Today with speak with Adam Chaplin, CEO, and Paul Spallini, CTO, of Concierge.io, a new Travel Booking marketplace. Concierge is using blockchain technology, more specifically the NEO decentralised engine and blockchain. The CGE booking ledger will be the core of the ecosystem. Travelers and merchants are offered peer to peer communication, enabling direct dealing with 0% commission. Concierge.io aims at being the go-to travel marketplace worldwide.
JG: You refer to Concierge as the ‘Holiday Search Engine’- can you explain how it works?
AC: Our vision is to become the first decentralized global travel marketplace. Currently there is no universal travel specific search engine and we want to create a trusted zero commission travel platform. In essence we are disrupting the current model where providers have to pay big commission to be listed and are not connected with their consumers directly. Using blockchain and smart contracts we can offer a free platform, link consumers directly with their providers and generate trust between the two parties that matter – provider and consumer.
JG: Tell me some reasons why it is bad that the ‘Big Five’ dominate the online travel industry
AC: We don’t believe in monopolies, simple as that. The Big Five have multiple online booking sites with different names so holidaymakers think they are searching for more competitive prices but in effect it’s the same two companies. As they have cornered the market, it means they all charge high commission rates – sometimes as high as 40%. Small providers are being pushed out of the marketplace.
JG: Where did the idea for Concierge come from?
AC: Our main travel/holiday business is in Vietnam where we are well established and work with a range of hotels and boats. I have been in the travel game for 25 years all up. About three years ago we had a guest, a well-known TED speaker, and it was my pleasure to be his travel advisor. He introduced me to blockchain and I immediately was fascinated. I began studying it and then two years ago the penny just dropped. If you understand blockchain/smart contracts and travel you would think it was made for travel.
The reason people book through holiday portals, aside from the dominance online, is that they trust a big name to be the intermediary, blockchain can replace that. Once I realised that I knew it was a game changer. Also offering zero commission was an easy sell for holiday providers.
JG: How techie was the original founder team?
PS: Well I have worked in IT for more than 30 years. I started researching the crypto world a few years ago and was invited onto the board by Adam last year and there was a solid understanding of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. We now have a great team here in Vietnam – the programmers and software developers are really motivated and keen.
JG: Why did you switch from Ethereum to NEO?
AC: We looked at Ethereum at first of course, everyone does. But with the level of transaction we forecast it was going to cost a fortune, lack the scalability and speed necessary for our global vision. We then we discovered NEO.
NEO has so many positives that it’s hard to argue to use anything else. It can handle the volume of transactions we anticipate, its low on energy consumption and there is a very active and supportive community – that gives us confidence.
JG: Is it important that NEO supports a number of popular programming languages?
PS: Very much so. This meant our team of developers did not have to spend time learning new languages. It makes the whole development process so much easier and streamlined. They can be creative without having to be burdened with learning new platforms.
JG: Concierge is commission free – how will you make your money?
AC: We will follow a similar model to Google and Facebook – advertising. We also offer premium listings. We are working on volume – the number of properties will drive traffic and will in turn allow us to offer advertising.
In addition, as the holiday providers are paying zero commission fees, we hope they will pass that onto their clients encouraging more people to use our platform.
This again will make our site more trustworthy and encourage holidaymakers to choose us over other platforms. This will then increase the intrinsic value of our token.
JG: How important are you advisors to your project?
AC: We have some amazing advisors including Anders Larrson. He is fantastic to work with and has some powerful insights into how to scale a business to a vast audience. Don’t believe me? Read this article here to see how he ticks
JG: How will you on-board suppliers – what is your USP over traditional aggregate sites?
PS: Our quickest and easier method is we are currently developing that of linking with online channel managers. These have the advantage of bringing on tens of thousands of global listings at once.
We will do regular marketing outreaches (like participating in this interview) but we also want to maximise our efforts and speed up the on-boarding of properties and holiday providers.
JG: Are you confident that the transaction speeds offered by NEO will match your proposed growth?
The transaction speed of NEO of only a few seconds is more than adequate for our needs.
JG: How important is scalability to your project – what do you need from NEO to make this work?
