Start-up of the Week: Dynamic Res

12 Sep 2016

Dynamic Res co-founders Darren Cantwell and Daragh O’Shea

Our Start-up of the Week is Dynamic Res, a travel agency reservation platform that puts the travel agent in the driving seat.

“Dynamic Res is the first travel agency reservation platform being built with the travel agent at the forefront of everything we do,” said Darren Cantwell, co-founder of Dynamic Res.

“Travel agents have to work [inefficiently] with technology instead of technology working for the travel agent and we are addressing that from the outset.

‘Travel agencies are growing in numbers and revenue by targeting complex and luxury travel, in particular where the average customer is older and spends more than online travellers’

“Dynamic Res is an enterprise SaaS platform that greatly enhances travel agencies’ sales productivity and profitability. Our initial focus is on small and medium agencies in the UK and Ireland but our mission is to become the number one provider of travel agency reservations systems in the world by focusing on the needs of travel agents.”

The market

Cantwell explained that Dynamic Res will focus on the sizeable UK and Ireland market before expanding further afield.

“However, we already have secured beta customers from Europe and South Africa, so we expect quick growth into countries like USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Dubai and Malaysia.

“Despite the common perception that online travel agencies are killing the traditional travel agent, travel agencies and tour operators continue to grow year on year by focusing on service and expertise.

“Travel agencies are growing in numbers and revenue by targeting complex and luxury travel, in particular where the average customer is older and spends more than online travellers.”

Cantwell explained that the travel agency and tour operator market in the UK has over 5,500 agencies and the EU has an estimated 70,000 agencies.

“More than 85pc of these agencies are small, with less than 10 staff. None of our competitors in this space are targeting SME agencies and we see a huge opportunity to build software that will help this fragmented market thrive.”

The founders

Cantwell has worked in travel since 2004 working with reservations and online technologies in American Holidays where he had great exposure to suppliers, customers and technology.

‘With a global network of agents, we will be in a unique position to help shape the future of travel technology’

“The whole concept had been in my head for three to four years and it just got to the stage of saying enough was enough. There is a better way of doing things especially when looking at a lot of the platforms out there.”

One of his co-founders, Daragh O’Shea, was a developer working for Silverarm Solutions, to which Cantwell had outsourced development work in the past.

“We worked very closely together over about five years and decided to take the plunge and go full time last September. Daragh is so focused on the product I know that we are going to have a product very soon that we can be proud of.”

The technology

According to Cantwell, Dynamic Res technology delivers up to 90pc timesaving in itinerary and quote building, which currently takes up 70pc of an agent’s day.

“Our platform can query all an agencies’ contracted suppliers in a single search, even for multiple destinations, allowing them to service a customer rapidly. With one click, they can book the full itinerary with their suppliers.

“Our platform helps travel agencies to improve sales productivity levels, reduce costs and provide improved customer service. Agents can now work within a single platform, with less manual errors and greatly reduced frustration.

“Ultimately, technology will improve, and how people book travel will change. In 10 or 20 years even complex travel itineraries will become a lot easier to reliably book. However, there will always be a need for a human touch for certain types of travel.

“With a global network of agents, we will be in a unique position to help shape the future of travel technology. Our ultimate vision is to build a personal travel assistant for everyone’s pocket: a mobile app for the public that automates large parts of itinerary-building with intelligent, human-like chatbots.

“However, by connecting consumers with real travel experts, we can combine artificial intelligence with trusted human interaction. We see this as the future of complex and luxury travel and we plan to be at the forefront.”

Shaping the product

Cantwell said that the company already has a beta product in the hands of customers.

“Progress has been really good so far we have had great engagement from travel agents both locally and abroad. Our beta customers have been really engaged and helpful with helping shape our product. We are looking to have our first live version of the platform in clients hands by the end of Q3 and to be revenue generating very quickly after that.

“We have a defined pipeline of prospective clients that fit our profile for the next 18 months.

“Our partners have been incredible also in giving time and support to help us in our journey. We are currently finalising our seed round with a number of partners who will be exceptional when it comes to helping grow the business in the next three to five years.”

‘You will get lots of advice and opinions but it is up to you to decide what is best for you and your business’

Like most start-ups in Ireland at present, finding talent has been challenging.

“Hiring developer talent is likely to be a big challenge especially with the size and scale of companies hiring in Ireland the likes of Intercom, Slack, Facebook, Google. As a start-up looking to go global from day one, we are having to be mindful of these issues. We have taken great inspiration from these companies too, however, so we are looking to create an environment and a product that will entice great talent to come and work with us.

“We are also lucky to be able to call on founders in other companies ahead of us, like Boxever, who have been very generous in advice in all aspects of building our business. Dublin is an excellent place to start a business and we are confident we can lean on some exceptional companies and founders for advice when we need it.”

He describes the start-up culture in Ireland as incredible at the moment. “There has not been a single meeting request for a coffee refused when looking for advice and a chat. In general, some very busy people have been incredibly good in giving their time to not just us, but all the other start-ups we’ve spoken to. Everyone loves a start-up and is willing to help out.

“Finding funding in Ireland can be difficult, however. There is a massive reliance on Enterprise Ireland to fund early-stage companies and the angel investor is not massively incentivised in Ireland compared to the UK.”

His advice to fellow start-ups is to stay curious. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how stupid it might seem to you. Especially don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“One of the pieces of advice that really struck me when we were on the NDRC Launchpad last year was from the very wise Harry Largey – that you will get lots of advice and opinions but it is up to you to decide what is best for you and your business.

“I would also recommend surrounding yourself with the best advisers that you can get. We have a great team of advisers behind us who are happy to take a call or answer an email at the drop of a hat and we would not have been able to get to where we are without them.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years