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Amadeus has long been involved in incubating startup-like ventures within the company, but will now do so with a more deliberate strategy to forge closer relationships with young companies that it feels are worth associating with.

Amadeus became the latest established travel industry operating company to launch a travel startup investment fund, joining Concur, eLong, American Airlines and Priceline, although the latter two “funds” have yet to leave the ground.

In recent years, these companies are showing they are not just content to acquire travel startups when they are ripe for the plucking.

Instead, these companies want to get tight with the startups at an early stage, with the possibility of an acquisition perhaps at a later juncture.

Madrid-based Amadeus announced in a blog post today that it has created Amadeus Ventures to invest in early-stage travel and hospitality startups.

Katherine Grass, who heads Amadeus Ventures within the Amadeus IT Group, writes in the blog post:

“The main objective of the fund is to identify and invest in start-up companies that have already developed a working prototype and sit in niche areas of the sector that we believe are at the forefront of developing market trends.

“Of course, Amadeus is looking at the potential financial performance of the investment, but equally at the tight commercial relationships that we will foster with the companies we invest in. And it is just as important to us that we encourage innovation for the travel industry, since innovation is part of Amadeus’ DNA.”

Those “commercially tight relationships” were in play in Amadeus’ recent investment in Yapta, which tracks fare drops for corporations and travel agencies.

Amadeus topped off a series D round for Yapta, and contributed more than $1 million. Existing investor Concur, with its Perfect Trip Fund, also participated in the round. Yapta has raised some $20 million to date.

Many Amadeus, Concur, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel clients use the Yapta service, which is one reason why these three investors/operating companies have funded Yapta so they can forger tighter relationships with the airfare tracker.

Amadeus Ventures is not the global distribution system and technology company’s first foray into startup investing, but it does represent its most deliberate and strategic approach.

For example, in 1998 Amadeus entered into a stock purchase and licensing agreement with the then-fledgling ITA Sofware, which Google acquired two years ago for $700 million.

But, Amadeus and ITA Software got into a bitter dispute about strategic direction, with Amadeus suing ITA and eventually getting out of the business.

There’s no word from Amadeus yet on how much money it has committed to Amadeus Ventures.

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Tags: amadeus, concur, yapta

Photo credit: An Amadeus data center in Nice. Amadeus

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