Gillian Tee (BCompSc(Hons) 2004) Co-founder of Rocketrip
When Gillian Tee started a Computer Science degree in 2000 she soon realised the power of the technology she was studying. “It gave me a really good technical grounding,” says Tee, speaking from the New York offices of Rocketrip, a business travel application that rewards users who save on travel expenses for their companies.
It’s an apt name for her startup, which has raised $6.1 million from investors in the US and is launching worldwide this year.
The 31-year-old says her technology background has helped her career, but adds: “It is that desire to disrupt and improve existing systems that drives me.”
Tee’s first job was with Accenture in Melbourne, but she then felt a hankering to be “closer to the innovation”. She transferred to New York and was soon working with the likes of Google. In 2010 she signed up for an MBA at Columbia University and hooked into its startup network.
“Having been very technical most of my life I wanted to be equipped to drive a business and think about marketing and strategic directions for a product,” she says.
She completed her MBA in 2012 and when she was introduced to Rocketrip co-founder Daniel Ruch, she was ready. The pair built a prototype and then raised the first $3.1 million in funding through Y Combinator, a US-based seed accelerator.
What is Rocketrip? “Think about it as sales commission in reverse,” she says.
“An employee needs to take a trip, so they go to our platform to get a budget using real-time searches of travel-provider data. We create the itinerary and apply the company policy over the top. They get the ‘price to beat’ and if they beat it when they book their trip they pocket the savings.” Rocketrip takes a percentage of that money.
A pilot using a control group of companies showed Rocketrip is saving up to 40 per cent on business travel costs and changing behaviour. “Employees are booking flights earlier because they are incentivised,” says Tee. “Just last week a guy earned $2500 by taking a trip and staying on a buddy’s couch.”
The team has expanded to 13 and has global expansion in its growth plans. It’s a truly disruptive concept. “We are hoping the value of the extravagant business travel market shrinks and is redistributed back to the company and the pockets of its employees,” Tee says.