Avi Meir is a seasoned professional in the travel industry, renowned for his expertise in the field. His extensive experience in the travel industry has earned him a reputation as a visionary leader and innovator, driving the industry forward with his pioneering solutions. He is the CEO and co-founder of TravelPerk, a leading platform that simplifies business travel for companies of all sizes. Under Meir’s leadership, TravelPerk has raised $30 million from prominent investors, including Spark Capital, known for backing tech giants like Twitter and Slack. Prior to TravelPerk, Meir successfully sold his startup, Hotel Ninjas, to Booking Holdings in 2014.
Meir’s passion for technology began in childhood, sparking his interest in the tech industry. He started coding at the age of 12, and his love for technology grew from there. However, like all Israeli citizens, Meir was required to complete his national service when he reached the age of service. During his national service, Meir was selected to work as a software developer for the intelligence unit of the Israeli army, which was a prestigious role. This experience played a crucial role in shaping his career trajectory, providing him with valuable technical and leadership skills. Meir’s exceptional performance and leadership abilities eventually promoted him to special forces team sergeant.
Reflecting on his time with the army, Meir said, “It’s a unique environment that taught me to push myself to the limits as both an individual and a team player. Looking back, it’s amazing to think I was only 18.” He added, “The elite units are designed to push you to your limit and then push you even further, teaching you that you can achieve anything and deal with everything. It’s a great mentality to acquire, but getting to that place is incredibly hard.” The challenges and experiences he encountered during his service with the army would prove invaluable in his future career as a tech entrepreneur.
After completing his service with the army, Meir transitioned to operational management at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Although the position did not involve much technology, it allowed him to gain experience in the travel industry. Meir was struck by the lack of modernization in the industry and saw an opportunity to apply his tech skills to create innovative solutions. He said, “Working for the airport showed me just how much room for modernization there was in the travel market.”
It was this realization that sparked Meir’s entrepreneurial spirit. He saw an opportunity to combine his love for technology with his newfound interest in travel. He pursued an MBA at IESE Business School to enhance his knowledge and network with world-class entrepreneurs and executives. “It was then that I settled on the idea for my first company – HotelNinjas,” he said.
HotelNinjas was a web-based management software provider for hotels, which achieved an enviably quick exit following its launch in 2012. “After two years, I sold the business to Booking.com, and by that stage, I already knew my next challenge was to tackle the huge gap in the business travel sector – to bring an easy-to-use, consumer-grade experience to this £1.3tn industry that was crying out to be disrupted,” he explained. This led to the founding of TravelPerk, a one-stop-shop for business travel that has raised $30 million from investors like Spark Capital, which has also invested in Twitter and Slack.
TravelPerk aims to fix the broken business travel industry worth $1.5 trillion globally. The company seeks to provide a consumer-like experience to business travel, similar to how leisure travel operates, with a team of experienced professionals from companies like Booking.com; TravelPerk leverages technology and data to revolutionize the industry. The company’s goal is to streamline the travel booking process, making it easier, faster, and more cost-effective for businesses of all sizes.
Meir encountered a significant challenge three years after launching the company. Although TravelPerk was growing exponentially, the workforce could not keep up with the increasing demand. Meir realized he had spent too much time focusing on minor details and not enough on the bigger picture. “Technical people like myself can see people and culture stuff as uninteresting and tend to underinvest in it at the beginning, but they can become the biggest pain points for scaling,” he adds.
Nevertheless, he learned a valuable lesson from this experience, which he now shares with other entrepreneurs. Meir advises aspiring business owners to focus on the areas they find boring because these areas are where problems are likely to arise. “Use data and tools to get information on these areas in the same way as you do your product,” Meir recommends.
However, after the minor pitfall, TravelPerk has continued to grow and raise funding from investors like Kinnevik and Battery Ventures despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To adapt to the chaos caused by the pandemic, the company launched a new product called FlexiPerk, which allowed customers to change or cancel their bookings with no fees. They also introduced a COVID-19 travel restrictions map to help travelers stay informed. Despite the setbacks, Meir remains optimistic about the future of business travel and the role TravelPerk will play in shaping it.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, his advice is simple – dream big and aim high. He says, “Start global from day one; think big. Don’t try to be number one in Spain; try to be number one, at least in Europe, if not globally. You cannot be anything less than that in your ambition.”