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Season 1, Episode 3: A Conversation about the Upside of Disruption

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Check out the latest episode of PROS Travel podcast Ahead of the Curve for a conversation with Anton Diego and Seth Cassel, founders and CEOs of EveryMundo, about the upside of disruption.

You can listen to Ahead of the Curve on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Or listen to the full audio version below.

Full Transcript

Surain Adyanthaya:Welcome back to another episode of Ahead of the Curve. I am Surain Adyanthaya, president of travel for PROS. And joining me today will be Seth Cassel and Anton Diego. The co-founders and co-presidents of EveryMundo. Welcome guys....

Seth Cassel: Thank you for having us.

Anton Diego: Thanks for having us.

Surain Adyanthaya: Okay. No. I'm excited to talk to you. There's a lot of interesting things going on in the airline industry and you're in the middle of it. So this is very exciting for me. So just to start it off, Seth and Anton, can you tell us a little bit about, what it's like to be a start-up founder, to grow your business and to lead a vision for a business as a start up?

Seth Cassel: Sure, I can go first. This is Seth. It is... It's both at times the most rewarding and fulfilling experience and other times incredibly thankless and difficult. Because it becomes part of your identity in many ways. You're building something from scratch. With EveryMundo, Anton and I got together in 2010. At the time it was a one-man digital marketing shop, that Anton was running. He had a bigger vision for how it could be a proper technology company. And I was coming from a series of participations in startups and was looking for something bigger to do. And really just loved his approach to building a business one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. But of course that's hard, right? And it requires stamina, it requires a long view of what you want to accomplish. But also a constant sense of self motivation and then as soon as it starts to cook and there's others involved you're constantly motivating others and constantly really driving and aligning others towards a singular vision of what you wanna build.

Seth Cassel: But then also trying to just enjoy the journey of it. Because again, because it is such a long path, it is a marathon. If you're entirely fixated on the end of it, that can be very very difficult. And so we've always tried to run the business and the company and build a culture around pursuing big ambitions, but also enjoying the little moments and that act of just again putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of a journey.

Surain Adyanthaya: I've read actually that startups with two founders, are much more successful than single founder startups. Can you give us your thoughts on that? Any insights?

Seth Cassel: Anton you wanna take it?

Anton Diego: Yeah, I'll take that one. Yeah, absolutely... I agree with that, I haven't seen the statistics on it. But having two founders, obviously, you share the burden. Generally you tend to complement each other as long as you communicate extremely well and very thoroughly throughout the day, throughout the week and really plan things together. I think, yeah, the probability of success is definitely much higher. And it's also a much more enjoyable process to share with someone else. And to have conversations and to think through situations, scenarios etcetera and bounce ideas off each other. So, I think again, I haven't seen the statistics but I 100% believe that. I always advise people to find someone else, to share their journey with.

Seth Cassel: Yeah, for me, there was by virtue of having a team running the company or co-founding. It means that trust essentially has to be part of the foundation of the business because it starts with the trust between the co-founders and that at least for us permeated... The company. And then also, to what Anton was saying it's nice to have someone there. High-fiving yourself is an awkward thing to do when things go well. So it's nice to have somebody to celebrate with. So...

Anton Diego: Or like someone else talking you off the ledge, right? So that's when things go poorly too.

Seth Cassel: For sure, for sure.

Surain Adyanthaya: Absolutely. I've tried high-fiving myself and that does not work.[laughter]

Seth Cassel: It's called clapping. It's just clapping, yeah.

Anton Diego: I do it all the time, I do it always.

Surain Adyanthaya: So for those of our listeners, who are not familiar with EveryMundo. Can you give a brief summary of what EveryMundo does for the airline industry or even perhaps beyond the airline industry?

Anton Diego: Yeah. So effectively what we do is we help travel companies, airlines, hotels etcetera, acquire customers online faster, and grow their customer acquisition, generating more direct sales through their website. And we do that by automating what we call Fare Marketing or Fare marketing for airlines. So presenting offers to users on all the touch points of the user life cycle. So that might be generating maps to entice them to travel from a particular origin to different destinations to see where they can go to generating emails and sending them emails with relevant offers to powering paid search marketing campaigns, display campaigns. It's everything around magnifying the customer acquisition channels of a travel company. So that's what our software does. That's what our software automates and optimizes as well, So we do so on an extremely cost effective rate and it's been very successful. And it's beautiful to see it grow the way it is today. Yeah.

