Having almost hit rock bottom, they asked themselves whether they were cut out for this life or whether they should just get jobs and work 9 to 5. That week,they were invited to a networking event called The Entourage, and they thought, “why not?” At the event, they sat next to two guys who had their own startup called Innovative Beverage Co. They made a relaxing drink called ESC (think the opposite of Red Bull).
They had a great product but no sales, no website, and no marketing. So, at this event, Ross and Dave pitched the idea to them that if they took over all of their marketing and digital presence, they would give them $1 for every can we sold. They agreed, and a new business model for them was born. After working on this product for about six months, they introduced Ross and Dave to their investor, Philip Weinman.
They instantly connected with Phil and were invited to work out of his building in St Kilda, which was a quirky old mansion next to a church filled with over 10 other startups. The place was buzzing. Also, just a small side note – David got married this year to his darling wife, Grace.
With fresh beginnings, it was time for another name change, so we kicked off 2012 known as ‘Locomote’, which in Urban Dictionary meant “To travel with a set reason in mind, unwavering toward that goal”. During this time, Phil had just launched a new travel agency along with Clive Sher (PlanB Travel), and that was our first exposure to corporate travel.
At the time, Plan B was a startup of its own; they were in the midst of building their brand, while getting their travel licenses to be able to operate. Phil wasn’t happy with any of the logo designs he was receiving for Plan B, so asked Ross and Dave if they wanted to submit a pitch.
They did, and they worked tirelessly to ensure they made a good impression; they got the brief on Thursday and delivered the first draft on Friday (which was Good Friday – Easter). Phil and his team loved the new brand, and we were then invited to work on another project for Plan B, which was to revamp the booking tool that they were using with their clients at the time.
Dave, Ross and Stephen (who joined them part time in 2009) designed and coded a fresh look for the tool which helped PlanB win over 50 clients since launching it, and again they did this for a small fee and a clip of every booking that went through the booking tool.
Word spread fast about what they had done within the travel industry, and it was late one night that Phil got a call from a friend who was consulting to Xstrata Coal on their travel programme – they had a meeting the very next day. They needed a new way to manage, approve and book their travel, as they had tried all the current tools on the market and nothing met their needs.
Phil then called Ross and explained the problem, and the next day Ross flew to Sydney to chat through the potential idea. The very next day Ross, Dave and Stephen began working on what this product could be.
That week, David created a slide deck with what the product would look like and how it would work, and with this slide deck in hand Ross flew back to present the idea to Xstrata Coal. The meeting was a success, Xstrata loved it. But they didn’t want to pay.
They discovered that corporates get incentives from Global Distribution Systems (GDS) to stay on their network, and that moving Xstrata from one GDS to another would provide them with the funding they required to get started. So they convinced Xstrata that if they converted them to an alternate GDS with no disruption to their business, they would pass on the incentives, and they agreed.
They were on Sabre GDS at the time, and they moved them to Travelport GDS, which got the attention of the CEO Gordon Wilson, and that’s when they started working with Travelport.
So, before a line of code was written they had their first paying customer, and at that time if you visited their website, Locomote was still providing website design and marketing services, with a little feature box that showcased the corporate travel platform – crazy when you think about it.
Amongst all of this, David and Grace were blessed with their first child, Chelsea (named after the football team, of course, he tried to go with Zola but that didn’t sit well with Grace).
With the help of Phil and Clive, who later invested in Locomote to help speed up the development of the platform, they opened up doors into various other corporates, which allowed Ross and Dave an opportunity to go in and pitch what Locomote was, why they were doing it,and the vision for the company. After each meeting they knew they were on to something, as each corporate loved the idea, adding their own insight into how they managed travel.
Knowing that they finally had a product, they started to build a team to help bring this vision to life. They made the decision to solely focus on this product and to sell off the service side of the business that they had been working on for the past 12 years, which was a huge decision for them.
Stephen was also a major part of the journey up to this point, but decided to follow his passion to become a pilot for Cathay Pacific, which he still is to this day. An amazing achievement in itself for such a young person. Ross and Dave wouldn’t have achieved what they had without the help of Stephen.
In 2014 is when they officially launched the travel product into the market. With the launch, they were on a roll, signing flagship clients such as World Vision, ANZ Bank and Medibank, just to name a few. Travelport (NYSE: TVPT), a leading travel commerce platform that was mentioned earlier, acquired 49% of Locomote, after they had successfully collaborated on some projects together.
This was an important strategic investment made by Travelport as they now had a stake in a corporate facing product that they never had before. The win with ANZ Bank was a landmark deal as it was a first of its kind where the corporate chose the technology first, then the GDS, and lastly the travel agency sparking a shift in the ways travel was bought and managed by corporations at the time. Also, just as a small side note, Ross got married this year to his darling wife, Rachel.
With the continued success in 2015, Travelport took up a majority stake in the company, increasing their shareholding to 55%. Although terms were not disclosed, media reports peg it at being valued from $50 million to $100 million.
This was a significant deal as it showed how serious Travelport was taking their corporate direct approach and their confidence in the Locomote team. They had also signed up strategic travel agency resellers to help them build momentum and to build their sales force globally. To add to this great year, David’s second son, Leo, was born.
Locomote grew it’s footprint from just an Australian operation to a global force opening up operations in the United Kingdom while having a presence in Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. In June 2016, they agreed to sell their remaining stake to Travelport as the time was right on many fronts for the co-founders Ross and Dave, along with initial investors Phil and Clive. To top this phenomenal year, Ross and Rachel were blessed with their first son, Alexander.