Booking.com is turning its attention to mentoring start-ups at that are at seed level with Booster Lab, an offshoot from its Booster programme launched in June which saw three Asian start-ups, Authenticook, LocalAlike and Backstreet Academy as among finalists receiving no-strings-attached grants from Booking.com to scale up their businesses.
Booster Lab not only focuses on start-ups that bring local and/or marginalised communities into tourism, but makes a deliberate attempt to support those that have the potential to alleviate overcrowding, an issue that has created resentment and anti-tourism in some destinations.
Fittingly, the first Booster Lab will be held in Barcelona, Spain this December, covering start-ups in Europe, and is slated to run globally, including in Asia-Pacific, throughout 2018. It features a regionally-focused weekend programme of workshops, mentoring plus a chance to pitch for growth-hacking grants of up to 25,000 euros (US$29,396).
In an interview with TTG Asia, Marianne Gybels, manager Booking Cares who leads the development of Booster, said one of the major learnings from Booster was that many of the 700 applicants were “great start-ups with amazing ideas but are still at seed level – no staff, do not make revenue – and so didn’t fit our Booster which are for start-ups that are ready to scale”.
“We want to push them forward,” she said.
When asked what sort of solutions Booking.com was looking for in alleviating overtourism, Gybels said: “We have a team called Destinations Unlock to look at these start-ups. For example, there are many beautiful destinations in the world, yet we tend to concentrate on the same areas. A new destination can be a city within a city. For example, in Amsterdam city, there are so many beautiful surroundings that are waiting to be unlocked. Showing different sides to a destination (can) help spread tourism to more areas.”
Booster Lab has 265 applications from Europe and will be selecting 15 start-ups soon.
The grants of up to 25,000 euros each are much smaller than Booster grants. Singapore’s Backstreet Academy, for instance, received this year’s top Booster grant of 400,000 euros that it asked for, while Thailand’s LocalAlike got 300,000 euros.
One reason is, as Booster Labsstart-ups are at seed level and have not made any business investment, the risk of them just walking away after receiving a grant is real.
Gybels said the grants “truly have no strings attached” and are meant to ease the “struggle these start-ups go through”.
“We want to show our commitment to them and are happy to share our knowledge and expertise in helping them scale.”
Find out how Asian start-ups are using the grants in tomorrow’s TTG Asia e-Daily.
- reporting live from ITB Asia