You have probably heard or read something about Despegar.com, but you may not know who is behind this business. Find out how Latino Roberto Souviron became a successful entrepreneur.
It is incredible the way in which visionary people can create business models from a personal need that was not covered at the moment. This is how the idea of an online travel agency began, at a time when this field was unexplored terrain in Latin America.
Thus, began the story of Roberto Souviron and Despegar.com
In 1998, Roberto Souviron was studying at Duke University, in the United States, to obtain his MBA degree. At that time, the student made a visit to his native Argentina. It was during his return trip that a situation arose that would serve as a trigger for later developing his project.
After waiting half an hour to buy his plane ticket at a travel agency in Buenos Aires, Roberto ended up doing the procedure online through a US portal. In this way, he realized that no country in Latin America had the possibility of buying flights through the Internet.
With this business opportunity in mind, Roberto completed his MBA and returned to his country ready to make it happen. While working as a Financial Analyst for Telecom, he shared his idea with those who would become co-founders of Despegar.com.
By 1999, Martín Rastellino, Alejandro Tamer, Mariano Fiori and Christian Villate made up the winning team along with Roberto Souviron. A mix of honesty, intellectuality and excellent personal relationships, made the perfect combination to create the successful startup.
What is Despegar.com about
Despegar.com is currently the leading company in Latin America in terms of tourism. With technology as the axis of its innovation, this company offers complete services of travel packages, purchase of flight tickets, accommodation and car rental.
Through its website and its mobile app, Despegar.com allows its users to fully organize their trip. It even offers financing options without interest. As if that weren’t enough, it also makes it easy to shop for travel insurance.
Practically 20 years after its birth, it has managed to position itself as one of the 7 “unicorns” (companies valued at more than 1,000 million dollars) in South America. It has 2,700 employees and operates in 19 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
How did Despegar.com get there?
We go back to 1999, with a Roberto Souviron less than 30 years old. After having analyzed business models of North American companies such as Travelocity, the members of the entrepreneurial team decided to start their own agency, contributing $15,000 each, in August of that year. But it was during the month of December that the Despegar.com website was first operational.
Its first external investment was of 1 million dollars from the Buenos Aires Capital Partners fund, at the beginning of the year 2000. A couple of months later, 10 million dollars were added by various firms, among which was Merril Lynch. And so, began the expansion of Despegar.com to 9 main cities in Latin America.
An important strategy for associating your brand with the tourism sector was to create alliances with other Internet sites such as viajo.com, ciudades.com and viajeros.com. Another factor in its favor was facilitating access to purchase tickets to restaurants and hotels at Disney World Resorts and Universal Studios.
Additionally, a decisive element in the growth of Despegar.com was the fact of betting on technological innovation. In 2007, it began development of its own digital solutions, which it previously acquired through IT companies in India.
This made it possible to improve the users’ shopping experience and expand connections with tourist service providers, thus creating dynamic packages that make their offer stand out. Since then, millions of users can find hotels, cruises, tickets, activities and all kinds of travel-related alternatives.
Specifically, these actions led Despegar.com to make the following options available to millions of Latinos:
- 200 thousand hotels
- 500 international airlines
- 150 cruise routes
- 452 car rental companies
- 500 thousand package combinations
Today, Despegar.com defines itself as “a technology company that operates in the tourism sector” and is on the list of the 5 largest tourism agencies in the world.
Definitely, the Latin entrepreneur Roberto Souviron managed to take his purpose of avoiding lines to buy tickets and to have totally satisfactory experiences. For these reasons he was chosen as the winner of the highest category of the Entrepreneur of the Year award, by the consulting firm E&Y (Ernst & Young), in 2016.
A fascinating story, right? We await your comments on social media!