TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based Trippy, a mobile and web platform which uses the social graph to plan a trip.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
I am J R Johnson, founder and CEO of Trippy.com as well as three other consumer web startups. My first two travel sites, VirtualTourist and OneTime, were both bootstrapped and ultimately acquired by Expedia in 2008.
I launched Trippy to change the way people travel. Trippy is the first website that allows your friends to plan your trip, helping you travel better.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
So far, Trippy is self-funded. This is my fourth bootstrapped company, for which we have yet to take any professional investment.
What problem are you trying to solve?
There are hundreds of travel sites made for YOU to plan your trip. This doesnâ€™t really make much sense, considering you’re probably not an expert on places you’re visiting, especially if you’ve never been before.
Trippy is the first web and mobile app that allows your friends to plan your trip, helping you travel better.
Trippy is solving the long-standing problem of untrustworthy and irrelevant travel content. It is a “friend-sourced” solution that avoids the pitfalls of crowd-sourced travel advice â€“ which usually comes from strangers (particularly as paid reviews and questionable content sources have become so ubiquitous).
Travellers want tips from people they trust and who know their interests and needs the best — their friends and family.
Your friends already know your personal details — like if youâ€™re vegan, traveling with kids, or love craft beer — so any recommendation they give is relevant and more valuable.
The travel space today requires a lot of work, and itâ€™s just not fun. This is travel weâ€™re talking about â€“ it should be fun! Creating a truly social experience makes the whole process more efficient (by tapping our social graph) and more fun.
To us, that means creating a product that is social-engineered from its core.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Trippy ties into social sites like Facebook to find your friends who know about where you’re traveling to (those who have checked in, live, work, or go to school there) and who already know your personal details (because theyâ€™re your friends!).
The idea is that tapping into the travel experiences of your friends is a whole lot more valuable than getting questionable info from random strangers.
Easy one-click recommendations and Facebook-style comments let friends say what hotels, restaurants and things to do would be perfect for you.
We have an easy auto-complete tool that quickly pulls up whatever your friends are looking to recommend from a whole database of locations. You can also add places you’re already considering so friends can chime in with feedback.
In Trippy’s social setting, friends spur each other on to remember more helpful advice, extra details and insider tips.
Trippyâ€™s mobile app lets friends travel with you by seeing your pictures in real time as you follow their recommendations on your itinerary and share back photos and comments. Weâ€™ve also made it easy to copy trips you’d like to take or use as a jump-start to plan your own.
You might have a specific trip in mind, or maybe you’re just dreaming of a “someday” destination. You can use Trippy to keep track of all the trips you’re thinking about.
Along the way, we hope we can spread a little something we like to call “helper joy.” It’s that happy kick you get when a friend has a great experience thanks to advice you shared. It’s just human nature. We want our friends have as great of a time as we’ve had.
You get helpful suggestions to make your trip great, and your friends get to relive their favorite travel moments and share their passion for places they know and love.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
People who travel, whether for work or pleasure. Anyone can share recommendations for a friendâ€™s trip, whether theyâ€™re a Facebook friend or part of your other social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, Foodspotting, etc.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
This has happened pretty simultaneously, so far. We did user testing from the time the concept was created, while also getting feedback from professional investors and some really all-star advisors (to be announced soon).
We also tapped into over ten years of deep experience weâ€™ve acquired while building online travel communities and social media tools.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
The business model is based on proven revenue streams in the travel space, through affiliate programs and advertising.
SWOT analysis â€“ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- We’re fast and sometimes we break things
- Huge market and time is right
- If people quit traveling or stop talking travel with friends.
Who advised you your idea isn’t going to be successful and why didn’t you listen to them?
It’s interesting. People who are really attached to the crowd-sourced model have a tendency to focus on re-building various takes on traditional travel communities.
Having created and grown both traditional travel communities and more social platforms, we’re able to see that people overwhelmingly prefer advice from friends over strangers. This has really driven our focus on a friend-sourced solution.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Trippy is social-engineered and works best with friends. Our tracking is focused on optimizing the social interaction of each traveler and the subsequent helpers they bring in to participate (who then become travelers themselves, starting new trips).
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