Corporate travel has a been a market in need of some desperate transformation. Pana, a CU Boulder-originated startup company, hopes to facilitate this change with a $10 million Series A funding round led by Silicon Valley VC firm Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Techstars, Matchstick Ventures and MergeLane Fund.
“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,” said Kristina Shen, Partner at Bessemer in a blog post on Pana’s website. “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.”
Finding a Solution for Recruiters
Pana identified on-site interviews as the most important corporate traveler experience to tackle first, after recruiters repeatedly cited long email chains and clunky travel software as issues that affect a candidate’s first impression of a company.
The booking and scheduling processes for flights, hotels and more are coordinated through Pana’s chat-based online and mobile platform, designed to act as a travel concierge. Pana’s support team of real travel agents, paired with its smart technology, are also available 24/7 via chat, email and text message in the event that travel mishaps occur.
“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,” wrote CEO and co-founder Devon Tivona (CompSci’14 - in photo, right).
Pivoting for Better Business
The idea for Pana originated at CU Boulder in 2014, when Tivona and his team were just undergraduates. The company competed as Varsity in CU Boulder’s sixth annual cross-campus, entrepreneurial competition, the New Venture Challenge (NVC). Billed as a higher-education social network, Varsity ended up tying for first place at NVC.
That summer, after networking with and finding mentors in Boulder startup leaders like Sue Heilbronner, Brad Bernthal and Zach Neis, Varsity was chosen for Techstars’ accelerator program. Realizing their social network wouldn’t actually solve a particular problem for anyone, Tivona and his team scrapped the idea and pivoted to Native, a travel assistant-type app designed to take the hassle out of trip planning.
Native finally rebranded to Pana—meaning good friend or confidant in Latin American Spanish—in 2015 to better identify itself as a customer-first platform. It’s stuck ever since.
“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,” wrote Tivona. “We are thrilled to embark on this next phase of our journey.”