TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-basedÂ Flip.to, a marketing platform for airlines, hotels and restaurants to utilise a customer’s presence in social media for marketing.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Flip.to is a marketing platform for hotels and restaurants that turns their guests into engaged brand advocates to boost brand awareness and earn new customers.
Launched in 2010, Flip.to is generating substantial ROE (return on engagement) and ROI (return on investment) for clients around the world.
Weâ€™re a small team based in NYC, founded by Brian Kent and Gil Shabat. We plotted a course from co-workers to co-founders over six years ago, launching the product design and development firm, Novologies.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
None! Flip.to is a boot-strapped by the Novologies team. So along with that independence, comes the extra diligence required to be laser-focused on building a product that our clients can whole-heartedly recommend based on their results (of the ROI variety).
Proven successes are critical for any small company to gain new business.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We help boutique hotels & destination restaurants (those two in particular) earn more guests with their limited marketing budgets, which were hurting pretty badly, especially after the downturn.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Most folks trust their friends and family more than advertisements. Collectively, hotel and restaurant guests are a huge, untapped and importantly, trusted marketing force.
Flip.to helps rev that force up, engaging guests & their social networks, boosting brand awareness and building up a pool of potential future guests.
Flip.to integrates into a hotelâ€™s booking engine and website, so that the engagement is a seamless part of the reservation process. When a guest posts to one of their social networks, a unique link points their connections back to a personalized landing page just for them.
Along the way, the guests and their friends earn incentives based on the actions they take, like a complimentary room upgrade or a cocktail at the bar. And thatâ€™s just the start of the process.
For restaurants, Flip.to helps convert guests into advocates before they arrive or right at their table through their mobile phone. A restaurant learns who their guests are, turns them into their advocates, and starts a relationship that Flip.to helps nurture.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our focus is on boutique hotels and destination restaurants. Exciting trips, great hotel stays and unforgettable meals are what people like to share and hear about. Flip.to helps our clients tap into that.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We are self-funded but product validation and market fit are really important, and perhaps even more so since itâ€™s both our time and our money at risk. Before the product was even completed, we landed our first client: The James Chicago.
Its initial impression and feedback was a huge validation of where we were headed. Since then, the Denihan Hospitality Group has brought all of their hotels on board, further confirmation that Flip.to was on the right track.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
We charge our customers a monthly subscription fee. We have a few neat, new features in the pipeline that might add some new revenue streams as well.
SWOT analysis â€“ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Being a small, boot-strapped team is both a strength and weakness. Weâ€™re extraordinarily nimble but lack some flexibility in how many new features and products we can roll out at once.
It also means that we lean more heavily on leads based on our successes with existing customers, which is good but it also would be nice to have a larger marketing and sales budget to play with.
The opportunities in the travel vertical are huge- itâ€™s a vertical ripe for innovation. Hotels and restaurants know they should be getting more social but havenâ€™t figured out a meaningful way to do it and show real, impactful results.
Threats always include entrenched players building new products that compete in some way with yours. Most start-ups can outrun them in the short term and weâ€™re pretty confident our platform that works across any booking engine, any website, and any mobile device already gives us a big advantage.
Plus we have our foot down on the pedal.
Who advised you your idea isn’t going to be successful and why didn’t you listen to them?
We were and continue to be our own toughest critics- we tried to shoot down the product vision from every angle we could. When we first launched, the initial results werenâ€™t anything to write home about but there were glimmers of promise.
We iterated on existing features and built new ones, listening to our customers at every point along the way. Customers might spark new ideas but itâ€™s up to us to execute.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
The number of guests Flip.to is engaging, the number of friends and family theyâ€™re reaching and the amount of new business theyâ€™ve stirred up for our clients.