Bookaway CEO: We have the potential to become a $ 10 billion company
Noam Toister Tells CTech How His Honeymoon Inspired The Founding Of His Company, And How You Bounce Back From The 40% Staff Reduction
“Before Covid we had a tremendous growth rate, but then Corona came along and we quickly realized that this wouldn’t be a short or simple event,” Bookaway.com co-founder and CEO Noam Toister told CTech. “Our sales fell and we had to lay off almost half of the company at the beginning of March, which was extremely difficult but also turned out to be the right decision because at the end of this month our sales fell to almost zero. ”
Toister described this period as one of the worst of his life, as the company he founded in 2017 had to release around 40% of its employees. Bookaway specializes in booking land and sea travel. “If you are traveling through a country instead of staying in a city, depending on where you are, it can be extremely difficult to secure your travel plans online,” he said. “Sometimes it can be quite complicated to book your ticket, and what people end up doing is booking through their hotel or physically going to the bus station or ferry and buying their ticket in advance.” An experience like this during his honeymoon led Toister to create Bookaway.
“We were in Manila, and we wanted to see the northern rice terraces, it’s a World Heritage Site and all the tourists go there. So what people do is take a taxi to the bus station to buy their tickets, and it’s an hour and a half each way because of the traffic. This means that all the tourists on the bus lost a day in Manila, ”he said. “So after I got back to Israel, I got hold of an Israeli tourist agent and told him that I will send you reservations, you will go to the bus station to buy the tickets and email them to the clients. It was clear that we were on to something, so I developed it, first in the Philippines, then in other countries and continents. ”
“We have the potential to grow into a $ 10 billion business,” Toister said confidently. “Today, 7% of a tourist’s expenses are spent on trips by land or sea, not counting rental cars. This may be the last untapped travel vertical, and our platform is basically Booking.com for transportation. And the challenge is to work with these local businesses, mostly offline, and promote them through us, with all the right information.
The company’s growth potential was clear until early 2020, when the pandemic forced it to give in. However, despite the grim reality and initial shock of losing half of its staff, Bookaway has managed to stay on track. “Fortunately, at the time when Aleph was supporting us, we were able to keep half of the business and focus on our infrastructure, so that we could start as soon as tourism returned. It worked, and in fact, during Covid, we doubled the number of vendors we work with around the world. ”
Bookaway was also able get $ 35 million in a Series B round in July, buys three companies and is in the process of closing a fourth agreement. “After six, seven months, it was clear that the coronavirus was not going to go away overnight, and we had to decide whether, as a business, we were just going to wait or take initiative. So we contacted our competitors and saw an opportunity to buy some of it, ”Toister explained.
Today, the company offers reservation services in more than 100 countries and has approximately 160 employees worldwide, including approximately 60 in Israel, who are striving to achieve Toister’s goal of becoming the Booking.com of land and sea travel, in particular in the current and future Covid. reality. “My guess is that one of the outcomes of the coronavirus will be that customers will stay away from crowded places and look for alternatives,” he said. “You can see companies really trying to create safe experiences, but there is still no clear solution. We are seeing a growing demand for private commuting, which is a service we offer: renting a car and a driver, and more people are interested than ever before. ”