Surain Adyanthaya: Yeah. That's amazing to see a company that you've founded grow like that, it must be very gratifying.

Anton Diego: Yes. It's pretty amazing.

Surain Adyanthaya: And I see your offers everywhere. Whether I go to United or American or any of these websites, when we get targeted offers, you guys are really behind the scenes making it happen. That's really cool.

Anton Diego: That's right.

Surain Adyanthaya: So as you've developed your product over the years, where do you get the ideas and inspiration from? Do you get it mostly from the users? And do they tell you what they need or is it the other way around? Is it internally driven or somewhere in between?

Seth Cassel: So it's a dance between the two. We've always felt compelled to try to drive the market, to have a vision for what's missing that could be there, but then also of course there's the reality of simply delivering on what is demanded in the market and understanding the challenges that the industry has. I think this stems back to some good advice we got very early in our journey. We were not yet a dedicated software for travel company, and a mentor of ours sat us down and really encouraged us to hyper focus in that way. And what he said is that you need to go narrow to go deep, and then go deep to go wide. We joke that it's like fracking. And but in doing that, that to me is this, it's by being in a complex and in an industry as complex and competitive as airlines or travel in general, and then starting to get real deep into it to appreciate the nuances of the challenges and the obstacles that either the people in the industry are well aware of and are struggling to solve in an effective way or are not even aware of. That became our purpose. That became us helping the industry innovate, sometimes in response to what they just struggle to do but want to do. And that's when the user's telling us what they want.

Seth Cassel: And what we've learned is solving little obvious problems like that, is still hugely valuable for these guys. 'Cause you never know how complex the reasons are that they can't do it themselves or there's not other providers out there. So we've learned over the years to not assume anything's obvious, not assume anything's easy. And just when we hear that there's a challenge to address it becomes exciting. But then the other side of that coin is we do feel an obligation to really drive innovation in the industry, and in doing so sometimes propose possibilities or invest time and effort into building things that may not immediately be in demand. But we trust in our intuition and the depth of knowledge we've developed in the industry to be a leader in where things are going. So we really try to have a healthy balance between the two.

Surain Adyanthaya: The airline industry has been through a rough patch with COVID, as we all know. And in an interview you gave in June of 2020, you were talking about airlines restarting and the process of restarting. What are you seeing now? Are airlines still restarting? Are they further along and where do you see it going?

Seth Cassel: So I think they are further along. When we sat down after the immediate existential crisis of the beginning of COVID, around March 2020, April 2020, once we as a company even got our feet underneath us and started to have a healthy dialogue with our customers about how they were seeing things, it became apparent that some of the notions out there being pushed by consulting companies and these other guys who love to... The minute something has happened, they're automatically an expert in it. You know who I'm talking about. They were talking about recovery and the new normal and the... It was just so absurd. And we really liked this notion of the restart because that is what airlines were doing, tactically speaking. They had grounded all their planes and they were putting one plane back into operations and then two planes back into operation. And so it really was literally a restart.

Seth Cassel: And so at this point though... And then that came with maybe a broader kinda strategic restart. Like the airlines dealing with this constant curve ball that was coming at them due to COVID, where they would get going and then they'd have to stop. And then they'd make a few more strides or make some plans and then those plans would get cancelled. And it does feel though, Surain like we're getting past that. Maybe not everywhere in the world, Asia Pacific right now maybe is still in restart, but I'd say in the Americas and in Europe, I think that we are in, call it, recovery or reemergence. There's a little more consistency. There's I think a little more confidence in long-term plans. And that to me... That ability to plan beyond a few weeks, to be able to see further than a few feet in front of your face, that to me means that we're past the restart and we're getting into actual recovery and reemergence of the industry.

