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Travelstart gets $40m boost

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Travelstart has announced that it has secured $40 million in funding from MTN and global technology investors Amadeus Capital Partners. The investment will be used to accelerate the company’s growth into new markets.

The investment round is led by UK-based technology investor Amadeus Capital Partners, with participation from the MTN Group.

Amadeus Capital Partners’ Andrea Traversone will join Travelstart’s Board of Directors as part of this financing. “The market potential for Travelstart is huge and the company is already a tour de force in emerging markets. They are one of the most profitable e-commerce companies on the African continent and with this new round of funding Travelstart will be able to fast-track its already rapid growth. We’re excited to spearhead this round and to see the company’s continued growth and success,” said Traversone.

“Travelstart’s goal has always been to put people in charge of their own travel arrangements – to help them save time and money while receiving excellent customer service,” says Stephan Ekbergh, CEO of Travelstart. “This capital gives us additional resources to expand quickly and strategically into new markets, innovate rapidly, and deliver on our vision in more countries”.

Since launching in South Africa in 2006, Travelstart has grown to become Africa’s largest platform for flight, hotel and car hire bookings. In this time, the company has built distribution partnerships with more than 1000 third party websites through its Affiliate Program, launched its B2B offering called neXt, and has increased its standing as a forerunner in the mobile app space last year launching Flapp – a unique app which allows users to book flights on single popular “commuter” routes in seconds.

In addition to its large booking inventory, in recent years, Travelstart has focused on expanding into emerging markets throughout Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.

Today, Travelstart has more than 2 million monthly users in 16 countries who use its secure technology to book flights, hotels and rental cars around the world. Travelstart’s meteoric growth has been driven by Internet penetration growth and fast paced smartphone connectedness rates in the regions they operate.

Over the last year, Travelstart has grown its staff to well over 200 located in Cape Town, Lagos, Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Dubai and Istanbul.  Building on this momentum, Travelstart will use the additional financing to continue expanding its global reach, accelerate product growth and innovation, and invest in additional sales and marketing resources.

Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer, MTN, added: “MTN’s vision is one of delivering a Bold New Digital World and this investment in partnership with Amadeus is a key step on a multi-year journey to achieve that promise. It strongly complements our existing investments in online and e-commerce in retail, marketplaces, classifieds and travel. This investment in the largest multi-national player in a very large and rapidly growing market positions MTN as an enabler of exciting new leading edge businesses. The MTN footprint, subscriber base, payment capability, network and brand awareness strongly underpin the synergies already being manifested in our other investments.  We look forward to working with Amadeus and the Travelstart team to accelerate the business development of this adjacency.”

With this investment, Andrea Traversone, Investment Partner at Amadeus Capital Partners, and Stephan Ekbergh, Chief Executive Officer of Travelstart have joined Travelstart’s Board of Directors. Travelstart’s financial advisor for this transaction was EOC Partners LLP.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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