By Tarran Street, on September 8, 2016

Behind the scenes at Expedia’s inaugural Travel Think Tank

Last month Expedia hosted its first-ever Travel Think Tank, an inspirational invitational for select partners to present unique mobile travel concepts. From programs that provide travelers with guaranteed access premium airport lounges, to providing in-airport step-by-step directions, to offering downloadable smart travel guides, ten teams of developers met in our San Francisco office on August 16 to present a variety of unique solutions, largely based around the question, “How can we improve the consumer travel experience?”

Each team was given 15 minutes on stage to pitch their ideas designed to enhance the Expedia App and answer tough questions from an esteemed panel of industry experts, including Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia, Inc. President & CEO; Henrik Kjellberg, President of Hotwire; Susan Athey, Economics of Technology Professor, Stanford University; and Jeena James, Global Head of Travel & Local Apps, Google Play.

Ultimately, four standout teams impressed the Travel Think Tank panel of experts by receiving the highest rankings in the categories of Creativity, Business Merit, Travel Innovation and Customer Innovation. Here’s an overview of the winning teams who were awarded top honors in each category and may soon be featured on Expedia Labs, a new site to showcase experimental tech and travel concepts built within Expedia or through company partnerships:

  • Travel Innovation: LoungeBuddy. The team developed an app that helps all travelers discover and book a premium airport experience for about $35. LoungeBuddy’s CEO Tyler Dikman; VP of Marketing Brent Griffith; and CTO Zac Altman presented a seamless integration into the Expedia booking path to surface the availability of airport lounge passes when booking relevant flight routes.
  • Creativity: Aquto. Company founder and CEO, Susie Kim Riley, and vice president of revenue, Jon Phenix, presented an app integration using Aquto’s MoVE (Mobile Value Exchange) platform that rewards travelers with additional mobile data when making a reservation on Expedia or downloading the Expedia app. The platform increases app installations from organic mobile web traffic and provides enormous value to customers, helping solve the ever-common issue of running out of mobile data on vacation – especially when traveling internationally. (You can learn more about Aquto’s experience at Travel Think Tank in their own words here.)
  • Customer Innovation: LocusLabs. Using advanced reality capture technology, LocusLabs has created an innovative solution designed to enhance the indoor location experience. The team, led by CEO Campbell Kennedy and VP Product Jason McMinn, demoed their product that offers a sophisticated indoor map of hundreds of airport terminals designed to help customers search and find virtually anything inside an airport – even lifting up turn-by-turn walking navigation to make it quicker and less stressful for travelers to get where they’re going.
  • Business Merit: Button. Presenting a concept of connected mobile experiences, Button co-founders Mike Dudas, CRO, and Chris Maddern, CPO, showed a solution that brings products and services to customers at the exact moment of purchase intent. Button presents users with relevant actions from partner apps—request an Uber, book an OpenTable, buy tickets on Ticketmaster —in other relevant mobile apps and sites, creating great user experiences and shared revenue. Think reading your favorite travel blog’s mobile site about the best restaurants in Paris and a link to book flights there with Expedia’s app appears within that article.


This event marked the first time Expedia’s leadership and external teams came together as a group to present, discuss and debate product innovations and partnerships in this format. In the future, Expedia hopes to build the Travel Think Tank event and learn more from great travel developers around the world.

Be on the lookout in the next year for more information on the evolution of Travel Think Tank and for opportunities regarding how you can apply to participate!