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Two Australian start-ups make The Independent’s 50 Best Travel Websites list

Thursday, 13 June 2013 | By Rose Powell

Two Australian start-ups, Adioso and Rome2Rio, have made British newspaper The Independent’s Top 50 Travel Websites list.


Rome2Rio is a trip-planning software that combines planes, trains, cars, buses and ferries to get users wherever in the world they want to go, while Adioso is a flight information search engine.


Rod Cuthbert, chief executive of Rome2Rio, told StartupSmart the site’s popularity is taking off.


“We have half a million visitors each month and that number just keeps growing,” he says.


Cuthbert’s team of five has been working on the site for just over two years. The original tech founders, Bernhard Tschirren and Michael Cameron, were working together at Microsoft in Seattle when they realised an opportunity to develop the software.


“We don’t call it a problem, because the travel industry works. But it was an opportunity to present travellers with significant additional functionality to travellers,” Cuthbert says. “People are often not even aware of the options they should Google in the first place.”


Rome2Rio is focused on growing the business by partnering with airlines and major travel suppliers.

“We’re focused on licensing the platform, the technology that underpins our site to partners,” Cuthbert says. “We expect to have half a dozen really big brand names up and running by the end of the year.”


Adioso co-founder Tom Howard told StartupSmart the site lets people research travel “the way we think about it”.


“You’ll have a thought like ‘I might want to go to Asia in March next year, for maybe 10 to 15 days’, so we built a new flight search infrastructure for that,” he says.


Howard and business partner Fenn Bailey, who did the original coding, have been building the Adioso search engine for five years.


“It works pretty differently to how the travel industry has worked for the last 10 to 15 years, since it’s (the online self-search function) been computerised,” Howard says. “It pulls in flights from all over the world into our database, and needs to be able to search with complete flexibility and return fast results.”


Adioso has been running in beta form since 2008. Towards the end of 2008, Howard and Bailey took part in the Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley.


They’ve recently overcome the major hurdle of getting access to expensive flight data in a way that works with their systems and is cost-effective.


“It’s a bit of chicken and egg problem for us. The technology works really well but the issue with travel start-ups is you can’t provide a flight search product without buying the flight data, and that’s really costly,” Howard says, adding they’re currently seeking funding for this.


“It’s been a beta product until a couple of months ago, as we’ve been getting the underlying structure working properly. Only in the last few months has it been about commercialising it.”


Howard says they’ve started negotiations with investors in Australia and Silicon Valley.


“We’re planning a very aggressive growth strategy, and will be rolling out in selected cities around the world,” he says. “We hope to start rolling out in three to six months.”


Rome2Rio and Adioso are both based in Melbourne and residents of start-up co-working space Inspire9.