PS: Very confident. The speed of the NEO network is one of the key reasons we choose to build here. Currently speeds (TPS) are running at 5000 on the TestNet but that is scheduled to grow to 100,000TPS soon. The addition of Trinity as an off-chain scalable solution is also very attractive. It’s the NEO version of a lighting network. With Trinity we have much faster speeds and scalability. Our platform needs both speed and scalability for it to work. Think of what CryptoKitties did to Ethereum in December…
JG: You are building in dispute resolution – how will NEO/blockchain foster that?
PS: Once a booking is made and paid for the funds will be transferred into a smart contract. These funds will only be release once the booking has been completed and both parties are happy. Simply put it will be escrow for the travel marketplace.
JG: How will NEO safeguard the authenticity of reviews?
AC: We also will tackle the issue of fake reviews. A recent spoof case in the UK showed how untrustworthy online reviews can be. A fake restaurant was set up by Oobah Butler in London. It was actually a shed but he posted enough fake reviews to get it the top restaurant in London. Butler, a VICE journalist, made a film of his spoof but it was shocking how easy it was to create fake news.
This is a problem that dominates our industry. First of all, people tend not to leave a review unless they have had a bad experience. So holiday providers will stack the odds in their favour by crowdsourcing people to write positive reviews. The issue is that popular sites, such as TripAdvisor, have no way of confirming that the reviewer stayed in that property or even if the experience was good or bad. Using blockchain we connect consumer directly to the property and they can only review if they have stayed there. The Proof of Identity inherent in NEO makes this easy to implement too. We also plan to allow the consumer to be reviewed by the vendor in the same way that Airbnb does.
JG: How easy is it to build in Peer-to-Peer communications and contracts with NEO? And how important is that for the marketplace?
PS: Existing booking platforms make it very difficult for the consumer to connect directly with the holiday provider. Given the large commission rates, it is easy to see how they might lose them if the consumer booked directly.
However, we offer zero commission rates so we don’t need to hide the provider. This means consumer can get a much better idea of the property from the holiday provider directly. The consumer can get better rates and also express any particular requirements they may need too in essence this will improve customer service.
JG: Can you explain how your token will be used on the platform? / How hard will it be to encourage your target audience to use tokens?
AC: Consumers can buy rooms directly with our token, the CGE, but we are also realists and know than the vast majority of consumers are using fiat – so we offer both. We will swap the fiat on the site for CGE and complete the transaction but the consumer does not need to know this.
In order to guard against volatility – after all most holidays are booked months in advance – we will hedge our transactions. The price of the holiday is denominated in our token via a smart contract and the funds released 24 hours after the holiday ends. The price the consumer pays in fiat is the price the provider will receive in fiat. We have engaged a third party to manage our hedging.
JG: You sold out your Pre Sale – congratulations – what are your targets for the Main ICO?
AC: Yes we were very happy with the support we received. We have over 20,000 people signed up to the main ICO. So we are very confident that it will sell out again quickly.
We are also denominating the hardcap for our main ICO in NEO. We are conscious that rates fluctuate and want to offer the best value to our contributors.
(The Concierge crowd sale starts on March 31st at 09:00 UTC. For more information visit https://token.concierge.io/)
JG: Can you tell us about your Roadmap – it is impressive it stretches out further than most other ICOs!
AC: It makes sense for us to have a long-term roadmap. Our destination is to create the ultimate travel marketplace and that will take time. No doubt the technologies will change and improve as we follow this path but that is half the fun.
JG: Do you interact with the NEO community – meetups/forums/support – what is your experience?
PS: Yes, we are very active. We have an alpha MVP and find great support in the City of Zion community. It’s a very positive and helpful community. If you have issues, you can reach out and people will help you. We have also recently provided 10 RPC Nodes to support the NEO infrastructure.
JG: What – in your opinion – is the best thing about NEO?
PS: It takes blockchain into the real world with its scalability and speed. It’s industrial strength.
Also because it does not use Proof of Work it is much greener – that is better too.
JG: What is the biggest challenge you see for NEO going forward?
PS: I guess staying flexible as the technologies mature so fast – but again the community is very co-operative so that bodes well for the future.
JG: If you were to sum up NEO in one phrase – what would that be?
AC: The business blockchain!