3 years ago

Startup pitch: Tripnary brings airfare comparisons to bucket lists

Mobile-first travel startups are the new-normal, as startups follow the shifting attention spans of the majority. Tripnary is the latest to focus on the mobile user, offering a bucket list service tied to airfare search.

Basically, the user can store items of interest and then browse those identified bucket list items according to airfare, thus surfacing the best pricing for already-populated interests. This allows the user to compare airfares and perhaps discover an airfare sale that transforms a bucket list dream into a real-world experience.

Tripnary’s three person team has raised a combined $200,000 seed round from two NYC-based angel investors, and is currently seeking additional investments to grow the team.

Below is the team’s Vine showcasing the concept, followed by the question-and-answer with founder Abhishek Ghuwalewala.

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

As a traveller, I always enjoyed reading about interesting places in magazines, Flipboard, blogs, seeing photos of amazing vacations by my friends on Facebook. I had accumulated many travel ideas over several years – places I wanted to visit, restaurants where I wanted to eat, or unique hotels to stay at.

Like many other travellers, these ideas became scattered across spreadsheets, emails, notepads (!), Pinterest, and Evernote, while some remained undocumented (in my head).

Finally when I had to decide where to go at the best possible price, existing apps like Kayak and Orbitz weren’t cutting it. They were great to find a flight if I knew where I wanted to go, but as a leisure traveller, I was flexible with my destinations.

It was really cumbersome to plug 20 different destinations in the hopes of find something that fit my budget. So, I conceptualized Tripnary because I did not see anything at the intersection of bookmarking and travel search.

Tripnary is a free iPhone travel app that helps people create their travel bucket list and compare airfares to every place on the list in one tap. It’s a like a having a personal travel concierge recommend the best ideas, and then price compare them out for you, all in a matter of seconds. Think of it as Pinterest meets Kayak.

What is the size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?

We have three key people in the Tripnary team. I am the Founder & CEO with over decade of experience in technology products and investments. Varun Goel joined Tripnary as the Head of Product after publishing two apps in the Apple App Store. Benek Lisefski is our UI/UX designer and helped created the amazing iPhone app experience.

What is your estimation of market size?

There are 1.7 billion leisure travellers researching and planning trips online. Initially the app will be targeted towards price conscious leisure travellers.

What is your competition?

Tripnary’s key competition is from online travel agencies (Orbitz, Kayak, etc.), bookmarking apps (Pinterest, Evernote), and startups like Hitlist.

OTAs are very focused on the transaction and haven’t done much to evolve the experience beyond shopping for travel products.

Pinterest is an obvious alternative to creating bucket lists, but at the end of the day, any Pinterest board is a haphazard collection of pictures with nothing actionable.

Hitlist lets travellers save cities they would like to visit in the future and is similar in concept to Tripnary. Unlike Hitlist though, we believe leisure travellers are inherently flexible about the destination they want to travel to but are constrained by their travel dates and budget. Tripnary lets you specify your preferred departure and return dates and compare airfares to every place on your bucket list with one tap.

While some of these apps offer features that are competitive, Tripnary is different because it focuses on the discovery and bookmarking to help you create your travel bucket list of your favourite restaurants, bars, attractions, and even cities.

But that’s not it. Tripnary takes your bucket list a step further and makes it actionable – it helps you decide on a vacation destination that fits your budget. It’s a great way to plan your next vacation, even before you know you’re going there.

What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?

In the short term, our goal is purely to build traction. That being said, we will generate revenue from Skyscanner for certain flight displays/bookings.

In the long term, we have tremendous revenue opportunities to monetize leisure travellers. For example:

  1. Sponsored suggestions: We will display sponsored suggestions (for example, spa or restaurant deals from Groupon) on maps next to user’s saved place pins. We plan to make this relevant to the user based on their travel intent and preferences.
  2. Affiliate commissions: We can expand flights revenue model to hotels and car rentals.
  3. Analytics from traveller’s preferences: Because Tripnary is capturing the traveller’s intent at the top of the funnel (bucket list), we can get a clearer picture of the demand curve. This information will be valuable to the travel industry (airlines, hotels, etc.), currently using complex algorithms, for planning routes and maximizing revenues.

What problem does the business solve?

Travellers today are limited to using bookmarks, spreadsheets, notepads, Pinterest, Evernote, etc. to save travel ideas. While some of these are good apps for collecting information, ultimately, all they offer is a rudimentary list of links or pictures.

Tripnary takes your bucket list a step further by making your travel ideas actionable with personalized flight search.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

We are an agile team and are always evolving the product based on user feedback. In the beginning, we were working with the hypothesis that travellers were looking for an extensive trip planning product.

However, when we observed users interacting with the private Beta, we quickly realized that extensive planning tools (similar to Mygola and Tripomatic) limit the usage to roughly three times a year on average. Users only interact with the product while actively planning their next trip.

It turns out that infrequency of leisure travel is a broad, industry-specific issue faced by basically every startup in this space.

There are couple of ways to tackle this – a) scale up really fast; or b) find a way to engage the traveller even when they are not actively planning a trip. We consciously focused on making the app more meaningful to travellers beyond itinerary creation.

Based on this, we evolved the idea into an app that helps travellers create their bucket list, agnostic of any current or future planned trips. But a product that just offers organization would not be enough.

So, to make the bucket list smarter/actionable, we came up with the concept of flight search to compare airfares across every destination in your list. Flight prices are great engagement tool and keep users engaged outside of their immediate travel needs. People are curious to visit the app frequently to gauge the prices for the favorite places.

We continue to be lean and build, measure, iterate quickly on ideas. It’s still early days for the app with lots of new features to come, but we have always believed in building an app that does one thing well and slowly adding new items as we draw in more users.

