The dark clouds of the pandemic had a silver lining for the decentralised travel marketplace
Company Profile: Winding Tree primed to make Web3 a reality for travel in 2022
Lee Hayhurst spoke to Pedro Anderson, founder of the decentralised travel marketplace Winding Tree about how an unexpected approach from the corporate travel sector during the COVID pandemic has accelerated its adoption
The era of Web3 is upon us and the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a catalyst for making it a reality in travel, according to decentralised marketplace Winding Tree.
During the pandemic Winding Tree was approached by a major corporate travel buyer who recognised the pandemic shut down was the perfect opportunity to innovate.
This went a long way to solving a critical mass “chicken and egg” problem Winding Tree had, according to founder and chief operating officer Pedro Anderson.
As a peer-to-peer marketplace for companies to connect directly to one another Winding Tree needed to bring firms on to the platform before it could build momentum.
Anderson says thanks to its unnamed corporate partner it now has that and he predicts that 2022 will be the year when the platform transitions from a start-up to a scale-up.
“Four years ago we had an idea and a vision and a mission and we started building Winding Tree together as a community,” he said.
“We were honest about how early stage it was and what we were up against – some of the biggest intermediaries in the world. But today there is no reason why people should be using these legacy systems.”
Anderson said Winding Tree has learned that it’s too costly and slow for travel firms to put everything on blockchain, but instead they should focus on what gives them “power and control”.
“It’s about putting the financial system outside of the control of the big centralised marketplaces not just slapping on a marketing label. It’s about who holds the reins of control for the travel industry.”
Web3 is a vision for the future of the internet in which people operate on decentralised, platforms, rather than depend on tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter.
But Anderson says it is a reality today. “If you look at marketplaces historically, you have three types,” he said.
“You have those that are the Wild West, where anything goes, like black markets. It’s risky and shady.
“Then you have the highly controlled and moderated marketplaces that are taxed, and there are price regulations etc.
“Finally you have the decentralised marketplaces that are free of manipulation and are really a product of Web 3.0 which is not just the future, it’s the present.
“We are talking about today. Blockchain is in use today, not just in travel but across all industries. There are people today working for smart contracts, not for people.
“Talking about Web 3.0 today is like talking about the coming of the internet in the 1990s, its already here and we see it’s the time for travel.”
Anderson added: “If you look at the evolution of the web, you’ve gone from a web of mostly criminals when it was the Wild West to a era when a few companies own everything.
“They are manipulating the hell out of the world selling your data and prostituting it around and then they lose it in hacks.
“Now we have Web 3.0. It’s not in the middle, it’s the next best thing because it’s safer than the centralised world and freer than the Wild West world.
“If I own something in crypto, it does not belong to Facebook or Amazon, it belongs to me and only I control it with my wallet. Everyone can control their own environment.”
Anderson said he expects the “natural tendency” of the big monopolistic intermediaries will be to “kick back” against the emergence of Web 3.0.
But, just as phone companies transitioned to become providers of the internet that threatened their traditional models, they will adapt as adoption of platforms like Winding Tree ramps up.
Winding Tree officially unveiled its marketplace in 2020, a “terribly exciting” time to launch, according to Anderson because “everything was going wrong” due to the COVID pandemic.
But he said this turned into a silver lining when they were approached by one of the largest corporate buyers in the world.
“They said, we know travel has shut down and we want to fix things. They saw this as an opportunity, which was not what we were expecting; that corporate travel would be the first.”
Recent announcements attest to the progress Winding Tree is making with America Airlines signing up and former Iata director of financial and distribution systems, Eric Leopold, coming onboard as an advisor.
It was also given a clean bill of health by Cybersecurity consultancy Hacken and this week announced that onboarding partner Simard has hired a senior leadership team to assist firms joining the platform.
Anderson said Simard will offer paid-for technical services to firms that do not have the in-house capabilities and help travel partners to get the most out of Winding Tree.
Otherwise, Winding Tree remains true to its founding vision of being a free to use self-service platform.
Although corporate travel has come along as a key driver in Winding Tree’s evolution, Anderson said it remains focussed on OTAs, airlines and start-ups.
“Winding Tree is still focussed on innovation and start-ups,” he said. “We are building an eco-system for start-ups.
“We are looking for ways to bring in the developer community and as we get more traction with suppliers coming onboard there will be inventory for the start-ups.
“That means you will have an opportunity to actually differentiate, to actually offering something different, and that’s pretty exciting.”