Skift Take

Peer-to-peer payment platforms, digital wallets and cryptocurrencies are no longer the things of science fiction. These are the platforms travelers are using to pay for their basic purchases every day. Data show that brands that have adopted these platforms have seen the benefits and returns.


Payments are one of the deepest fault lines being tested throughout the travel industry in 2016.

From how travelers pay for their Airbnb to their Uber ride, from their business class airfare to their dinner tab, we’ve seen many challenges and solutions emerge from virtually all sectors this year.

A recent Skift Trends Report has this to say: “Venmo processed more than $1 billion just in the month of January 2016; usage continues to explode. Apple Pay launched in October of 2014 amid skepticism, yet now touts over two million point of sale locations in the U.S. and growing fast. Australia, Canada, the UK, and China have all joined the list of countries where Apple Pay is now live. Airbnb, Delta, Expedia, Hotel Tonight, Lyft, Priceline, and Uber all now accept Apple Pay. Over 141 million transactions have been processed with Bitcoin since the decentralized currency launched in 2009.”

This week we’re looking at startups founded in the midst of these new payment technologies and obstacles, from companies that want to help travelers earn points for travel from wherever they shop to those that want to help you pay for travel simply by sending a text to a messaging pot.


UTU allows travelers to earn, aggregate and redeem rewards points at home and overseas. It provides a cross-border connection between merchants, consumers, acquirers and issuers, through a real-time experience. At the time of launch, UTU users will be able to redeem points at outlets such as Zara, Starbucks, Boots, Tom N Toms and HomePro in Thailand.

>>SkiftTake: Travelers live in an increasingly globalized world and expect to be able to use and earn their points no matter where they are and what they’re buying.


TravelBank is a travel and expense system that targets small and medium businesses and its software predicts expenses and gives cash rewards if users come in under budget. It’s also integrated with, NetSuite and QuickBooks for companies that already use those services.

>>SkiftTake: TravelBank is trying to disrupt the space that Rocketrip has carved out for itself. The integrations with TravelBank are appealing, but the dust is far from settling on who will capture the most marketshare with corporate travel expenses and rewards.


Akruu helps its members earn points or miles by redeeming advertised offers or completing activities, such as purchasing items from participating online stores, answering surveys and donating to charities, etc.

>>SkiftTake: Studies show travelers want to earn loyalty at places they already do their day-to-day shopping. Many travelers likely already use services like Akruu but more competition is a good thing.


Velocity is a dining reservations app features a locally curated selection of restaurants in New York City, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The 1,100-plus available restaurants include New York City’s Blue Hill and Toro restaurants and San Francisco’s Slanted Door and Cala restaurants.

It’s also acquired three other global restaurant platforms including Cover, a dining mobile payments app in the U.S., Tab Payments, a Canadian mobile payments app for Toronto and Montreal and Uncover, a restaurant mobile reservations app in the U.K.

>>SkiftTake: For those watching the mobile dining payments sector, Velocity is definitely a player to keep tabs on and one that’s so far well-funded.


30 Seconds to Fly is a travel management software that helps business travelers book travel through its virtual assistant Claire on Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype and SMS.

>>SkiftTake: Bots for corporate travel booking? Who knows. What we do know is that business travelers are also consumers and don’t want to compartmentalize their booking habits. The corporate travel space certainly needs more innovation and maybe bots are one gateway towards that.

For all of our SkiftSeedlings coverage, check out our archives here.


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Tags: skiftseedlings, startups

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