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by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

In only 4 years the Web Summit has grown from 400 attendees to 22,000 attendees, a staggering growth curve by any criteria.  This spectacular increase appears to stem from a happy coincidence of circumstances involving the focus and vision of its founder, Paddy Cosgrave, the allure and appeal of Dublin as a destination and plain and simple luck in the form of great timing.

The project seems to have popped up onto a massive rising wave of phenomenal IT innovation and is currently riding high on the surf with no signs of falling.  The sheer scale of the event is awesome, a word you’ll hear repeatedly around the Web Summit but not always in its correct semantic context. Pat O’Keefe brilliantly commented on Twitter how he was “wandering the #websummit like a Dub at the ploughing”. Irish readers of this blog will know that the Annual Ploughing Championship attracts over 100,000 attendees per day to mucky fields in the midlands countryside, not normally visited by city slickers from Dublin.

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Eva, Bono and the TravelTech

This year, besides Eva Longoria and Bono and a few sessions at The Marketing Summit, SoolNua paid special attention to travel and tourism start-ups. Over the three days more than 50 travel projects at Alpha or Beta stages in development did battle with flakey internet to showcase their wares and here’s our rather random pick of 5 that we particularly liked.

1. Pimp your stay

Sue Ciappara from Malta is a former Director of Sales at Starwood Hotels and has created an intriguing platform that connects hotels to profiles which the hotel guest has personally compiled. You spend a once-off 20 minutes on building your preferences identity (PYS ID) and this is then shared with the hotel when you book a room. The hotel then has precious data about you which may be used to build loyalty and retention. Knowing you’re a frequent traveller who likes craft beer and fixie bicycles means a good hotel will ensure both are in your room upon check-in. And then, of course, you’ll never stay anywhere other than this amazing hotel. Sue’s presentation and collateral material is the work of a real pro and, in a marketplace where customisation is king, Pimp your stay has real potential traction.

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2. YapQ

Yossi Neiman from Israel is Co-Founder and CTO of yapQ, an app that turns Wikipedia content into a City Guide right on your smartphone. By using Wikipedia, Neiman instantly scales his app for use everywhere, at any city or location globally that you might decide to visit. It’s a genius idea, simple to use and available, like Wikipedia, in all languages.

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3. GlobeDrop

With its “travel meaningfully” tagline, GlobeDrop connects world travellers to local charities all over the world. Co-Founded by Baptiste Leroux, GlobeDrop allows you to select a NGO style organisation in a country you  intend to visit and identify its very specific local needs. You then fundraise in support of these needs, bring the funds to the local area and purchase there whatever is required. The items are then delivered by you personally to the NGO. It’s all explained clearly at We really liked this idea and can see huge potential within the MICE sector as more and more corporations sign up to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles and seek out worthwhile causes to support during their meetings or incentive travel experiences.

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4. JiTT cityguides from iClio

Another app that acts as a City Guide, JiTT pivots specifically around “high level curated historical and cultural content”. CEO Alexandre Pinto and many of his team are academic historians so reliable, quality content is a core sine qua non of this product. There are many other features too including a time management system that customises itineraries specifically for the time you have available. The product is multi-destination and multi-lingual and can be white labeled specifically for destinations and venues. This is a brilliant concept with huge potential. Check it out here

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The idea behind Exploranza is to get “off the beaten track” and find the hidden gems wherever you’re travelling. We spoke with a very convincing, enthusiastic Eva Sabolova who had us test drive the site using the majestic city of Bratislava as our point of departure. We were quickly taken to Slavin War Memorial and Military Cemetery and given key information about distances, level of difficulty, timings etc. Other half and full day tours were featured all with that “road less travelled” feel. This is a very zeitgeisty product, perfect for a generation of travellers inherently adverse to “tourism”, always seeking the behind the scenes experience.

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Pádraic Gilligan and his SoolNua Aoife McCrum attended the Web Summit 2014 and enjoyed everything except Paddy Cosgrave’s unfortunate tirade at the “old men” of the RDS whose fault it was, apparently, that the internet didn’t work. Our viewpoint on this is simple and straightforward: business leaders don’t publically blame the supply chain when there’s an issue with delivery. They take full responsibility themselves and sort out the supply chain off-line, behind the scenes. 




2 thoughts on “Web Summit 2014: 5 new technology tools for travel

  1. Jeff Volmrich says:

    Greetings Padraic,

    Thanks for your continued immersion in, perspectives on, and enthusiasm for this wonderful industry. Keep up the great work!


    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks Jeff! We are fortunate, are we not? We’re involved in an industry which is rooted in its past but fixed on its future. Exciting indeed!

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