Alexa-Maria Rathbone Barker is CEO and co-founder of tripAbrood, an award-winning UK-based startup & the world's first digital family travel assistant

Five questions with tripAbrood

25 November 2020

5 minute read

Alexa-Maria Rathbone Barker is the CEO and co-founder of tripAbrood, an award-winning UK-based early stage startup and the world's first digital travel assistant for families.

Alexa-Maria Rathbone Barker is the CEO and Co-founder of tripAbrood, an award-winning UK-based early stage start-up and the world’s first digital travel assistant for families.

Prior to founding tripAbrood, Alexa had a decade-long career in financial services running regional sales and operations divisions for Bloomberg L.P in Europe and Asia, that sold and scaled technology solutions to the world’s leading financial institutions. Prior to Bloomberg, Alexa was the UK and Ireland Diversity Manager for Procter & Gamble. Alexa holds a master’s degree in modern languages from Oxford University. As a mother of three young children, she has experienced the challenges of family travel first hand and decided to found tripAbrood to solve these challenges through technology.

In her free time, she loves spending time with her brood. In a previous life, Alexa was a professional singer and could be found regularly holding a microphone whenever she had the opportunity. She has a passion for children’s welfare and holds board positions in preschools and global children’s welfare charities. Alexa lives near London with her family of five.

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

The inspiration for tripAbrood came from my personal experience travelling with my own family. After weeks researching a trip back to Asia online in 2017, and failing to find a suitable hotel room that catered for our family of five, we ended up compromising by booking a self-catering apartment despite not wanting to self-cater. It was a light bulb moment when we arrived in Hong Kong and I was looking out onto this huge metropolis, thinking: “How can there not be a hotel room that caters for our family in this huge city?” It was at that moment that I realised how broken the online travel agency model was for families.

I later returned from Asia, determined to see if I was alone in my challenge. After touring the country and conducting focus groups with many parents from different walks of life, as well as spending three months researching every aspect of family travel in the British Library, I was absolutely convinced that there was a huge opportunity. We set out to reimagine online travel through technology and data for this huge underrepresented segment worth $780 billion, and open up a new world of opportunities for families to explore the world together on their terms.

02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?

Being a female founder on a mission to reimagine the family travel experience is to me like adding tonic water to gin. The two complement each other really well. As a mum, I am our target market, so I can speak to the pain points we are solving through a deeply personal lens. Not only that, but my children have also become an extension of the team over the last year, adding their own thoughts into the mix. We want to reimagine a world where any family can craft their perfect holiday, not just those families who can afford the services of a travel consultant.

I want to level the playing field for those families who cannot afford to experience the world together. I passionately believe in the value of expanding our mindsets and experiencing the diversity of perspective that comes from celebrating our differences. The world needs this celebration of difference now more than ever. Celebrating difference starts by being different, and for that I am incredibly grateful to be a female founder.

03. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?

Founding a startup is really hard work. The stories that circulate are about the startups who seem to have all their ducks in a row—the fundraises are impressive, the traction is inspiring and the team is awesome. You think that’s what it’s going to be like for you, but the reality is that these successful startups are in the minority.

One percent of startups get Venture Capital funding; 11 percent of that funding goes to all female or mixed gender founding teams. The odds are massively stacked against us. Realising that fact helped me feel like I wasn’t a failure for not being at Series C by now.

We need more stories about the real life journey to funding, and more of an acceptance in the VC world that giving 11% of 1% to female founders just isn’t good enough. It’s time to level the funding playing field. I’m grateful to Barclays and Techstars for this amazing Female Founders First programme. May this be the first of many.

04. How has the pandemic impacted your company?

We closed our pre-seed round just before the pandemic started and so we had the runway this year to focus on product development and building out our digital family travel assistant. In addition to product development, we’ve used this time with restrictions on travel as an opportunity to build up strong customer loyalty. To do this, we created a series of activity packs that helped families all over the country to travel the world virtually from the comfort of their homes. These packs became very popular and helped to increase our mailing list sevenfold since the pandemic began.

Looking ahead, we have entered a partnership with one of the largest travel brands in the world and are in the process of significantly scaling the number of destinations we can offer. The good news is that families are one of the fastest travel segments to rebound in the UK. Coupled with recent positive news on a vaccine, we are aiming to position ourselves to be able to capture some of the pent-up demand for family holidays that will surface as restrictions ease.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

Value your own self-worth at a premium and don’t let anyone take away your spirit throughout all the inevitable knocks. To do this, surround yourself with people who tell you that you can, not that you can’t. Women especially need to do this. There will be so many points as a female founder when logic seems to tell you that it’s time to step away from your dream. It’s the people around you that believe in you and encourage you to follow your dreams that make the rollercoaster ride of starting a company manageable alongside the intense juggling of life as a female founder. A big shout out to all my champions who have ridden the highs and the lows with me. I am so grateful.

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