My Method… Nurturing tourism startups to boost travel recovery

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Source: aicep Portugal Global

Beta-Start, a pre-acceleration program, developed by innovation consultancy Beta-i and Portugal Tourism, has been devised to help early stage startups with digital solutions that can boost the recovery of tourism. The idea is to help them improve the structure of their businesses or nurture an idea that then grows into a business.

What is Beta-Start? 

Beta-Start Tourism edition is a three-month pre-acceleration program designed to support entrepreneurs in better structuring their business, developed by the collaborative innovation consultancy, Beta-i, alongside the support of Turismo de Portugal. 

What are its aims? 

The project comes at a time when the tourism industry needs new business models, services, and digitalization more than ever, and so to intensify the development of future pilot projects and solutions adapted to the new reality, Beta-Start was born.

The program gathers startups, in the pre-seed or seed phase, with digital solutions that can support the recovery of this industry and solve some of today’s biggest challenges, such as promoting low-touch interaction at all points of the tourist journey, creating increasingly circular and green services, integrating tourism into the new remote working mode, and promoting rural areas and local products. 

What made you come up with the idea? 

In a moment as crucial as this one, Beta-i and Turismo de Portugal wanted to come up with solutions to help one of the most affected industries by the pandemic, while at the same time helping the startup ecosystem by boosting them into solutions with direct impact in the market.

In this sense, we created The Shift to Start – Tourism Edition, an initiative composed of two consecutive acceleration programs, which take place at different times and for different target audiences, considering the maturity stage of the idea or startup: Beta-Shift and Beta-Start.

Beta-Shift is an intensive three-day training program to train individuals and aspiring entrepreneurs on the different concepts of business development, and Beta-Start is a three-month pre-acceleration program that aims to support startups in the pre-seed or seed phase in improving and growing their business.Get a dose of digital travel in your inbox each day

The goal of combining these two programs is to try to create a ripple effect in the industry by fostering new ideas that can then become new startups, while also supporting projects that are already in an acceleration stage. 

What have been the results of Beta-Start so far?

After the careful selection of 17 finalist startups, they participated in three intensive boot camps over 90 days, 24 workshops and dozens of training sessions with 25 mentors, to learn how to validate their potential solutions in the market, design a customer-oriented business model, structure a coherent go-to-market strategy, test and structure their revenue and cost models, and finally build presentations for customers and investors.

Five finalists were then selected to present their business to a group of potential clients and investors composed of NEST – Tourism Innovation Center, Turismo de Portugal, and LC Ventures, Portugal Ventures and Core Angels.

Among them were the Portuguese Borasurf, a platform that allows surfers and travelers to discover the local surf community and expand their network, and the Family Workation, a program designed to help parents travel with their children while working remotely, ensuring all the logistics of childcare.

The finalists also included Germany’s Itinderary, which wants to help travelers make decisions with the ease of a swipe on a cell phone, Israel’s Pinsteps, which offers a new form of communication between travelers and travel guides/bloggers through digital services, and the winner of the program, Spain’s DisVoize, which developed an application that allows tourists to follow audio guides through their cell phones and headsets, thus reducing the risks of contagion in times of pandemic caused by shared equipment. 

What are the next steps?

The five startups selected will now start operating or increase their operations in the market to help the recovery of the tourism industry and overcome its current challenges.

Some of the startups have also been put in touch with partners, such as Tourism Portugal, to design potential pilots for implementation in Portugal.

What has been learned from the experience of running Beta-Start?

It is very difficult to identify and even harder to implement innovations in a market that is so pulverized, like tourism. Nonetheless, tourism sector entrepreneurs show strong resilience (possibly inherent due to the natural seasonality of the sector), and all the players, both startups and partners, show great hope of a quick rebound once the pandemic is over. And that hope is driving them to build and test new things so they can be ready when the time comes.

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