Jeff Katz, the former Sabre president, Swissair CEO, and founding CEO of Orbitz, is teaming up again with Boston Consulting Group, which drew up the plans for Orbitz, but this time, in addition to a couple of legacy airlines as investors, four major hotel chains are on board.
Founding partners Katz and BCG, which did some of the initial Orbitz conceptual groundwork before the site hired Katz in 2000, have been working on the San Francisco-based startup, Dihedral, in stealth mode for a year and a half.
In addition to founding partner and investor BCG, other Dihedral investors include affiliates of American Airlines Group and United Airlines (both of which became founders of Orbitz), as well as Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Marriott International. Dihedral completed a funding round but Katz, saying the startup is at an early stage, declined to define the funding process in venture-capital terms.
“I don’t want to over-trump it,” says Dihedral CEO Katz of the startup.
BCG is providing funding, consultants and know-how, the startup states.
>> Note: While at Orbitz, Katz played a key role in the early days of online travel. Read the Definitive Oral History of Online Travel here.
Of the name, Katz, a pilot, says: “Dihedral just represents the concept of the vast and important sweep and scope of the travel industry. Much as a wing has importance for an airplane — thus the notion of dihedral is the angle of the wing as attached to the fuselage — up for positive stability. Check out the dihedral angle of a B 787 for example.”
So What Is Dihedral About?
Katz says Dihedral’s mission will be to create a Global Experience Record (GXR) tracing the marketing and other history and processes involved in a traveler’s journey that “might have been created from 1,000 different apps” to enable travel providers to “transform the traveler experience” by offering new types of travel services.
That’s a mouthful. Katz is coy about what is under development in this Big Data-oriented startup and won’t give an example of a use case for a provider subscribing to Dihedral’s services.
Describing the complexities of devices, platforms, and data that travelers touch these days and the Big Data challenges for travel companies, Katz says “it’s like a Swiss Army Knife of apps in a sock drawer of data. The metaphor is nothing really matches and I know it is in there somewhere.”
Here is what Dihedral is not: It does not intend to become an ad-tracking or retargeting platform like Adara or Sojern, where Katz served as an advisor. And although the acronym GXR conjure the idea of PNRs, or Passenger Name Records, that travel agents and global distribution systems use, Dihedral aims to be about the entire travel experience and not just one sector or transaction type.
“The puzzle is the travel industry,” Katz says. “We can create a Global Experience Record that is more than just one sector of travel.”
Technology standards will be a central element of an experience management platform that Dihedral hopes to create.
Asked about existing standards such as IATA’s New Distribution Capability or Open Travel Alliance schemas, Katz says “everybody has a standard, don’t they? But not if the standard is not adopted. Is it a standard or a protocol?”
Dihedral could go in many directions. Katz acknowledges this in saying merely, “We are building something.”
The startup already has dedicated employees in San Francisco and remote ones, and is hiring. Katz decline to say how many employees are currently on the payroll.