rudimentary Vamoos. It was built; they loved it, and, more importantly, the clients loved it too. So, he thought, why wouldn’t other travel companies want to get in on the action?


Well… Because building an app is expensive. He set up meetings with all the major players in the business, and his pitch – “I can build you a fantastic travel app, but it’ll cost £100,000,” – was almost unanimously rejected. One travel company exec, Vanda Bauer, did express an interest, but still, she told him, it was too expensive.


Meanwhile, Alisdair had been researching how to build this app for his own company, Fleewinter. But everyone he approached said that it would be a minimum of £50,000 to get off the ground. Eventually, in February 2014, he turned to the trusty AITO noticeboard to ask if other tour ops had managed to find a way to get clients’ documents onto their devices. About ten people got back to him saying, “No, Alisdair, but if you do – we’re in.”


As luck would have it, one of those people was Vanda, who had met with Tony just a few days before. She put the two men in touch; they met the next day, and by March they had agreed to set up a business together.


Success, and a few surprises


Both Tony and Alisdair shared two core beliefs. The first, is that technology should simplify your life: with Vamoos, they are proud to have created a software that clients can access easily and immediately understand how it works. The second is that, from a B2B perspective, they wanted to ensure that that their product was available to every company – once you subscribe to Vamoos, everyone from large mainstream companies to two-man bands will get exactly the same benefits. This ‘democratised’ system is key.


Vamoos was officially introduced to the world in July 2014. By Christmas they had 15 travel companies signed up, and, by constantly re-investing, adding features and putting service at the heart of what they do, they grew to several hundred


But it didn’t all go as expected. In Tony and Alisdairs’ own words: “We designed Vamoos to be useful during the holiday, but the immediate feedback we got was that it was enhancing the whole experience before the holiday as well. There was no planning for that, no cleverness; in our desire to make everything easier, we stumbled across  a way to improve anticipation. Now, it’s something that people get excited about. When customers book they immediately have something tangible to focus on and show off to their friends and family”


The rest, as they say, is history.


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