Surain Adyanthaya: Yeah. It's good to see. I completely agree with you, Seth. It's really great to see the airlines seeing demand again and emerging from the last couple of years. Anyone in the airline industry should be excited about where we are and where we're going, for sure. But along with this, with a restart and the reemergence of travel, there's a lot of data that previously was important but might not be important now. EveryMundo is really at the top of the marketing funnel. So you see a lot of data that other parts of the airline or other companies can use. Can you talk a little bit, maybe Anton, about how the data collected by EveryMundo can be used and perhaps, we've discussed this before, used by PROS to do more?

Anton Diego: Yeah. No, absolutely. This is a very exciting topic and we could spend hours and hours talking about this. But to be succinct about it, I believe there's really two major ways to leverage our data and where I think we're already moving into but... So I'll explain to you what data we collect and then how we can leverage that data. So what we collect is, right now we have over 80 customers worldwide, they are over 80 airlines, and we collect every single search that happens on an airline's booking engine from all of our customers combined. And not only do we collect every single search, but we also collect the confirmations when the user actually books the flight. So because of that, we have access to real-time demand. So as I'm speaking, we are collecting every single search that is happening on most major airlines in the United States, and so as you can see, that data can be used for forecasting to understand willingness to pay by the customer. And one of the areas that... So there's the forecasting and willingness to pay, that's one piece. And one of the areas that I think we should also collaborate and explore on is, really ancillary revenue. What are people offered, what are the behaviors that are getting people to buy ancillaries? And as we grow to ancillary revenue management, I think there's a ton of opportunity.

Surain Adyanthaya: Yeah, this data that you're talking about is so incredibly valuable. History perhaps isn't as meaningful today as it was before, because we all know the last two years there have been major disruptions in travel and having this real-time shopping data to energize revenue management and other areas of the airline.

Anton Diego: Yeah, yeah, and to give a revenue management dashboards on how their routes are doing versus the market. We know how a particular destination is doing across multiple airlines. We also follow users that we can see that they went to a particular airline, saw a price, didn't book, went to another airline, saw a price, booked. So having that visibility across, throughout the market in real time, I think is game changing for the product.

Surain Adyanthaya: Yeah, I completely agree. Very exciting stuff, very exciting stuff.

Anton Diego: That's the plan. Let's to do it.

Surain Adyanthaya: Let's do it.


Surain Adyanthaya: So EveryMundo has developed tools to help airlines direct connection with the end consumer to really to compete with third-party giants, let's say in the travel industry that have emerged. How do you see EveryMundo facilitating this? And how do you see the combination of PROS and EveryMundo in this landscape?

Seth Cassel: Absolutely, so over the years, we've come to realize, I guess, fairly early on and now I've grown certainly, and I think we as a company have grown to appreciate this more and more as we move forward, is the world of customer acquisition online, especially in travel and a lot of... I think a lot of the key functionality required for travel e-commerce or travel commerce in general is an arms race, more so than knowledge-driven. That's true for EveryMundo's customer acquisition products, I'd say it's true, certainly for PROS revenue management and shopping technology. You may know what you need to do, you may have all the knowledge in the world, but you need incredibly powerful technology to execute on that.

Seth Cassel: And so the online travel agencies and metasearch engines, OTAs and METAs, their entire purpose for being is acquisition, that's all they're doing. They're putting themselves in between the customer and the brand, and they are brokering that transaction and then taking value out of the value chain, and that's entirely predicated on technology, and what they've done is they've disrupted the industry over decades. What EveryMundo has made our mantra is to un-disrupt the industry, to return that power to its rightful owner, the brands, by providing the technology necessary so that they can remain ahead of pace in the arms race, that is acquisition technology or more general just commerce technology in the airline and broader travel space. And so I don't see PROS and EveryMundo as a third-party giant per se, I think that.

Seth Cassel: I love our position in the market, I love that we're more like Robin Hood, that we can continue to deliver value, affordable value to these customers who have the unenviable task of flying large metal tubes, 500 miles an hour safely through the skies, and ideally on time. That's enough. That's a lot to focus on. And on top of that, dealing with the brand considerations and loyalty programs and all the service requirements. I always tell people, particularly in the airline space, it is the most complex industry in the world, hands down. And so for us to be able to help them retain their rightful position to me is a mission that will never really end, and I think.

