Across a range of sectors, from trade shows to high-level leadership positions, Black Americans remain significantly underrepresented in the travel and tourism sector. Research shows that only 7.2% of U.S. travel agents identify as Black or African American and an overwhelming 62% of travel advisors function as independent contractors who lack the necessary tools and resources to compete with larger agencies.
Pioneering tech visionaries Darrien Watson and Stevon Judd are ushering in a paradigm shift in the travel industry with a customized Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for group travel organizers and travelers. Beyond just financial growth SquadTrip is committed to empowering 50,000 Black travel professionals over the next two years to close the diversity gap in the travel and tourism industry. With its mission to foster community and meaningful connections through travel experiences, the software company will share optimal strategies and educational resources through webinars, conferences and workshops.
Watson, CEO and co-founder of SquadTrip, emphasizes: “One of the biggest challenges for tour operators is planning trips efficiently in terms of time and costs. Many small travel agencies rely on paid management of multiple online tools, but our all-inclusive platform streamlines this process by offering professional tools that make it easy to create travel landing pages, automated billing schedules, and seamless back-office operations. “
After securing an impressive $1.5 million in funding, the startup has become one of the few Black-owned travel software companies to raise over $1 million in investment. Backers include notable companies such as TechStars, Forum Ventures and Atento Capital, a Tulsa-based venture capital firm focused on unlocking untold potential in early-stage founders.
SquadTrip’s co-founders have generated $7 million in travel sales and facilitated 6,000 bookings. The business partners, who originally met as best friends during college, began their entrepreneurial journey by creating an event ticketing platform tailored to Black entrepreneurs. In 2022 they launched SquadTrip.
Watson recalls, “The concept for SquadTrip came about when I was helping a friend find an easier way to raise money for his birthday trip. Our software system turned his annual group trip into a million-dollar travel company.”
The automated payment solution is aimed at professional group tour operators, travel agencies and travel brands, but is also suitable for travel enthusiasts who regularly organize trips for family and friends. Whether it’s an important milestone celebration or a family reunion, users can access SquadTrip’s platform for free and only pay a 6 percent fee per booking.
Stevon Judd, CTO and co-founder of SquadTrip, reveals: “Initially our focus was on our ideal customer base, but we soon realized that our platform resonates with a wide range of travel professionals and enthusiasts. Our users include travel agents, wedding planners, retreat organizers and even vacationers organizing trips for their loved ones.”
Group travel often requires coordinating multiple aspects such as transportation, accommodation, activities and itineraries for a larger number of people. This complexity can lead to logistical challenges, especially when it comes to last-minute changes, cancellations or unforeseen circumstances. While small agencies may not have access to the advanced travel management software and tools that larger agencies use to manage bookings and handle customer interactions, SquadTrip addresses these challenges by helping travel professionals work more efficiently and capture untapped revenue .
Stephanie Kilson-Thomas, a SquadTrip customer and owner of KT Travel & more, explains, “Most of my clients are honeymoon groups, and SquadTrip allows me to manage the reservation process for a large number of travelers from start to finish.”
With the latest investment funds, the company plans to strengthen its business presence, attract new talent and improve its product offering. A notable addition to the platform is a new affiliate feature that allows travelers to share trips with friends via a unique link. Users are rewarded with cash when their referrals join the trip.
This year, SquadTrip has made a major move from New York to the Black-owned tech ecosystem in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street.
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