A complicated and cumbersome process – booking locations for meetings while traveling – has always been annoying. But with the creation of nXus, business travelers can now access an easy and cost-effective bookable platform for all their needs.
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How can a business professional on the go book the best off-site meeting locations at the least possible cost in just a matter of minutes? With the help of nXus, a Boca Raton, Florida-based startup.
Fares Khalidi came up with the idea in 2016 after noticing the arbitrary way companies made booking decisions. The person assigned with the travel planning task didn’t possess the data or ability to choose the lowest price available with a single request – and the whole process took longer than necessary because it was so convoluted. Even established travel management companies weren’t producing desired results.
It was a problem that needed solving. “We all know that where you go and when you go makes a big difference in the ticket prices, but the tools were lacking to make it easy – especially for the people that wear many hats in a company,” says Khalidi. “nXus simplifies the research, comparison and booking of corporate travel when you have people coming from multiple locations and you want to see the costs at one or more destinations.”
Ensuring efficiency is in Khalidi’s blood; before this venture, he was in finance and specialized in process improvement. He knew minor costs often go unnoticed in large companies, but those “extras” eventually add up to major waste.
With the nXus platform, which officially launched in December 2018, companies can save up to 10 percent on meeting events held in the U.S., and 20 percent on those held internationally. Not insignificant savings, especially over time.
Not only is nXus helping other companies whittle down their expenses, but Khalidi is also making sure his own financial angle is straight by using the right credit card for his business.
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What was the beginning of nXus like? Any hardships to handle before or after launching?
My biggest challenge was finding a company that was willing to talk to me about getting access to the data I needed. The really difficult part was that there are only three main players in the field, and I had a hard time getting them to notice me. I also had to find a programmer willing to take this on and make sense of the data that was available to morph it into the information I wanted.
And yes, there were some surprise costs that caught me off guard. Software is amazingly difficult especially when being used to create something entirely new. Programming costs three times more than what you originally thought and takes twice as long to get done because there is a lot of rewriting that happens.
I had to take a step back, calm down and try to move things forward by taking the time to understand what the programmers were talking about. Coding is a language. If you learn the language, you will have an easier time understanding when people “speak” it, and I wish I learned that beforehand!
What role did credit cards have in your launch, and what’s your plastic of choice?
Before I established my business accounts, I used credit cards to sign up for the data service and other things I needed – mainly because they were required by many companies. Credit cards are the easiest way to conduct a transaction.
For my business operations, I use The Platinum Card® from American Express because of the points I generate and the rewards I can use it for. For example, this card offers 5 times Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with the airlines or via the American Express Travel platform. Also, the Platinum Card gives me access to airport lounges – including the premium Centurion lounges – when I travel. They keep me productive, fed and hydrated since they offer free food and drinks, and are great places to get away from the airport crowd.
How do you handle the unique financial aspects of running your business – are you usually leveraged or do you carry over debt?
My business expenses aren’t unique per se, except that I have to pay for the travel data on a monthly and annual basis. Like other businesses, I pay for programming expenses like web and hosting fees along with travel and conference fees as well. But I remain debt-free by paying my balances off completely every month. Because I am a finance guy, I have built expense models and they help me manage my budgets and cash.
nXus is still pretty new, so what are your company’s future plans?
Right now, we are in startup mode and looking for seed funding. We are actively pitching to investors and looking to expand our business. The plans are to work with our pilot companies to develop the next version of the platform and to expand its use of data.
At the same time, we need to bring on additional application programming interfaces or APIs [tools to build software] from the other travel data companies. That will ensure complete coverage and compatibility, which would also require an increase in head count as well.
Can you offer any advice to other entrepreneurs about credit cards and debt?
Borrowing money adds another level of stress to starting a company, and I’m fortunate in that I have not had to endure that anxiety because I planned correctly. So, I recommend putting a budget together – and not just for your business. You must consider your home needs – such as your house payments, food and doctor visits – as well as the estimated costs for your business. That’s what I did, and it kept me out of debt.