An alternative to Miles & More: Will Ecomio replace the frequent flyer program?

Das Gründer-Team von Ecomio will Geschäftsreisen grüner machen, indem Mitarbeiter dafür belohnt werden: Katharina Riederer (links), Mario Blatter und Sarah Benarey.

Ecomio, a Munich startup, wants to help companies reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Employees are rewarded for climate-friendly travel. Your biggest competitor? Miles Hunters at Miles and More.

The Ecomio founding team wants to make business travel more green by rewarding employees: Katharina Riederer (left), Mario Blatter and Sarah Binari.

Katharina Riederer travels a lot on her job as a management consultant. Like most of her colleagues at Roland Berger, she’s booked a seat in business class on long-haul flights – where she can stretch her legs and at the same time go a lot of miles.

“As long as I was within travel guidelines, I didn’t care too much about the cost of these flights or the carbon footprint behind them. Miles have always mattered to me,” said the Munich native, looking back.

Algorithm computes ‘greener’ alternatives

This is exactly the problem for many companies: How can employees be inspired to travel in a climate-friendly way if they have to forego frequent flyer status or say goodbye to free point upgrades? How do you motivate employees to appreciate more sustainable travel and stand up to competing offers from Miles & More?

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The 29-year-old’s idea: Ecomio, a software that can be integrated into the company’s existing travel reservation system. The algorithm computes the greener alternatives and shows how much carbon dioxide emissions and costs could be saved through a climate-friendly flight.

“For business trips, 90 percent of eco-friendly travel goes hand in hand with savings,” says the founder. Companies can then pay the difference directly to their employees or transfer it to their points program. This greener alternative to existing reward programs aims to help companies achieve their climate goals more quickly.

In November 2020, Riederer brought Sarah Binary and fellow student Mario Blatter on board to realize their vision. They funded their work with €90,000 in grants from Riederer and Blatter University, ETH Zurich.

Leah Sophie Kramer also invested

The Ecomio team now has ten people and has raised new capital through business angels. And the financing round, led by the great Austrian investor Hansi Hansmann, brought in 650,000 euros. Amorelie founder Lea-Sophie Cramer, Runtastic co-founder Alfred Luger, and business travel expert Patrick Diemer — who, among other things, ran Miles & More for four years — as well as private equity and venture capital expert Volker Rovalsky, founder of Merantix Artificial Intelligence Advisory, Nicole Buettner.

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There’s currently no competition, Riederer says, but the program hasn’t even been up and running yet either. Ecomio is due to launch early next year, and collaborations with companies like Deloitte are already underway. Customers are large and medium-sized businesses because the software must have access to the data of the existing reservation platform.

According to the founder, the challenge for target customers is to adapt the algorithm to the individual requirements of the company while ensuring data security. As Riederer explains: “Startups are out of the question as clients at first, because they often book trips through Kayak and Expedia, and at best, their travel expenses are written down in some Excel sheet.” So if more business travelers are sitting on the train than on the plane next year, it could be due to more than just a €9 ticket.

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