Why should people or companies use the business?

Tripnary helps you discover and travel to new places on your budget that you otherwise might have overlooked or forgotten.

Travel research from Google suggests that 85% of leisure travellers consider price as the most important factor when selecting a travel destination, and 73% value destinations with activities specific to their interests. Tripnary is the app that bridges this gap.

With your travel bucket list in hand, you can easily compare airfares to discover a vacation destination that fits your budget. Now you can basically search for travel without a specific destination in mind. Tripnary also works great while you are on your vacation. You can pull up your entire bucket list on a map to decide how you want to spend your day.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

Tripnary’s focus will be on organic growth from free/cheap channels and viral tactics to reach our target audience. We have several interesting approaches to raising awareness. Besides building a travel community on social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.), Tripnary itself has virality built into the product.

When a friend asks you for your recommendation in a particular city, you can easily share your bucket list for that city through text message, WhatsApp, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Second, we are also working on partnering with travel bloggers to quickly share their travel recommendations with Tripnary’s built-in bucket list sharing feature. They are influencers with a lot of word of mouth power within their communities. We think they will help us get early adopters for the app.

Third, we will engage with travellers on Pinterest, forums, etc. where they are already curating travel ideas from many different sources.

Finally, we are engaged in ASO and SEO to drive more direct traffic to our app and our website.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge with any B2C product is gaining traction. However we are working hard to find our early adopters in niche communities. We believe leisure travellers are the most flexible about their destination but are more constrained by budget and travel dates.

Our goal is to build a comprehensive decision-making tool for leisure travellers.

We have started by offering flights to fit your budget with more travel products to come. In the near future, we would like Tripnary to be the go-to app to kick-off their next vacation. We think personalizing recommendations and search to the user’s taste and preferences will be the key to getting us there.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?

Travel is a slow moving industry. Unlike the past couple of decades of stagnant innovation by established players, modern startups are rethinking travel from every perspective. The industry is moving towards personalized travel experiences.

A recent Amadeus survey showed that a majority of travellers believe that there is still scope for improvement in travel search and shopping and greater personalization ranked second in travellers’ wish list for improvement. We think this data overwhelmingly points to a need for travel apps to deliver specific experiences to individual users.

With Tripnary, we are documenting every user’s future intent – for example, their desire to visit the Florence Cathedral or dine at Alinea in Chicago. We can use this data to recommend additional sights, activities, restaurants that will appeal to that specific user based on their profile.

Tripnary is also personalizing the user’s flight search by showing airfares for just the destinations on the user’s bucket list, free of clutter from places that they don’t care about. We think we are nicely positioned to capitalize on and take travel search to a new level.

What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

We are greatly influenced by Hotel Tonight and, at the risk of sounding clichéd, Apple.

Hotel Tonight has done an amazing job of creating a product and vision around a very focused idea. Just like any other company in the travel industry, they are also faced with the “travel infrequency” problem. However, Hotel Tonight has been very successful in building an engaging experience that draws users into the app even when they are not actively thinking about travel. We aspire to form such a relationship with our users.

Apple’s focus on design thinking also greatly inspires us. We hope to emulate Apple’s user-centric design philosophy to bring personalization to travel search. Tripnary’s UI/UX has been highly appreciated by our users and we aim to continue to delight them with our app.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup, and why?

We think Google and Pinterest are best positioned to leverage Tripnary’s travel search and decision making platform. Google already has rich data on user’s travel intent through Search and Maps and Tripnary would be a great product at the intersection of these.

Similarly, Pinterest users are already creating bucket lists and collections of interesting places they would like to travel. However, when it’s all said and done, Pinterest users are left with rudimentary list of places with pretty pictures and nothing more. Tripnary would be a great monetization opportunity for Pinterest.

Describe your startup in three words.

Discover. Decide. Go.

Tnooz view:

Startups such as Hitlist and Tripnary are delivering an interesting twist on flight discovery. Not only is it clever, it is incredibly useful and will quite likely lead to higher conversions.

One of the biggest pain points in travel is simply figuring out where to go in an actionable way. So it’s not about trip inspiration (everyone already has a long list of dream destinations), but rather tying that list to the true cost of making it happen.

This includes determining the flight cost, almost always the largest expense of any trip. By taking a traveler’s bucket list and showing them a price tag on completing it, Tripnary is well-positioned to be the first stop on a user’s travel planning path. And if the app continues to be easy-to-use, it will be quite sticky throughout the travel life of a consumer.

The flight business is a commodity one, and commissions are thus quite low. So this portion of the business model is challenged – unless, of course, the aforementioned stickiness indeed occurs, then the reliably conversions from its users will put the startup in a more favorable negotiation positiong with its flight partners.

Of course, hotels and car rentals are a good way to expand this affiliate revenue stream. Once the app knows a flight is booked, then it has a valuable lead to sell to its partners. The idea of using its data on the travel planning-to-purchase funnel is also especially compelling, as would be selling data on top bucket list items to CVBs. Data is a big business, and this could be a much more sustainable longer term play than relying on finicky commission structures with third-party OTAs.

Finally, it’s a clever move to stray away from tools for prolific planners like Wanderant or other travel planning startups, insofar as it reduces the overall cost to develop while also leading to recurring engagement during “dead times,” as travelers might periodically browse through the app just to stay abreast of the latest fare changes. This engagement on its own could then also provide in-app advertising opportunities and exclusive travel deals for its users.

And with the lovely interface and overall design, the ability to share lists with friends and the inclusion of a browsable map to find items to add (including click-to-call and websites), Tripnary is without a doubt one travel startup to watch.

The promo video from the startup showcases a bit of the app’s clean design and functionality:

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for Tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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