KDS takes online corporate travel to the next level

Thursday night I was in Paris for the launch of KDS‘ new platform for online corporate travel.  I was amazed that on a Thursday night in St Cloud we managed to get over 200 people to listen to a product demo.  To be fair, it was more DEMO than product demo: great visuals and rythm to the whole affair, and a nice involvement of the whole travel community through a great set of short video clips.

It’s great to be close to a company, its customers and partners at an event like this.  Forget the boardroom, this is really what building a business is about.  In the case of KDS, it was particularly satisfying because they are the dominant player in the field in Europe and create a very strong emotional response from their ecosystem.  A few of them actually thanked me for being part of funding KDS. Too much wine I guess.  One went as far as to toast the imminent demise of a (large) competitor, but he was corrected by one of the younger KDS employees who said “competition keeps us on our toes“.  Good spirit !

From a technology standpoint the guys presented a number of significant innovations.  Most of them have to do with the intricacies of travel planning and pricing, and so I will spare you the details.  However the main headline was a wholesale move to .Net, which was a ‘first’ for a large scale transactional ASP like KDS.  We got a lot of help from the folks at Microsoft Innovations Center as part of IDEES, led by my favourite MS fanatic Julien Codorniou aka Codor (I guess Kodor and Kelcod were taken ;-)).  Julien really helped us with resources and TLC, including getting his team to deliver a pretty nifty contextual integration with Outlook 2007.

KDS now has the right ingredients to take its competitors out of contention:

  • Highly intuitive UI
  • Fully WS-compliant .Net architecture with highly scaleable transaction engine
  • Only true independent in the market
  • Kickass team, adding recently some of the best folks from Ariba, CliqBook and GetThere

Corporate travel is a funny world; it’s got some really smart people (particularly when it comes to optimisation) but it’s clearly got an old school flavour.  With its new product, KDS will put even more distance between itself and its competitors.  With GetThere being rocked by internal turmoil and the inability for the Euro team to influence the product roadmap,  eTravel‘s product being significantly weaker and no other credible international competitor, we should keep on winning some significant market share in the coming quarters.

I tell you, that product launch put me in a good mood for a week !

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