Mozio tries to soften the hardest part of the journey — airport to hotel
Right on time, like a shuttle bus arriving at the hotel with punctuality, US-based startup Mozio sets out to be an airport transportation search engine, enabling travelers to efficiently navigate their transit choices from the airport to the hotel using varying modes of transportation and doing so like a local.
Founded by two former fraternity brothers, CEO David Litwak and CTO Joseph Metzinger will have ample opportunity to apply their tech backgrounds to the site, which currently is in private beta.
Mozio arrives as two hot trends intersect: the dispatching and securing of ground transportation is getting increasingly automated and mobile, and many travelers are tired of being “tourists” and desire to see a destination as a local might experience it.
With all of this aviation industry experience, the two technologists are focusing on the fragmented ground-transportation industry, and Mozio states:
We believe that the hardest part of travelling is the ‘final mile,’ getting from the airport to the hotel, from the train station to the hostel, and we are helping to aggregate the ‘long-tail of transportation so you can efficiently find out about all the best local options and ‘travel like a local.’
Boot-strapped and raising a seed round, the company says its ultimate goal is to create “a point-to-point, multimodal travel search engine that integrates buses, trains, planes and ferries with local shuttles, public transit and limos to help get travellers from doorstep to destination,” and the first product is an airport ground transportation search engine.
Q&A with Mozio CEO David Litwak:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
All the other point to point search engines out there have failed because the results they return are mediocre. Most people have been loathe to trust a point to point solution because they can’t be counted on to truly provide the best deal at every leg of the journey, and they end up going and checking all the individual sites and doing the individual searches themselves.
That is because these engines are too unfocused; by tackling the entire world’s transportation network at once, they have diluted their efforts, and have been ineffective. If you look at the results that many of these engines return for your hometown, you will notice your favourite provider probably isn’t included, they don’t help other travellers get around like the locals know best. Our mission is to help you “travel like a local.”
We think the hardest part is the “long-tail” of travel, the small shuttles, airport service buses, limousines etc. that often offer the best deal and are only currently accessible through an extensive Google search or perusing TripAdvisor forums. Once we have solved this problem in enough cities we can start connecting them to form a truly useful multimodal, point-to-point travel search engine.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
There is really no option out there right now to figure out how to get to and from your departure and arrival hubs. Travellers rely on the specific airport’s site to give recommendations for shared-ride shuttles and limo companies, and every airport has their own website! At this level, transportation is so fragmented that really the only option available is to peruse the first few pages of a Google search for “LAX airport transportation,” and try to figure out what the best local offering is.
Mozio presents a clear picture of the airport transportation situation in every city we serve.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We have already launched an extensive SEO campaign with informational pages for all the major airports in the US. We have found that there are few alternatives for people looking for “JFK airport transportation”, so our custom pages turn up pretty quickly. We also have partnerships in the works that will allow us to get on the confirmation pages of several transportation and hotel providers. For instance, once they book a flight to JFK, or a hotel in Vegas, they will see a Mozio widget that helps them figure out what shared-ride shuttles, airport service buses, trains, or limos serve their final destination.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
We have considered licensing our technology to airlines and OTAs who could incorporate it into their current offering. We could function as a sort of “bookend” to the flight search process, or any other major form of transportation.
We are already developing a framework to help every single provider from that “long-tail” make reservations using our site, a sort of “OpenTable” for transportation, and expanding this framework could be a future focus of the company as well.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Originally we could have been more focused. We were inspired by our travels in Europe and on the East Coast of the US, where we frequently had to check 5 or 6 different sites, and then figure out all the logistical glue, the before and after, of every possible departure and arrival point. We started by tackling this problem straight on, but came to realize it was too huge to get a useful product out anytime soon. So we focused on city-wide transportation, and once we realized most of our traffic was coming from users searching for “airport ground transportation,” we realized that is where we could be truly unique and narrow our focus.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
We have been led to believe that the hardest part about travel is what to see and where to stay. Most of the startups popping up recently are focused on either travel discovery/inspiration or accommodation. There is still innovation to be done in those areas, but mostly on the margins. We think that “how to get there” is still the toughest part and has been woefully neglected in favour of easier and sexier alternatives.
We also see a trend aggregating the “long-tail” of travel. It is happening in activities (Peek and Flextrip) and in accommodation (Airbnb), where there is an acknowledgement that the best experiences are often the small, local ones. No one has done this yet for transportation.
The current multimodal, point-to-point travel search engines neglect that “long-tail,” settling for mediocre options at each stage, resulting in a mediocre recommendation.
Mozio is seizing on a tremendous opportunity and a huge and long-neglected problem — how to take the enormously fragmented ground transportation industry and bring its distribution into the 21st Century to benefit the businesses themselves and the arriving or departing airline passenger, in particular.
It is great that Litwak and Metzinger have technology backgrounds — this is not a challenge suited for a former chief marketing officer — because they have herculean tasks in front of them.
As they are well aware — and as anyone in the long-tail tour and activities sector will tell them — they will confront the problem of a lack of industry standards, and dealing at times with mom-and-pop car or shuttle services where the idea of online booking may be as high a priority as booking your next ticket on a Russian space shuttle.
There is a burgeoning market for airport-to-hotel riders who want to score a deal and navigate their surroundings like a local citizen would.
Is it the unmanaged business traveler in a small company who wants to save a few Euros or young leisure travelers who prefer Triptrotting (as a verb) to organized city tours?
Mozio will have to figure it all out and its current focus, as articulated, is too amorphous, given the company’s statement that: “The number of inbound, international tourists to the top 10 U.S. cities is around 30.5 million visitors a year. That is our initial target market.”
We wait to see Mozio in action because this is an opportunity that will be all — or mostly — about the technology.
Whether the company ultimately primarily pursues a business to business or business to consumer tack, if Mozio can draw more attention to this problem and make a modest dent in solving it, the opportunities will be abundant.
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Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.