Eighteen entrepreneurs pitched in front of an audience consisting of angel and VC investors. This is a quick roundup of who pitched and what their services are about.
Seen Mobile Media – Providing a mobile as a service platform taking expertly written destination content (e.g. Rough Guides). Consumers pay for the content as part of their mobile application purchase. If the consumer revisits that city they have to buy a new guide (to get the latest version of the content). Business model based on 3 way revenue share between the guide publishers (e.g. Rough Guides), the white label partner and Seen Mobile Media. Content provision is after the decision about where to go (i.e. not an inspiration based startup). ANALYSIS: Reasonable chance of success but do consumers really want to pay for mobile based destination content written by guide publishers? Not if another service can find a way of making money but still offering free content (e.g. perhaps as a loss leader to other transactional services)
Toozla – A mobile service where you can share your opinions of a location there and then. As you walk around a city you can hear what other people have said about that spot. ANALYSIS: Nice idea but travellers may find rather large data bills when they return home. Toozla understand this but I wasn’t clear from the presentation how they were going to solve it.
YourTour – A B2B service that websites can use to provide trip planning advice for their region. ANALYSIS: One of my favourites as launching with a B2B service is a great way of learning about whether the concept works whilst bringing in revenue at the same time.
Evature – Use clever natural language processing to assist human business travel agents to become more efficient. e.g. it can read incoming emails / texts from clients and begin automated searching against a GDS. If the system, Eva, can’t understand the incoming message it can be routed to a human. Currently at prototype stage and will be running client trials within the next 6 months. Not the same as TripIt because TripIt read booking emails with standard layouts – Eva can read freeform emails from clients. ANALYSIS: I like it but will business travel agents buy it in sufficiently large numbers to pay for what must be expensive research and development? Seems to be solving a problem that is diminishing over time.
TouristWay – Booking engine for SME travel companies selling their own products. ANALYSIS: Good marketplace potential but a number of companies offering similar tools in what is a highly complex problem to solve.
GetYourGuide – Find and book experiences / activities. ANALYSIS: An area with many competitors offering similar sites. However none of the competitors have really taken a grip of the sector quite yet hence there is still plenty of opportunity for a new entrant to create a winning proposition. This team could do it.
The Zouk – A hotel finding service. Customer puts in a request and room providers pitch back to the customer their price / availability. The confidential reverse bidding process could permit the hotel to offer a vastly reduced price that they make available elsewhere because no one else knows what price they have offered. In the last 6 months of trading customers have sent 500 requests and received 2500 offers. The offer is not opaque (unlike Hotwire). Revenue made from charging the hotel 8 EUR for an accepted offer. ANALYSIS: If this service takes off it could become a little overwhelming for the hotelier as each request has to be dealt with manually. I have seen similar services for tours (not hotels) and tour operators start with writing custom replies addressing the questions put by the customers but after a few months tend towards replying back with a generic paragraph or two and a link to a couple of web pages.
Dajiudian – Hotel bed bank / booking system operating in China. Available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. ANALYSIS: They seem to be creating some momentum in the Chinese marketplace however booking volumes remain very light.
Jet2Ski – An online ski publication based on revenues from affiliates and partners. Looking to address their seasonality issues by featuring summer activities (not just winter ski). ANALYSIS: Seem to be doing well in their chosen market but running a portal requires constant attention to content freshness and accuracy and personally I prefer businesses where that isn’t required.
TripSketch – Trip planning system. Building a database of attractions, opening times etc – this data is then presented and can be manipulated by consumers to create day by day itineraries for destination cities. Their content (and functionality) is available for use on your own site via a variety of API methods. ANALYSIS: Their data looks great but their functionality hasn’t got that finely tuned feel quite yet. Good business here though being a data provider.
Tripatini – Traveller social network / blog. ANALYSIS: Travel communities areÂ omnipresent and I am not sure where the uniqueness is for this service nor where the revenue will come to support some quite aspirational investment levels.
AboutAnywhere – Hotel booking system. Charge hotels 10% (vs an average of 25% that larger OTA’s charge). Of the 10% charged, 5-7% is returned to the customer in the form of something the customer will appreciate (e.g. a bunch of flowers) rather than a rebate (such as Bing cashback). ANALYSIS: Consumers probably don’t really care whether a hotel is being charged 25% or 10%. What they care about is good clean search and book functionality and either being able to book their favourite hotel that they always stay at – or to have a selection that offers them a choice within the criteria that they have set. If About Anywhere can provide this functionality on the lean margins they have announced then this could be disruptive indeed. Probably easier to setup as a lean operation than be an OTA and have to cut back to meet the same margins. One to watch.
HouseTrip – Holiday rentals OTA. Guests have to call an average of 8 rentals before finding one that is suitable and available. This service solves that problem as well as providing safety for consumer’s money (rather than consumers having to wire / Paypal money to a supplier they don’t know). There is also an auction model for peak periods (e.g. during large events). ANALYSIS: Seems to tick all the right boxes! [HouseTrip were chosen as the winner]
Nimbus Airlines – Flying from Scotland to Europe. Will charge a “fair price for a fair product” – not copying Ryanair pile them high and sell cheap. Will be following the Scottish ethos of “The price you see is the price you pay” – e.g. no ancillary fees or expensive credit card fees. ANALYSIS: The pitch seemed somewhat optimistic that an existing airline (e.g Ryanair / EasyJet) wouldn’t compete on the same route if a new route was found that was profitable.
Uncle Sam’s New York tours – Guided tours in New York. Looking to expand to cover more cities perhaps using the franchise model. ANALYSIS: Looks good and a fairly understandable business to be in (not like technology startups!)
Arrange Your Exchange – Enables holiday home owners to swap their home for another elsewhere. Solves the issue of “same location fatigue”. No money involved (uses site credits) – as the holiday home owners believe they have already invested in their holiday (by buying a holiday home) so won’t want to pay further. ANALYSIS: The money is probably in renting out the homes rather than building a swapping community. However creating a swapping community is a rather nice way of building a network of holiday home owners who trust you which is a great first step to going fully transactional.
Aviatour – Plan to link up key islands in the Philippines using seaplanes. Will cut journey time from the main international airport to tourist islands down from 17 hours to 90 minutes hence provide a boost to tourism in the area. ANALYSIS: I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be that interested in seeing this pitch but actually it was very nicely done and now I feel much more informed. Not natural Tnooz territory this one!
Hip Chalets – Boutique chalets in Chamonix, France. Aiming to become the next big alpine lifestyle brand. Looking for funding to renovate a hotel in the area. ANALYSIS: Marketing / product distribution will be the big challenge.
And the winner is….. HouseTrip!