LU 319: How TravelBank CEO Duke Chung Started His First Business in His Dorm Room and Sold It to Microsoft (podcast) With Duke Chung

Duke Chung
Hey everyone! Today’s show features Duke Chung, Founder and CEO of TravelBank, a fast and flexible travel and expense management tool for your business.
Tune in to hear how TravelBank’s transactional model has allowed them to scale to 15,000 companies and 100,000 users in 2.5 years, how founders can start a thoughtful business that tackles big problems and how Duke started his company in his dorm room, which was later acquired by Microsoft.

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • [00:17] Before we jump into today’s interview, please rate, review, and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast!
  • [00:43] Chung started his first business in a dorm room and built it up to be a leading customer service SaaS company which was acquired by Microsoft. 
  • [01:40] When he stayed with Microsoft after the acquisition, he learned how a large business operates. 
  • [02:53] One of the systems Microsoft had in place was expense & travel. 
  • [03:44] When SAP acquired Concur, Chung saw that there was an opportunity for the next disruptor to come in.  
  • [04:42] Transformation in enterprise software happens every 12 years. 
  • [06:04] Reports list the exit range for Parature in the $100M range.
  • [07:18] TravelBank uses a transactional model that provides more scalability for customers. Most of the revenue is generated from suppliers. 
  • [08:14] Margins start between 5-10% and can scale up to 30-40% over time. 
  • [09:09] When you switch from SaaS to transactional model, how does that affect valuations? 
  • [11:33] When you work off a transactional model are they buying credits or paying as they go?
  • [11:55] TravelBank has scaled to 15,000 companies over 2.5 years because the software is generally free to use. 
  • [12:09] TravelBank’s value proposition. 
  • [14:40] What other numbers can you share around the business today?
  • [14:44] In the 2.5 years since launch, we’ve scaled to 100,000 users. The company has scaled to 15,000 companies, generally in the smaller business category. 
  • [15:30] In the U.S., 300 billion is spent on global business travel annually. 
  • [16:12] For TravelBank, the small business segment provides a great opportunity to serve a market that has been underserved.
  • [16:57] Chung addresses major changes in how businesses are purchasing software.
  • [17:41] “What you see now is this adoption of employees wanting to have a voice in the decision-making process.” -Duke Chung.
  • [18:48] How would you recommend that people go out there and figure out how to work on big things?
  • [19:55] “A lot of the best ideas take a lot of time to build.” -Duke Chung
  • [21:11] Chung reflects on how he felt when his company was acquired.
  • [23:02] “My advice is to take your time to build these businesses. Enjoy every moment and think about building something big and amazing.” -Duke Chung
  • [23:29] How do you filter for people who are starting businesses that don’t really solve a problem? 
  • [25:23] Chung always encourages founders to really study the industry that they’re in. 
  • [25:38] A simple test for product-market fit. 
  • [26:50] Make sure that you’re solving a problem that’s big enough for enough people.
  • [27:43] What does it mean to be thoughtful about building businesses?
  • [28:31] “Failing is perfectly fine.” -Duke Chung
  • [29:14] You will need an entire community behind you to help you build a business.
  • [31:37] What is one new tool you’ve added in the last year that has added a lot of value?
  • [33:03] Make sure you have some time to relax your mind.
  • [34:32] What is one must-read book you’d recommend?

Resources From The Interview:

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