Telluride Venture Accelerator: Travel Recon

Telluride Venture Accelerator: Travel Recon

Thinking about a trip to South America for the fall shoulder season? Seeking an exotic address for a corporate get-together?

Perhaps Brazil, one of the world’s most captivating places in the world, a vibrant country of white-sand beaches, pristine rain forests and wild, rhythmic metropolises, sleepy colonial towns, dramatic red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls, and perhaps the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth.

Toby Houchens, founder/CEO, Travel Recon

Toby Houchens, founder/CEO, Travel Recon

Venezuela is much less known than Brazil, but offers opportunities to explore the Orinoco Delta, a ride in a motorized canoe along jungle-lined rivers to Angel Falls, and tracking wildlife in the Los Llanos Wetlands.

And the capital city of Caracas has a museum of contemporary art that is arguably one of the best on the continent, the leafy Plaza Bolivar square, old churches, and great restaurants that fuse Mediterranean and Caribbean delicacies.

Enticing, no?

Well yes – except for the fact that Caracas has one of the highest murder rates in the world and foreign visitors are generally suits traveling with armed guards.

Plus the fact Venezuela experiences about 2,000 kidnappings annually – although the government stopped reporting statistics in 2005.

Ok then, perhaps someplace closer to home, say, Mexico. Word is Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropolgia is a great place to immerse yourself in the ancient cultures and ethnology of Central America. Mexico also has the huge Pyramids of the Sun and Moon at Teotihuacan, one of the great sites of the ancient world, and cities with exotic-sounding names like Teotihuacan, Oaxaca, and Cozumel – plus great beaches and tamales.

Or maybe not.

According to Thrillist, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, also the Philippines, Haiti, India, Colombia are on the list of hot spots where kidnapping is as popular as sugary fruit drinks and three-for-$10 T-shirts.

And it does not stop there.

Nowadays the kidnapping of Westerners is a multimillion-dollars business in which hostages are simply commodities, pawns in a dark game of chess, a low-cost, low-risk way to make lots of money in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan.

But even in go-to European countries such as Italy, Spain, and France millions of dollars in ransoms are paid out every year.

Sad fact is 130 countries are now considered “less than stable” by the U.S. Fund for Peace as a result of ongoing social upheaval, war, terrorism, or high levels of crime.

But no one is suggesting we stop exploring the world. If we do that, they win. Plus, the odds of getting kidnapped are about as good as catching an on-time flight from Denver to Telluride.

And there are ways to offset the risk.

You could bring Liam Neeson (of “Taken”) along for the ride.

But a more viable (and realistic) alternative to better inform your travels plans, understand potential threats, and mitigate the individual and organization risk is Toby Houchens and his team at Travel Recon.DEF_TR_LOGO_SINGLE copy

Travel Recon is one of five companies in the 2015 class of the Telluride Venture Accelerator, a Telluride-based, mentor-driven program focused on innovative high-growth start-up companies in the fields of outdoor recreation, tourism, natural products, health, energy, water and education industry verticals. Since its inception 2012 as a Telluride Foundation initiative, TVA has raised over $8 million for its first two classes.

Travel Recon is an easy-to-use mobile and web application designed to provide international travelers with relevant, timely, and up-to-date safety and security intelligence for cities around the world.

The platform fuses the power of mobile technology, crowd-sourced data, and military Special Operations-grade analysis to enable travelers to easily understand and visualize risk and communicate with colleagues and corporate travel managers. In short, Travel Recon is a one-stop shop for global business travelers, corporate travel managers, groups, and individuals with information and tools interested in staying safe while traveling abroad.

Aiming to jump the competition with the best team in the risk management business, Travel Recon just brought on Jeff Katz, a founder of Orbitz, as an advisor.

For Houchens, the work his company is doing is personal: his own mother was kidnapped in Africa because her understanding of airport logistics was severely limited. Houchens wants to help others avoid a similar calamity. He also hopes to provide jobs for his fellow veterans.

Houchens served over 10 years in Special Ops with the Green Berets. He holds an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and two masters of science degrees, one in biology and a second in international relations and national security affairs.

To learn more about Toby Houchens and Travel Recon, press the “play” button and listen to our chat.

1 Comment