Hard To Picture Rearden Without Tony D

After seven years of slogging and blogging for Rearden Commerce, Tony D'Astolfo is hanging up his team jersey. Truly one of corporate travel's own, a huge personality in his own right, Tony brought with him a new legitimacy as well as quite a few GetThere alumni to Rearden when he joined it around the time I started The Beat. A few years later, one of my most talked-about columns took Rearden to task ("Rearden's Long Tale") for its apparent lack of progress. Since then, the company signed some big accounts and today it appears to be in a group with Concur and GetThere as the top U.S.-based self-booking solutions. First it was Siemens that "put Rearden on the map," as one observer said at the time. Recently, we hear, PricewaterhouseCoopers has signed. No doubt Tony and his team played big roles in those. But still, I wonder, what is Rearden Commerce?  [more]

When Tony joined, Rearden was already five years and a couple iterations old (previously known as Gazoo and Talaris). Him leaving Rearden will not do a lot to shake some people's impressions that Rearden (that is, CEO Patrick Grady) is a great fund-raiser but too focused on the next big thing. I'm still learning what they're up to with the latest branding/products, Deem and Home Run.

Rearden may never manage to go public. I haven't talked to him, but that could be part of the downer for Tony. I don't know to what extent the investments in Rearden--$373 million to date, according to CrunchBase--diluted any shares he may have had, but friends of Tony agree that lately he hasn't been as happy a camper as his outsized and usually hilarious conference persona would have us believe.

Some random thoughts:
• Raising capital is important, but the rest of the business has to keep up too--the basic model, new sales, supply and demand, partnerships and distribution, and of course marketing and PR to enchant pesky columnists like me.

• One of the key investors in Rearden, from the corporate travel perspective, is American Express. But two years after taking a stake in Rearden, Amex bought into Concur. Ouch. Sibling rivalry anyone?

• I agree with Patrick on a few things, and one is that it's tough to be only a corporate booking tool. You kinda need a shtick. Is online booking profitable without global distribution system incentives or another kind of supplemental revenue stream? How do you compete against Concur when it's willing to give you the booking transactions for nothing as long as you take their (market-leading) expense tool also? Open questions. Maybe nuTravel is finding out.

• You may not have to be 100 percent focused on corporate travel to succeed, but a whole lot of Rearden's approach these days seems consumerish. Maybe they have the right balance. I don't think we know yet.

Rearden has plenty going for it. It wasn't close to launching when I saw it in August, but the iPad app is really cool. Rearden is a key player in the mobile suites of Amex and CWT. As mentioned, it's a leading corporate booking tool that is still signing large accounts. And being a non-GDS tech developer in this business has its perks too. Plus, if they need cash, Patrick can pick up the phone.

Here's a bit from Tony's blog post and email today to contacts: "It's been a great ride, one that saw us grow from not even having a travel application or a distributor of any kind, and when we could fit all our customers into my 1978 Cadillac, to where we stand today ... over 7,000 customers, 50+ travel management company partners, processing over 14 million transactions annually, and being a recognized, well respected brand, and leader in the space."

Also according to the former Rearden senior vice president for travel services, "I'll be taking a short break primarily to get my bowling game back in order, but will also be looking for my next opportunity and challenge, so I'm sure I'll see you all out there very shortly."

An email to Rearden's communication representatives was not immediately returned. We're not clear on whether the company plans to fill the position.