We discuss today with Bruce Yoxsimer. Bruce is the CEO of BTP Automation Inc.
BTP Automation is positioned to disrupt legacy travel program management through a modern, intelligent, and automated performance index. Bruce, can you start off by explaining just how BTP Automation will do this?
First and foremost, BTP is committed to transforming the industry but doing it through a holistic approach that benefits all key entities in the corporate travel procurement process. BTP is a data, data analytics, and automation Company. Without going too deep into the technical details, BTP analyses all of a company’s travel data, find the inefficiencies, and automate the actions necessary to save money. Companies using our platform today are saving, on average, ten percent of their travel spend. Ultimately, BTP brings a level of trust back into the community for buyers, suppliers, and the travel management companies, who, in this case, are the intermediaries. This is real change.
You have more than 25 years of travel industry experience. How has this helped to shape BTP Automation and its services?
In any industry, solid domain experience and a broad perspective allow people a level of clarity when assessing problems and potential solutions. With that in mind, BTP has focused on adding team members who have a deep understanding of our industry, the existing issues, and inefficiencies and are motivated to build solutions that create real, transformational change.
How has travel changed over the course of your career?
Actually? Not as much as you might think. There have been some obvious big moments, such as the advent of internet travel and all that it represents, e-tickets vs. paper, and many economic machinations around who pays whom for what services. But in the end, the overall process is the same as it was twenty-five years ago, consisting of overwhelming manual processes, a lack of real-time actionable data, and inefficiencies that cause a lot of money to be left on the table for all parties.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a standstill, and it hasn’t returned to the levels it was previously. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
Fortunately for BTP, as the industry was really at a low point in volume, we were learning to walk with our new platform. We had the opportunity to onboard several corporate customers who had the time and the motivation to deploy new tech to solve old problems. As virtually every business on the planet suffered to some degree, well, not Zoom, the emphasis has been shifted to finding efficiencies, lowering costs, and providing a greater level of stewardship over their traveling populations. And that is our sweet spot!
Bruce, you didn’t go to college straight after high school. Your journey is quite different. Can you tell us about that journey and how you later ended up in the travel industry?
Oh man, yeah, it was definitely a bit of a winding road. I left Junior College to be a ski bum in Colorado with my buddy. Which frankly might have been the beginning of my early vagabond lifestyle. At the end of the season, when the snow melted, I came back to California, and my mom, who was a travel agent, told me there was a big world cruiser, The Royal Viking Sky, in port in San Francisco, and she could score me a visitor pass if I wanted to go check it out. I had never seen a cruise ship like that and thought it would be a fantastic way to work your way around the world. I found myself in the bar, shocker, and just happened to run into the Maitre’D. I basically lied my way onto the crew and sailed with them for two years! And so it went. I lived in Innsbruck in the Alps, mined for black opals in Lightning Ridge, Australia, and somehow found myself in 1983 as the owner of a small travel agency in Palo Alto, California!
Your first business was GetThere, which was a hugely significant company. What was the inspiration for this company, and how did it change travel?
I had been running my own travel company for almost 13 years when I met Dan Whaley, my founding partner at GetThere. We met doing martial arts together. Dan was a very early Internet Pioneer, having developed some of the earliest tech to facilitate commerce on the web. Dan came to me one day and said, “Hey, let’s put your agency on the web.” I said, “Sure. What’s the web?”
It was a really interesting time in the industry. And not all for the better. Delta Airlines had just capped commissions for agents, which meant the entire economic structure of the business they had built just had the rug pulled out from under it. And right about that time, we launched ITN, later to become GetThere. Our initial business just supported travel agencies. Clients could go to ITN, make all their travel plans themselves, walk into the agency they had been using, and pick up a ticket. Agencies stopped being simple transaction processors and could now focus on transactions that represented better revenue opportunities.
We started building corporate policy into the platform, so it became a viable online booking tool for corporations. We built the first airline direct-to-consumer web-based distribution capability for many carriers: United Airlines, TWA, America West, All Nippon, Continental, etc. So ultimately, GetThere did lead the way in transforming the industry.
How has GetThere influenced the work you do with BTP Automation?
That is probably a two-part question. From the product/platform/customer side, we focus on transforming the industry for corporations, suppliers, and travel management companies. We learned at GetThere that it is critically important to understand the pain points of the organizations you are dealing with. One organization’s problem may be another’s windfall. If you take a holistic view of things, there is more than likely a solution that solves problems for everybody involved.
What inspires you to begin and invest in new projects as a serial entrepreneur?
Some opportunities you look at are just math. X number of users time X revenue per user equals this much. Some opportunities are purely emotional or passionate. I love the idea, but there isn’t a business behind it. It would be best if you had both. The model that is compelling to me matches the idea that you love. When you have both, that is what inspires you to become involved.
What is the biggest risk you take when working with or on new projects?
Well, other than losing your money, making all your friends and family hate you, and becoming a pariah in a given industry, I can’t think of any! Seriously though, that really is it. Entrepreneurs take risks. They invite others to take the ride with them. Friends, VC, whomever. So those who are out there laying it on the line are risking more than most people can imagine.
Outside of work, you have hobbies, including martial arts and motorcycles. How important is it for entrepreneurs to have a life outside of their careers?
It is critical, as in really important. It is so easy to become myopic with what you are doing day to day that it can be challenging to lift your head up and look around. And it is a little different for different stages of life. Young men and women entrepreneurs will be all in. Eat, sleep, and breathe the start-up, which is totally cool. And one of the most essential things in the success of a new venture. However, as you become a little more seasoned, it is crucial to remember that we only get about thirty thousand days on this planet. And you don’t get any do-overs. So you have to make them count, and you have to make sure that what you are doing is what you REALLY want to be doing.
Bruce, how is a day in your life?
It is considerably different than it was a year and a half ago! We have a DSU (Development Stand Up) at 7:30 am three days a week. We were doing it at 6 am as most of my team is Central time, and I am on the West Coast. Until I realized that, “Hey, I’m the boss! Let’s change the time!” Lol. After that, it is sales meetings, marketing updates, money-raising meets, etc. We are all working from home, and I am close to Palm Springs. So the weather is warm, and I always find a way to goof off outside for a bit. My wife Jill and I have been through the start-up gig before, so we understand the importance of looking around and smelling the roses.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I got caught in the Soviet Union smuggling caviar. Oopsie! Can I say that here??
What makes you smile?
My family, my pups, winning motorcycle races. Success with my BTP team. All the usual stuff. Saturday Night Live, lol.
What scares you?
Not much. But, we live in incredibly turbulent times. I am appalled at the amount of disinformation that exists. I worry for the health of this planet and, of course, the future of the next generation. And what we are leaving them.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
I am really afraid I can’t narrow it down to just one thing. But if I had to, I would wish to have always existed in a matriarchal society. There is no recorded history of war in these societies. They were compassionate, protected their children, and were amazingly productive and successful. That seems like a pretty good place to be.
To learn more about Bruce Yoxsimer and BTP Automation, please visit https://www.btpautomation.com