GBTA Ladders – 2019 Competition Finalists

A fierce competition took place at the National Union Building last Wednesday, as four teams contended for the coveted opportunity to present at a Convention education session. Team Jim, Team April, Team Erin and Andy, and self-titled Team Survivor went head-to-head during the fifth annual GBTA Ladders Summit, delivering unique presentations on products and services that would improve the travel industry.

This year’s theme is Moving from Trust to Numbers. Trust is essential with any relationship, and yet, the procurement process between travel buyers and suppliers is largely driven by organizations that don’t fully trust each other. During this season of GBTA Ladders, members addressed this issue, touching on how the travel industry has shifted from believing other people to believing the data and numbers.



Team Jim started the competition off with a presentation on ­­­­Putting Humanity in Data. Led by mentor Jim Carter of American Airlines, the team consists of Chrome River Technologies’ Rodrigo Cotelo, American Express Global Business Travel’s James Diaz, ALTOUR’s Charissa O’Holleran, and Discovery, Inc.’s Kody Shelly.

They explained that, in essence, data is a human construct. We bring all of our emotions and biases into each decision that we make, which then turns into data. By moving from trust to numbers, we must accept that there is manipulation in the world. Every act of influence can be categorized as either persuasion or manipulation of data.

They stressed the importance of recognizing how emotions distort thinking and influence behavior. In order to make balanced choices, it’s imperative to acknowledge your emotions. And while the data is always the same, people consume it differently based on their learning or thinking styles. That’s why it’s important to present your data based on your audience.



Next up was Team April, led by Advito’s April Bridgeman and comprised of ConsenSys’ Mat Domaradzki, Airbnb for Work’s Manly Norris, Hilton Charlotte Center City’s Lena Sanok, Shep’s Daniel Senyard, and VAT IT USA’s Sophia Sophos.

Aptly nicknamed The Block Chain Gang, the team members discussed how various blockchain solutions could build an infrastructure of trust for both travel buyers and suppliers. From smart contracts to improved inventory management, the mentees explained how the introduction of blockchain technology would consolidate the travel industry and encourage middlemen to revisit their value proposition and deliver more meaningful value back to travel buyers.



Led by co-mentors Erin Wilk (Facebook) and Andy Miller (International SOS), ECPAT USA’s Michele Guelbart, Lyft Business’ Amanda McDermott, and Jefferies’ Emily Wong presented their solution for revolutionizing the travel industry. They recommended a new set of standards for the travel industry to achieve reliable, consistent and accurate data.

Through the global adoption of standardized data, companies would no longer have to rely on ad hoc communication and trust. Companies would be benchmarked and comprehensively scored on an array of items. This would enable travel buyers to obtain a list of the criteria important to them, and suppliers who can’t meet their requirements wouldn’t waste their time making a bid. The mentees argued that this solution would allow for more transparency and alleviate the RFx cycle.



American Airlines’ Tim Isik mentored The Doyle Collection’s Ciara Buckley, BTN Group’s Lindsay Straub, and American Express Global Business Travel’s Gemma Todman.

Last up to present, the mentees described the problem we face today: the wealth of data available. Data is scattered through various channels, various individuals, and there’s just too much to sort through. They then presented the solution, a business-travel specific platform with an interface similar to a popular online dating app. Entitled Squeeze, the platform would combine data and trust by connecting travel buyers and suppliers, powering industry relationships and enabling individuals to share information like KPIs and relevant statistics. The team members described the platform as a data center and hub for ongoing conversations for buyers.


The winning team will be revealed in the near future.