UVA Darden Grad’s Silicon Valley Startup Seeks ‘Common Ground’ for Airlines, Customers

By Jay Hodgkins

At first glance, launching a business in the travel and hospitality industry in the middle of a crippling pandemic might not seem like a good idea. But now is the perfect time, according to University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumnus Tobias Wessels (MBA ’07), CEO of Rebound Travel Technologies, a Silicon Valley fintech startup.

Wessels shared more about his recent work launching Rebound in a profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight.

The company works with airline finance executives, who decide how much of their expected outflow — from refunds, lost suitcases, denied boarding or customer service issues — they would like to retain. Based on the percentage of outflow the airline wants to keep, Rebound determines a dollar value for refund alternatives. Using industry and proprietary customer data, it creates offers to compete with the standard refunds.

“If you want to keep 40 percent of money that goes out the door, I need to create an offer that is 25 percent better than the refund amount,” Wessels says. “If you want to retain 50 percent of projected outflow, the offer amount goes up.”

A customer whose $2,000 flight from Rochester to Miami is canceled can use Rebound’s platform to select from a variety of reimbursement options, choosing the cash refund or voluntarily giving it up for a $2,400 travel certificate offering a mix of hotel, flight and other amenities. Rebound earns a commission on funds retained.

“It complies with the law because the company is ready to give you a refund, but by what we know through machine learning, we give you an offer that could be too good to refuse,” Wessels says.

Wessels said lessons learned at Darden helped shape his approach launching Rebound.

“I really enjoyed my negotiations classes with Professor Larry Franklin and the idea ‘to always look for common ground,'” Wessels says. “Over many years working, this idea stuck with me and ended up in Rebound where companies find common ground with their customers.”

Read the full profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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