South Summit challenges startups to enrich the travel experience

Marion Mesnage

Head of Research, Innovation & Ventures, Amadeus

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The search for the next startup unicorn was on at the South Summit, the leading global innovation platform held in Madrid. The event set another record this year for innovation and entrepreneurship with over 3,500 startups participating.

Travel was bigger than ever and Amadeus was delighted to host the Travel-Tech Hackathon. Twelve hours of coding may sound a bit painful to the uninitiated, but for app developers, it was a half day of bliss. The South Summit Travel-Tech Hackathon brought together over 80 developers in a competition to show that their idea was poised to change the travel industry.

Amadeus employees were on hand to help the startups unleash their creativity. The ‘Amadeus Challenge’ focused on sparking the startups to explore new ways to apply major innovation and tech trends to the travel industry. The developers were challenged to build groundbreaking solutions that can enrich the travel experience, using our APIs for flights, hotels, and travel intelligence.

 After the marathon session of coding, one team emerged victorious. U-Hack’s app, AirTreep ticked all of the boxes of the Amadeus panel. This startup pitched the app as a virtual assistant that rides along with the traveler during their journey to help them overcome pain points. The app can recommend booking a flight based on social media behavior and can also suggest different plans or points of interest at the destination depending on the weather.

Award ceremony at South Summit Hackathon
Suzanna Chiu, Anthony Roux and Alvaro Navarro (Amadeus) delivered the prize to U-Hack, the winning team of the Amadeus Challenge at the South Summit Hackathon


The Global Challenge focused on combining the potential of the partners' technical tools to find the most business-solid, complete and technically advanced project that could change the travel industry. Mr. Code won the top prize with an app that estimates how much a traveler will spend on a trip, including the budget they need during their stay based on the purpose of the trip.

Beyond the hackathon, Suzanna Chiu, Head of Amadeus Ventures sat on a panel to discuss how startups can thrive. Entitled ‘Corporate Venture Arm - key for a startups growth’, the panel stressed the importance of a good relationship between startup and investor, where open communication and transparency are key, and that a good team is an essential ingredient of a promising startup.

The panel “The fundamental of success and growth for creating innovative digital business models”, chaired by Fran Romero, Head of Amadeus Open Innovation programs centered on the need to focus on the consumer while having an iterative and agile approach. And in the fireside chat focusing on disruption in hospitality, Katja Bohnet, heading Amadeus Hotel Account Management & Business Development, discussed the key factors for surviving in the Spanish competitive landscape. In this market, innovative ideas are not enough. Profitability and stability are just as important to attract good employees, financing and customers. And lastly, Eric Napoli, Senior Legal counsel reinforced how Amadeus sees the future of blockchain in areas such as ID verification or loyalty programs.

The event also featured many interesting ideas in the travel space, with startups pitching concepts ranging from innovative corporate booking platforms to bag tracking Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The winner in this category was ByHours, a Spanish startup aiming to disrupt the way we book hotel rooms through micro-stays booked by the hour.

Mobility was another competition vertical and included solutions like an urban transport aggregator or smart mailboxes. Situm, the indoor navigation company that Amadeus recently invested in was also one of the 10 finalists. The winner here was Valerann, a company dedicated to making roads smarter with a wireless IoT system that provides information about everything that takes place on the road.

It was great to see these talented startups showcase their skill and innovative vision for travel. We’re always looking for new disruptive ideas and we believe that when talent and technology collide, innovation knows no bounds. You can read more about what we’re doing to innovate in travel here.