Seth Cassel: Again, it's one that continues to allow us to live out our biggest ambitions, and so I don't see us ever wanting to necessarily join the other side of things. I think there's plenty of opportunity and value for the long-term, in continuing to help these companies innovate and do so effectively, and then also just to expand our purview into adjacent or even non-adjacent industries to do the same thing where you have similar issues, where you have intermediaries who, because of their technological prowess are able to command a disproportionate portion of the value chain. And so we're here to make things right.

Surain Adyanthaya: Right, I love that phrase, "un-disrupting the industry." That's just awesome. And Robin Hood's a good place to be, in my opinion.

Seth Cassel: I think so, I think so.

Anton Diego: That's right.

Surain Adyanthaya: Any other predictions you can offer for the future of technology in the airline space?

Anton Diego: Yeah. Well, COVID obviously was a catalyst for change in the travel and with NDC obviously NDC has been something that the industry has been working on, but I think COVID has really accelerated the adoption of NDC throughout airlines and it's looking like the near future is the disruption of the PSS. So airlines wanna be more self-sufficient, they wanna remove dependencies on the PSS giants. And, I think it's a giant opportunity for us as PROS to take advantage of that and start investing in offer and order management as a team. This is truly our, almost like a reset in the industry that is happening and it's for us to go and get, to become the leaders in offer and order management. And then, I think on the technology side, we have to leverage machine learning AI to improve our products, to leverage more data, to make better recommendations for the revenue manager, for the user, et cetera. And the end of the game is to really help us disrupt the industry by providing the best offer and order management outcome.

Surain Adyanthaya: Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head. The airline industry has really changed. It's no longer about selling a seat. It's about being an offer, a package of things of which the seat is an important component, but of course you have flight related and third-party ancillaries. Just in context of this, I was visiting LCC last week and the CEO said the seat is our ancillary and the rest is the main product that we're selling.

Anton Diego: That's a great view. That's right.


Surain Adyanthaya: Very interesting. Well, before I let you go, I am gonna ask you one more question. I know you guys are very thoughtful. Can you recommend to our listeners a couple of books that were influential to you that are worth the time?

Anton Diego: Seth, do you wanna give one and I'll give another one?

Seth Cassel: Yeah, well, I think that there's two that I have to admit Anton recommended both to me, 'cause I on a personal level, I have a disdain for these business books because I just think they're mostly a victory lap with a lot of rationalizing of past choices in light of how it turned out. And so I don't think they're usually something to live by, but the two books that Anton recommended that have become honestly not just fundamental for me, but also for our company. We did a book club on one of 'em. The first was High Output management, which is Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel. And I don't know, I would argue, it's an actual manual for management. Again, it's not stories, it's not anecdotal. It's truly a framework for how to develop management in a company so much so again, that we did a long, long very slow-paced book club in the company among all of our management as a way to do managerial development for the team.

Seth Cassel: And then the other one that comes to mind is, The Hard Thing About Hard things, from Ben Horowitz, which is like the anti-business book. It really is truly what it lives up to, which is someone being honest about what they don't teach you in business school, what they don't highlight in other business books, the real difficult, the worst of days in running a business, running a startup, managing a lot of people and how to make those hard choices. And I find myself constantly coming back to some of the lessons in that book. The nice thing about both of them is, they're quick chapters. You can reference them, you don't have to read them all at once. You can come back to them in chunks at times. Those are the two that have done it for me.

Anton Diego: Yeah. I have to second that and I find myself and I know Seth said the same thing and people in our company, we find ourselves going back to those books just to kinda reference situations and things like that. So High Output Management, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, both are instrumental.

Surain Adyanthaya: What was the coaching book though? What was the coaching book that you read that like...

Anton Diego: Oh man, that was a great one. I forget the name of it. Surain, I'll bring it to you. Sorry mate.

Surain Adyanthaya: Sorry to put you on the spot.

Anton Diego: No worries. It is a great one though.

Surain Adyanthaya: Well, thanks guys. I really appreciate you Seth, Anton, making the time for this. And I look forward to talking to you and working with you a lot more in the future.