More than 100 delegates gathered at IBM’s London headquarters last week for the Travolution Start-up Summit 2018. Juliet Dennis reports
New travel businesses are facing a diminishing pool of talented staff as Brexit looms, according to a panel debate at Travolution’s first Start-Up Summit.
Senior industry figures warned that while “experience” was the buzz word in terms of what investors want to see in new travel start-ups, there were now “grave concerns” about a future skills shortage.
Travelport regional managing director Paul Broughton said: “The talent pool here [in the UK] is running out. We get calls from agencies that want to move online and more often than not the developers are outside the UK. It’s down to a lack of resource.”
Stewart Baird, chief executive of investment company Stone Ventures, warned that investors were increasingly looking outside the UK to open new businesses.
He said: “We live on a rainy island, this should be a highly successful sector for us. We have grave concerns. I think there is a massive skills shortage that will take people out of the UK; it is a Brexit ‘thing’ and it’s only going to go downhill from now.”
Baird said that start-up businesses as a rule were either pioneers or looking to solve a problem.
Stone Ventures, which is on the lookout for travel businesses to invest in, sought out management teams with the right ‘vision’.
He added: “What we want to know is if they have that spark of inspiration or talent – and can recognise what they are good at.”
TV programmes like Dragon’s Den had not helpful because they encouraged entrepreneurs to approach investors in a “combative” way rather than thinking of finance companies as partners.
“You need to get off on the right foot,” he said.
Cambon Partners partner Morgann Lesne, who specialises in advice on travel mergers and acquisitions, said entrepreneurs in the sector needed a mix of luck, energy and ambition to succeed.
He added: “They need to be naïve to start their own business; there are so many reasons why you should not do things. Are you going to have more energy than competitors?”