HB Exclusive: Thayer Ventures conference focuses on travel future

October 25,2021

Thayer Ventures, a venture capital firm focused specifically on technology innovation in travel and transportation, brought together c-suite leaders, investors, technology innovators and policymakers for a daylong focus on the new landscape for industry operations and innovation at the Marriott Marquis Washington DC.

The event looked at issues including challenges presented by a dramatically transformed labor force, the new science addressing the spread of COVID, the rise of autonomous mobility and new urban planning and the adoption of digitized platform solutions to address hotel operations. Attendees included more than 150 thought leaders and practitioners from brands, investment firms and disruptive startup companies.

For Thayer Ventures Managing Director Chris Hemmeter, the event was about focusing on issues that his company has focused on since its inception. “What we have been promoting for the last 10 years is software innovation, entrepreneurship, challenging the value chain in hospitality and travel and asking the questions, ‘Why is it always been done this way? Are there better ways to do things?’” he told Hotel Business. “Those are the kinds of questions that we hope were provoked.

He continued, “It was an opportunity for industry leaders, investors, technology executives, startups, mature companies to gather in one place and pressure test those questions. I think that COVID has been an incredible catalyst for innovation. This is an industry that was caught totally flat-footed by COVID, and realized it lacked agility and flexibility to respond to the pandemic. And so, I believe that technology has become now a got-to-have, as opposed to a nice-to-have. This was a forum where we could discuss what that means—because it’s never clean, it’s never simple. It’s sometimes painful.”


Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International, keynoted the conference, “The Thayer Ventures gathering is a unique moment for connecting the industry’s leading innovators, disruptors and decision-makers to discuss the future of hospitality, travel, transportation and technology. We are proud to support Thayer’s work as a co-investor and a partner in forward-looking innovation to address the industry’s most pressing technology needs and priorities.”

In addition to Capuano’s keynote, speakers included Lee Pillsbury, managing director, Thayer Ventures; Alex Dichter, senior partner, McKinsey & Company; and Dr. Clare Rock, infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist, associate professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who offered an update on COVID.

Among the other sessions:

Capital Markets: Impacts, Trends, Predictions—Dick Rippe, managing director/economist, Evercore ISI

SPAC Path, Public to Private: Fireside Chat with Inspirato—Brent Handler, founder/CEO, Inspirato

Platform Strategy for the Future—Melanie Ryan Meador, CEO/president, Redeam; Andrada Paraschiv, VP, hospitality, Beekeeper; Ryan Ruth, director, digital travel trade & eCommerce, Disney Parks Experience & Products; and Richard Valtr, founder, Mews.

Innovations in Hospitality Delivery—Rami Zeidan, founder/CEO, Lifehouse

The Future of Autonomy, 2021 and Beyond—Nina Grooms Lee, chief product officer, May Mobility Inc.

The Road Ahead: The Future of Technology Regulation—Dr. R. David Edelman, former special assistant to President Obama, computer science & AI lab/director, MIT/director, Thayer Ventures Acquisition Corp.; and Michael Huerta, former FAA administrator/founder, MPH Consulting.

Thayer Ventures portfolio companies in attendance included Adara, Beekeeper, BookingPal, Canary Technologies, Groupize, Hyperloop Inc., ID90 Travel, Lifehouse, May Mobility, Mews, Migo, Optii, Redeam Inc., Robotic Skies, Sonder, Sprockets, Swiftmile, Traxo, TRIPBAM and Uplift.

“Today’s participants, from the worlds of travel as well as transportation and mobility, pointed the way toward a future of continuing and accelerating disruption and change,” said Mark Farrell, managing partner, Thayer Ventures. “From the urban grid to the way people move, work and congregate, no area of human life will be untouched by the technology innovations that are shaping the texture of life as we push further into the 21st century.”