TripActions raises $14.6M to apply big data to business travel

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Now that companies are embracing a data-centric approach to helping their field personnel choose driving routes, some are already taking the next logical step: applying the same strategy to business travel.

Much of the credit for this trend goes to the Menlo Park-based TripActions Inc., which today raised $14.6 million in funding. The investment was led not by an institutional venture firm as is usually the case with eight-figure rounds but rather angel investor Oren Zeev. Known for his large bets and hands-on approach, the Apax Partners veteran has built up an impressive portfolio that includes the likes of Audible Inc., the audiobook provider that Amazon Inc. bought in 2008 for $300 million.

Zeev was joined by Arif Janmohamed of the venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. TripActions will use the cash to widen the adoption of its namesake travel platform, which promises to help companies prepare travel arrangements for their workers in a way that balances cost savings with user experience.

The service uses a specialized booking algorithm that takes a variety of factors into account to plan trips. First, TripActions asks travel managers to specify what’s the maximum amount that their companies are willing to spend on employee trips. It then examines the transportation and lodging options available for a given trip, makes adjustments based on local market rates to avoid overspending and displays the filtered list in a neat graphical dashboard.

Users are incentivized to make economic choices by a gamified system that grants so-called TripBucks for every dollar they save. Travel managers also receive credits when they meet certain cost-cutting goals. Points can be used for personal travel, flight upgrades and various gift cards.

Despite keeping a fairly low profile so far, TripActions has managed to build up a formidable customer base. The startup says its platform is used by SurveyMonkey Inc., eHarmony Inc., collaboration giant Jive Software Inc. and numerous other brands. 

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