Innovation Row Spotlight: Lola.com
Lola.com started out in 2015 as an online concierge service for consumer travel.
It’s wasn’t too long before founder Paul English, who also co-founded Kayak and sold it to Priceline, realized most of its users were business travelers. So, it made sense to shift the company’s focus to corporate travel.
Lola has raised $37 million in funding this year. It has grown from 60 to 100 employees.
“The reception has been good,” said Mike Volpe, who took over as CEO of the company last year. “We’ve grown a ton in the past year.”
Lola.com will be one of several companies exhibiting in Innovation Row GBTA Convention 2019 in August.
Lola, which started out with just a mobile app but now has a desktop version, says its goal is to help businesses save money and time when managing their travel.
It provides a simple travel management software for small- to mid-sized companies.
“Finance departments get real time reporting on what is purchased,” Volpe said.
Last year, the company also signed a five-year mutually exclusive partnership with American Express GBT, which has $45 billion in annual travel bookings. GBT re-sells Lola to their customers.
“We signed a partnership in the fall with AMEX GBT because of their great relationship with airlines and hotels,” Volpe said.
Lola now has a large inventory of flights and hotels, letting users avoid having to bounce between tabs or other sites to compare fares. Its booking app allows users to save preferences, loyalty programs and payment options in the same place. The website automatically stores traveler profiles so users can book corporate travel with a single click.
It also allows users to manage their trips. A team of experts is available 24/7 to help when travel plans go wrong. They can help users check in for flights, re-book travel or change a hotel reservation.
Because Lola saves travelers’ profiles and preferences, users can also book travel on behalf of others. By storing loyalty programs, Lola can help users collect and apply rewards.
Lola also helps companies with travel policy management. It allows travel managers to set booking guidelines for every city and notifies them when travelers book out of policy.
Companies can save money with Lola with its industry partnerships and supplier relationships. The company can provide discounted fares and refundable tickets usually only available to large companies with bigger travel budgets.
“We have really happy customers,” Volpe said.
One of them is Flywheel, the company that helps build, launch and manage WordPress sites. Lola has teamed with Expensify, the expense software, to help the company of 200 employees manage their travel. Flywheel manages its travel bookings in the Lola app. Then receipts are sent automatically to Expensify for expense tracking and reporting.
Steve Isom, vice president of finance at Flywheel, said when he started the company in August 2018, he noticed the travel process was problematic. Employees did not like booking travel and there was no visibility into travel spend. It made it impossible to forecast or report travel expenses.
“Employees would print out their receipts and just drop them on the accounting manager’s desk, and each month, every expense had to be coded,” Isom said. “Because Lola.com integrates with Expensify, we are now able to accurately code all travel expenses immediately. Everything auto populates into Expensify, and then goes to the finance team for approval.”
Allego, a provider of sales learning and readiness software, is another Lola customer. Before using Lola, Allego had a one-pager that outlined travel guidelines for employees, including how much they could spend on flights and hotels. Now, Allego has programmed their parameters into the Lola app. Only flights and hotels within those guidelines are accessible to employees.
“Before Lola, we were using an outdated travel agency, and half our bookings had some type of issues,” said Alex Mackenzie, director of sales at Allego. “These issues took a few hours out of my week that I could have been doing my job – like helping to get deals across the finish line. Now, with Lola, that’s gone.”