It's hard to believe the time has already come to announce this year's Booking Booster grant winners. While we expected great things, the pitches absolutely blew us and the guests (who packed in to Tobacco Theater) away with their poise, confidence and ability to answer the questions from the judges flawlessly.
These startups have worked so hard over the past few weeks to get to where they have gotten and we are so proud of everything they have accomplished.
Last night, the 10 teams of finalists pitched their scaling plans to a live audience and panel of expert judges in Amsterdam, with Indian startups Sakha Consulting Wings: Women on Wheels and Global Himalayan Expedition being awarded this year’s highest grants of €325k and €400k respectively. Sakha Consulting is a unique social enterprise, launched to offer safe transport solutions for women by women in selected cities in India, providing livelihoods with dignity through professional driving opportunities to resource-poor women as part of the “Women on Wheels” (WOW) initiative. Global Himalaya Expedition (GHE) organizes impact expeditions to provide clean energy and digital education access to the remote mountain communities of the Himalayas, helping to put them on the map for future travelers to explore.
“The vision and passion that we’ve seen from all the startups this year has been truly inspiring,” said Gillian Tans, President and CEO of Booking.com. “I was especially impressed with Wheel the World’s moving mission to empower people with disabilities to explore the world within the adventure travel sector, Sakha’s commitment to empowering women in India to take control of their livelihoods and of course with how GHE is literally bringing light to remote mountain villages through their Himalayan expeditions. We’re all looking forward to seeing how their plans unfold over the coming weeks and months as we work together to bring their vision for a more sustainable travel industry to even more destinations worldwide.”
The 10 startups that participated in the 2018 program hail from six different countries and operate collectively across six continents, including Antarctica. Their businesses also represent a diverse mix of innovative online marketplaces that connect travelers with inclusive travel experiences, cutting-edge technology solutions and initiatives that empower local communities to benefit more equally from the global tourism opportunity.
“Booking Booster provided us with some much needed time to reflect, re-strategize and fire up our rockets. It has given us new perspectives and tools for analyzing our business, as well as the insights to synchronize our impact and business narrative,” said Meenu Vadera, Founder of Sakha Consulting. “We will use the fund to scale up our capacity, improve operational efficiency and multiply our impact exponentially. Over the next two years, this funding will enable us to provide livelihoods in transport to over 1,000 resource-poor women, who will be able to earn collectively over 2 million euros for themselves and their families and provide 1.1 million safe rides to women across India.”
“The Booking Booster has been extremely beneficial to GHE and has helped us to understand the dynamics of customer development while still maintaining a deep, tangible impact for indigenous communities around the world,” said Jaideep Bansai, Energy Access Leader at Global Himalayan Expedition. “This grant will enable us to scale our operations to other geographies and empower us to conduct 160 impact expeditions with 2,500 tourists, bringing electricity to 100,000 villagers and in the process offsetting 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions.”
All 10 of the sustainable tourism startups are being awarded grants from the 2018 Booking.com Booster Program’s €2 million fund, including Community Homestay Network (Nepal) for €225k, Keteka (United States: Operating in Central and South America, Antarctica) for €275k and Wheel the World (United States) for €275k. HiveSters (Thailand), Hotel Con Corazón (Netherlands: Operating in Nicaragua), KITRO (Switzerland), Reflow (Netherlands) and Tastemakers (United States: Operating in Africa) each received grants of €100k.
All the startups that participated in the program will receive 12 months of ongoing mentoring and coaching from a strategic mix of Booking.com experts representing all parts of the business, as well as opportunities and access to collaborate with Booking.com on potential innovation initiatives and experiments to help accelerate their future growth. In addition to the Booking.com scaling grants that were awarded, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will also offer to each of the Booking.com Booster finalists the possibility to benefit from its Startups program: AWS Activate. AWS will provide startups with the resources they need to quickly get started on AWS – including credits, training, and support – to bring their ideas to life.
To stay up to date on the progress that all startups make in the coming months or on future calls for applications, continue to follow our blog.