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7 years ago
 

Six essentials for travel startups

Travel startups always have wonderfully optimistic ideas and aspirations – in fact, overwhelming positivity is practically omnipresent and often rather intoxicating.

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But as an industry we see startups come and go quicker than you can say “trip” (a very intentional pun, drawing on how a few years a string of sites with “trip” in the name fell by the wayside in quick succession – The Curse of Trip, it was called back then).

The reasons for such failures are varied, sometimes dramatic and often devastating for those involved (and customers).

The past few years have been particularly tough on many of the intrepid and determined travel startups, given the state of the global economy and the ability of some existing players to grow organically through new products and services.

So as folk from around the Asia-Pacific region congregate in Singapore for annual WIT Conference Summit, what do we want to see and hear evidence of from budding travel startups?

Here are some suggestions, some serious, some less so:

1. Establish a better way of describing why a business was created other than “…after returning home from a round-the-world trip, I was enormously frustrated…”. This approach invariably makes a business appear that it was created just for the founders and their mates.

2. Be prepared to explain exactly what research and customer discover methods were carried out during the initial phases of a startup. A lack of hard data to support even the foundations of a fabulous idea is worrying for travel tech journalists let alone potential investors.

3. Be honest about the product and its predicted impact on the marketplace, especially when claiming something unique (“world first”?!) that clearly has competitors on every continent. A great idea is even more impressive to the outside world if you acknowledge the challenges but address how you might tackle them.

4. Use social media intensively and extensively pre, during and post launch of a product. Twitter and Facebook fan pages are wonderful ways of getting buzz ahead of launch and allowing users to give constructive feedback. Also an easy and cheap opportunity to build of community of users and potential word-of-mouthers.

5. Meet potential users in a live setting – in other words: get out and about and interact with real people. Trade shows and travel and technology meetups are perfect places to spread the word about a product, meaning not only a chance to introduce yourself to potential partners but also – shock, horror – you might learn something from other people.

6. Be cost-conscious, but not cost-shy. One risky error to make is to assume that the internet is full of so many wonderful and free tools that an entire business can be run using them. Skype, Google Analytics are free, easy-to-use and invaluable, but not investing in decent and reliable technical tools such as hosting and network services can be fatal.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.

 

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  1. Mario Morazan

    Definitely, prices matters, compete with enormous companies is not easy. However, as a small business, we need to focus in unique experience and prove we make the different.

     
  2. Ira J Kaplan

    Make sure you have a good marketing plan,business plan and enough resoures to keep you going for at least 6 months. Once you have these taken care of get started on the technology side of the business.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @ira – just six months? I would’ve said at least 12…

       
  3. Jaymie White

    Kevin May, I just want to say that your post was very insightful. It was like drinking lemonade on a hot summer’s day….refreshing!

    As a startup in the online travel field, we sometimes get so focused on the product, we forget the importance of the back story and social media. For myself your first and fourth points gave me a good reference point for marketing and notes for my business plan. I really appreciate the post and I look forward to others hopefully covering the same topic of online start up tips

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @jaymie – Tnooz has been called lots of things, but lemonade tap is definitely a new one. Thx 🙂

       
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  5. Pete Meyers

    Regarding tech v. MBA v. SEOs: I’d suggest weighting your team according to your core business needs, but do everything you can to minimize overlapping skill-sets.

    One other tip similar to Alex’ jigsaw example, is to focus deep and expand slowly. There’s a good post / case study about this subject today in BusinessInsider (NYC’s daily tech digest) – http://www.businessinsider.com/dont-build-an-empire-overnight-lessons-from-freshdirect-and-webvan-2010-10

     
  6. Joe Buhler

    All excellent points. I support using social tools to communicate your proposition in the marketplace and totally second Alex’s recommendation to partner with other players offering complementary services or solutions. Having someone with knowledge of how the travel industry works on the team or board will help.

     
  7. Alex Bainbridge

    My top tip is….. be part of a jigsaw and work with others to complete the picture. Too many startups (and others) try to do everything – and then frankly are poor overall.

    For example we do bookings / accounts/ CRM / data API for small tour operators. Yet too many B2C startups in our sector (metasearch if you like) want to do the supplier bit as well – and then fail to execute on that effectively due to underestimating the complexity. They would have been better to build a B2C brand and deal with inspiration / product selection aspects – and leave the backoffice well alone.

     
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  9. Eleanor Holmes

    I would add – never forget this is about customer experience from beginning to end. Make your website, brochure, call centre, etc as much of the journey as the holiday.

     
  10. James Penman

    Agree with Mr Tourdust, specifically about SEO.

    And 1., isn’t that the WAYN-way or are you passing comment 🙂

    James

     
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  12. Ben Colclough

    Great post Kevin – contains many truths.

    I would add a couple to the list:
    – Be flexible – Most startups will end up with a business model entirely different to their original plans.
    – Be persistent – Expect to be in it for the long run before you even have a sniff of paying yourself a salary (typically at least 12 months off from whenever now is)
    – Put SEO at the top of your priorities before you even start building the site. Success in travel is almost entirely driven by your position in the search rankings.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @ben – all valid points… to bring us up to ten (incl your three) i would also add make sure you have a technology person on the co-founding team and board.

       
      • Alex Kremer

        I’d say the golden rule is to have as many technical people as you can. Tech startups need tech people, not MBAs. Understanding users is always key and involves business sense, but in its infancy, a startup is nothing without the technical people that make the product happen.

         
        • Ben Colclough

          I agree MBAs aren’t a high priority, but I wouldn’t overplay the importance of technology.
          I would say it is important that you find great developers who you can trust. It isn’t however critical to have them in the founding team. And I would argue SEO is way more important and more expensive to replicate than technology in a travel startup.

           
          • Alex Kremer

            Ben- Sure, if you classify things like SEO as non-tech. I’d put that in the tech department.

            Investors – admittedly moreso US-based ones – look for tech heavy teams. As you pointed out, being able to iterate in a startup is key #1. A startup with a team of tech-skilled founders will always be able to accomplish this faster and more thoroughly than any startup trying to outsource their tech.

            Having a killer idea helps too 😉

             
 
 

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