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Welcoming Bessemer and Kristina Shen to the Pana team

Written by Devon Tivona on April 29, 2019

Pana raises a $10 million Series A led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Techstars, Matchstick Ventures, and MergeLane Fund.

Experience Matters

Today, we’re thrilled to announce the successful raise of a $10 million Series A.

When Sam and I founded Pana in 2014, we hoped (prayed) that others would see what we saw: travel experience matters in corporate travel.

See, traveling for work is pretty painful today. You’re jammed into an economy seat, you don’t sleep well, you don’t eat well, you’re jet-lagged, meanwhile you’re sent off into the world for some important reason.

And then there’s bad travel software which makes organizing, booking, expensing, and getting help on the road even more painful and time-consuming for employees. Travelers—who take time outside of work away from home to travel—are burdened with clunky software and 1-800 numbers with long hold times.

At Pana, we asked a simple question: shouldn’t this be different?

After all, we know how valuable people are to modern businesses. Studies show that highly-engaged employees produce 7x higher shareholder returns than those with low engagement, and engaged, happy employees are 87% less likely to leave. With the massive costs and productivity loss of replacing people, these numbers matter.

Sure, corporate travel departments need to ensure they’re getting good airline and hotel rates and that travelers are following policy. We’re not denying this (we’d get 1,000 emails from the travel managers and CFOs at our customers’ companies if we did!). But we believe that cost-savings are table stakes today. Accomplishing this while wasting employee time and creating frustration does more harm than good to a company’s bottom and top line.

Why Corporate Travel

Some may be surprised to learn that corporate travel is a $1.3 trillion global industry, with enterprises in the U.S. spending more than $300 billion in travel last year alone. But at Pana, we fell in love with the industry not just because of its market size, but because—when done right—travel yields so much possibility for companies and their people.

When the industry irons out the complexities and its many entanglements in travel coordination, corporate travel is a force-multiplier for a company’s growth.

Travel creates a ripple effect for the traveler and leaves an imprint on the people they meet. Travel connects teams to new and existing co-workers, partners, and customers. It enables new opportunities, produces unexpected collaboration, and shifts perspectives.

Where We’re Starting

Because we believe that travel experience matters, we started by tackling one of the earliest and most important corporate traveler experiences: their on-site interview.

By the time a candidate gets to the on-site, it's critical their trip goes well—it’s the “first real date” between company and candidate. But today, since online booking tools weren't built for this type of trip, recruiters end up playing "travel agent", sending screenshots of flights to the candidate. Or worse, they start a “three-way email chain from hell” amongst the candidate, travel agent, and coordinator. (Buckle in for 20 to 30 emails sent back-and-forth!)

These clunky and manual processes are time-consuming and create a bad impression on the candidate.

Virgin recently calculated that bad candidate experiences cost the company over $5 million in one year alone, and according to LinkedIn, 83% of candidates say that a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or a company that they once liked.

With Pana, global enterprise businesses and high-growth companies like Logitech, Quora, Shopify, and over 100 others use Pana to save recruiters time and deliver a world-class candidate experience.

Procore, a Santa Barbara-based technology company has been recognized twice in a row on the Talent Board’s Candidate Experience (CandE) list, a coveted list of only 65 companies recognized for outstanding experiences for interview candidates.

"At Procore we're focused on providing an exceptional candidate experience, and Pana helps us ensure that any candidate needing to book travel for an interview finds it easy and enjoyable," said Amanda Babineaux, Talent Ops Manager at Procore. "Often times the first thing we hear from candidates when they arrive for an interview is how seamless and stress-free travel was, which goes a long way to helping make their entire interview experience a positive one."

In less than 30 seconds, Procore recruiters send upcoming travel details to Pana, and they’re done.

Pana works directly with the candidate, suggesting the best flights, automatically booking a convenient hotel, and coordinating day-of-travel logistics. When they land in Santa Barbara, Pana even sends candidates local recommendations for coffee shops and restaurants that were picked by Amanda and her team when they set up Pana. Candidates upload receipts for meals or other in-trip purchases and receive fast and simple reimbursement via a bank transfer or check.

The entire process is coordinated seamlessly through Pana’s chat-based online and mobile platform. And the Pana support team—supported by technology—is available 24/7 via chat, email, and text message, so travelers are always taken care of.

Part of the Ecosystem

While other new entrants to the corporate travel space are building their businesses as an alternative to corporate travel agencies, Pana is designed to integrate into the broader ecosystem.

In 2018, Pana launched a partnership with BCD Travel, the third largest corporate travel agency in the US. Agencies like BCD have decades of experience managing travel programs for their customers, and we view these corporate travel agencies as critical strategic partners. By leveraging our partners’ supply and distribution, Pana is able to focus on what we think is most important: the end-user experience. In turn, Pana helps our agency partners deliver value to their customers by bringing a seamless technology platform to their travelers and trip organizers.

For small and emerging businesses who don't have a travel agency, Pana is a great stand-alone solution. But for global enterprises who use corporate travel agencies, Pana integrates directly, using existing corporate contracts and centralizing all travel reporting.

Bessemer’s Investment

I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Kristina Shen and the extended Bessemer family to our team. We look forward to our partnership and value their deeply thoughtful roadmaps that trace the ways in which technology drives both enterprise and consumer expectations.

“The corporate travel industry is about to undergo a very similar metamorphosis that we’ve seen in the taxi industry with Uber and Lyft, online shopping and delivery services with Amazon, and short-term rentals with Airbnb,” she told us recently.

“Pana will be a catalyst of corporate travel’s transformation, so finally, this entrenched industry will be accessible, cost-effective, and streamlined for the traveler and the business. The best news yet is that the opportunity is bigger than ever before and Pana has the customer fanfare, trajectory, and team to advance the industry.”

When I first met Kristina, I was impressed with her smart and analytical approach to our market and the combined art and science of building cloud companies (she’s co-authored three years of Bessemer’s State of the Cloud Reports and Bessemer’s 10 Laws of Cloud Computing).

But as we started to get to know each other, I observed that she also demonstrated two critical values near to my heart and foundational to our culture. First, she practices radical candor, providing her honest and unfiltered perspectives for the good of the team. Second, she brings no ego to the table; our early debates about the business have been lively, passionate, but always intellectually honest.

With a $10 million injection of capital from Bessemer, we’re going to do what we do best: listen to our customers and build products that make their lives easier and their travelers happier.

Where We’re Going

Through our relationships with corporate travel agencies, our new partnership with Bessemer, and our fanatical focus on removing the logistical headaches of travel planning, Pana is well-positioned to make travel more about why you’re going and less about how you’ll get there.

We’ve been able to scale a global agent operations team with sustainable economics. And now, Pana can begin applying our hybrid digital and human platform to other complex and important travel workflows that are painful for our customers today. If a clunky spreadsheet or a dozen emails back-and-forth are required to get a trip together, we believe Pana can and will help.

We are thrilled to embark on this next phase of our journey, and we’re so thankful for everyone—our customers, advisors, close friends, family, and office dogs—who got us through the tireless hours to get here.

Here’s to what’s next.

For Talent Teams

Create a world-class interview and onboarding experience while cutting down on email back-and-forth.

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For Travel Managers

Deliver a streamlined and centralized process for all of your non-profiled and guest travelers.

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For Groups

Remove the complexity of travel for marketing events, advisory boards, off-sites, all-hands meetings, and more.

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Companies big and small trust Pana with their mission-critical travel.