APEX in Profile: Gleb Tritus

Image: Lufthansa Innovation Hub

Gleb Tritus
Managing Director
Lufthansa Innovation Hub

As the managing director of Lufthansa Innovation Hub in Berlin and Singapore, Gleb helps ensure the airline’s foothold in the travel tech ecosystem. With professional experience in the German startup world, he has been a serial entrepreneur for 10-plus years in the fields of e-commerce and online marketing.

Fast Facts:
Location: TXL
Now reading: Zero to One, Peter Thiel
Years in the industry: 5
Seatback or PED? Seatback if in LH A350
Favorite social network: Builders Network

What is Lufthansa Innovation Hub (LIH)?
We are Lufthansa Group’s main unit for the development of new digital businesses and in-depth trend and market intelligence. We foster partnerships with digital players, invest strategically in travel and mobility tech startups and focus on incubating our own stand-alone companies. Our team is systematically exploring how travel is changing, how customer needs are changing and how we as an organization can participate in that change.

Why is it so difficult to implement change in the aviation industry?
Our industry remains complex due to multifaceted operational proceedings and legacy IT systems. The barriers to entry are high – one reason why venture capitalists ignored this sector for a long time. How do you implement startup mantras like “Fail fast, fail often” when safety is of utmost importance to airlines? At the same time, many startups inevitably need support from established industry leaders, especially to scale their businesses – LIH is in a great position to help them.

Can you share a startup success story?
Our app, AirlineCheckins, which automatically checks in opted-in travelers, has performed very well. The use case seems niche at a glance; however, it is a strategic incubation. Once we know how and when a traveler is about to fly, we can offer tailored, adjacent services. The app works with more than 400 airlines, and just a couple of months ago, we added unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi subscription for almost 40 airlines worldwide.

Which innovative companies does LIH have its eye on right now?
Canadian airfare and flight-demand forecasting startup Hopper is one of them. We entered a research alliance with the company in January. We plan on utilizing artificial intelligence to learn about customer preferences on a much deeper level to provide personalized recommendations about flight connections, services and upgrades.

LIH recently opened an office in Singapore and, later this year, will open one in Shanghai. What do you hope to gain?
In general, Asian consumers have been more receptive toward digital megatrends like mobile usage and e-payment, making the region a great test bed for understanding how digital products and services will be distributed in the years to come. We chose Singapore, a world leader in urban mobility, to understand how we can connect the airborne part of a journey to ground transportation. Meanwhile, China remains the global innovation engine in travel and mobility tech, with almost 40 percent of all respective venture capital invested in the country in 2018.

Will you be hiring local talent for the new locations?
We have a couple of veterans from our Berlin office building up the Singapore location, but the goal is to hire local talent that have an existing network and natural understanding of the dynamics in the Asian tech landscape. The latter is probably the most important differentiator: While we are still debating if Uber should be legalized in Germany, the average Singaporean is managing half of their daily routine with an app like Grab. The adoption rate of technology in Asia is just breathtaking, and that fosters bold, local tech talent.

APEX in Profile: Gleb Tritus was originally published in the 9.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.