Building a business is hard and it’s important to share the ups and downs with someone

Upgrade Pack exclusive closed marketplace for discounted flight and hotel upgrades

Please introduce yourself and your startup Upgrade Pack to our readers!
I’m Craig Unsworth, co-founder and CEO of Upgrade Pack. We’re an exclusive closed marketplace for discounted flight and hotel upgrades. We work with our corporate clients (mostly banks and large multinational companies) to give their best customers and employees access to a unique travel perk as a loyalty and reward mechanic.

How did you get the idea for Upgrade Pack?
Travelling extensively for work (sometimes 100 flights a year!) it struck me how empty many of the business class cabins were. Checking in at a hotel the first thing I’d do was ask if the hotel was full, and was invariably told no. Airlines and hotels can’t really ‘broadcast’ that they’ve got these seats / rooms available; and they certainly don’t want to advertise them as ‘going cheap’ or it’d greatly affect brand perception. So they needed a new way to sell what any other sector would call distressed inventory. Users will happily pay for an upgrade, but they want a deal. The airlines and hotels are happy to sweeten the deal with a discount, but subtlety is key.

On the flip side, I’d been working extensively in loyalty for premium brands in the last few years – first at international tax refund business Global Blue (which claims the VAT, or equivalent, back for you on purchases you make when travelling) and then at concierge provider Ten Group. With each I was working with High Net Worth (HNW) individuals; continuously craving – despite their wealth – a great deal. The banks and credit card providers they were customers of all respond to this by building out collections of rewards and benefits, but little had been done in terms of innovation or disruption in the sector in years.

Upgrade Pack combines both of these areas to create a compelling benefit.

How difficult was the start and what challenges have you had to overcome?
The obstacles to setting up Upgrade Pack, beyond the usual ‘leaving a well-paid C-level job’, were mostly around how disruptive we’re being. We offer something entirely new for our clients (a 100% technology-powered solution) and don’t work in the ‘normal’ way for travel partners (we’re not actually selling any travel, really). Indeed, one of the hardest aspects of communicating our proposition was that we don’t charge our travel partners anything to be involved. No fees, no commission, no kick-backs. That’s a new model for a commission driven industry that can initially sound too good to be true!

Who is your target audience?
Our users are the customers or employees of our clients. In each case they are at the upper end of the market. Our bank clients’ customers hold premium products with them: think about the platinum card, the private bank account, the black card, etc. Our corporate clients’ employees tend to be middle and senior management.

The type of employees that talent focused companies work hard to retain.

What is the USP of your startup?
95% of our users say the one thing they want most when they travel is an upgrade. We can deliver that globally – across multiple partners – in a way that nobody else can.

Can you describe a typical workday for you?
I like to get in to the office early – around 0730. We’re based by the river in beautiful Richmond, South West London, so my commute is a drive through the park surrounded by trees and deer. I spend the first part of my day on emails, admin tasks, and projects that benefit from peace and quiet. From 0900, by the time everyone else is in the office, my attention focuses more to catch ups with my team leads – Product, Technology, Commercial, Partners, and Operations. I like to frequently get stuck in to planning sessions. A challenge, a team, and a whiteboard – that’s my happy place. I still travel a lot for work, visiting clients and partners around the world, but it’s reduced greatly now I’m in the CEO seat.

Where do you see yourself and your startup UpgradePack in five years?
We’ve made more progress in five months than most companies would in a couple of years, which I’m extremely proud of. Five years’ time is too far ahead for us to think about, but we’ve a very clear plan for the end of our first, second, and third years. End-Y1 is June 2019, and we’re on track to have launched in the UK, US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland by then.

Building out what’s required to do that is my daily focus right now.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Get a co-founder. Building a business is hard and it’s important to share the ups and downs with someone. He or she should have markedly different skills to you, or you’ll trip each other up.

2. Remember that whilst you’re in disrupt mode, and keen to move quickly, many of the companies you’ll have to interact with will be slow and status quo driven. Identify which ones will not be able to be hurried up and plan accordingly.

3. Work your network. The vast majority of our fast growth to date has been because of the network I, and my Leadership Team, have built over the years. When we’ve been stuck on something, we’ve been able to find someone else who’s ‘been there done that’ etc. Similarly, all of our revenue generation activity has been helped by knowing someone who knows the person we need to speak to.

More information you will find here

Thank you Craig Unsworth for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

Leave a Reply