TLabs Showcase – TrustYou
TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring Germany-based TrustYou.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
TrustYou has harnessed the power of semantic search to analyze and categorize millions of reviews. This technology is applied to a consumer website (trustyou.com) and to two business products that help hoteliers and travel sites manage conversations in social media and provide statistical analysis to improve the content on their own websites.
TrustYou’s semantic search technology builds on more than 30 years of university research and is focused on user reviews for travel, restaurants, shopping, electronics, and health.
The TrustYou team includes 20 search veterans based in Munich, Germany.
- Benjamin Jost (co-founder and managing director), prior to TrustYou, managed M&A team at Conergy AG (leading renewable energy provider), Siemens Venture Capital and Xange Capital (VC firm in Paris).
- Jakob Riegger (co-founder and managing director), started his first company when he was 19. Two successful search exits – one to Autonomy Systems where he served in the management team heading up global service team
Describe the business, core products and services:
TrustYou has three business models that are based on our own semantic review algorithm:
- TrustYou Analytics is a reputation management tool designed to help hoteliers and other travel providers monitor and manage reputation across the web, including social media platforms and travel sites.
- TrustYou Analytics aggregates millions of reviews and postings for more than 320,000 hotels from travel sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Opodo, TravelPost, and social media destinations such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Blogs.
- TrustYou Analytics uses semantic algorithm to analyze reviews by sentiment (positive, neutral, negative) and category (room, service, food, amenities, etc). A comprehensive report is generated that details the partner’s reputation, highlights key findings, and reports on strengths & weaknesses.
TrustYou is the first travel site to use semantic search technology to organize more than 20 million reviews for over 320,000 hotels worldwide.
Semantic search allows travellers to type travel preferences into a search box such as “New York hotel, family-friendly, with breakfast,” and see a set of relevant search results that fit that criteria.
TrustYou Semantics is the API of TrustYou’s technology. Content portals like Germany’s Holidaycheck (competitor of TripAdvisor in Europe) send their millions of reviews to the API and receive structured and semantically analysed content in return.
Travel sites can use this structured content to organize their reviews by category and provide easy-to-read snapshots of each hotel which can also be applied to mobile applications. This structured content improves the search and filtering functionality of these sites as well.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
TrustYou is a venture capital backed company. The shareholders among the management team are Holtzbrink Ventures (biggest new media investor in Germany), Müller Verlag (Yellow Pages) and Autonomy Systems (one of the biggest enterprise search vendors worldwide), plus a couple of Business Angels (like Ross Weber, former GM at Kayak). The amount of funding is not disclosed.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Millions of people on hundreds of websites have published hotel reviews–both positive and negative. In making a booking decision, it is virtually impossible for a single person to find and read all relevant reviews found on the Internet.
It was our vision to make all information on a destination’s hotels available on one website in a matter of seconds with the robust tools to sort and filter these results according to personal relevance.
From a B2B perspective, hoteliers begged us to apply our technology towards a reputation management product that monitored social media and analysed conversation across dozens of websites. TrustYou Analytics helps hoteliers not only find these conversations but analyze the information in a way that helps them pinpoint problem areas and improve their business.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
At our B2B launch, our key customers were big hotel chains like Best Western, Intercontinental and others. They have the urgent need to monitor the quality of their properties, both from a brand point of you and by individual hotel. Many other large chains have followed but we’ve expanded our focus to include independent hotels and smaller hotel chains.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
No. We set out to launch a B2C website and raised money for our idea based on a presentation, not a live website. Our B2B models came much later in the pipeline and were requests from hoteliers who saw the potential our technology had to simplify the overwhelming task of managing reputation across social media channels.
Then, travel sites realized that they could also use our semantic technology to improve the organization and search for their sites, so we built TrustYou Semantics.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
TrustYou has been profitable for several months thanks to hotel companies and travel sites who have licensed our semantic technology and made us the market leaders in reputation management for the travel industry in Europe.
We plan to expand into new markets in 2010. We will launch our B2B models in the U.S. later this summer and trustyou.com in early fall. Plus, we see an average of 90% user growth each month for trustyou.com—all organic growth.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Unique semantic technology based on 30 years of research. Three successful business models with one underlying core technology and infrastructure. No one understands and analyzes reviews across languages better than TrustYou. Currently, our technology can analyze reviews in English, German, Spanish, French and Chinese.
- As a European based company, we need more US content (user reviews).
- Fast growing user generated content – all unstructured (text information)—with no sign of slowing down. The more content is created the higher the need to structure it. Vertical search combined with semantic technology is a powerful combination and offers high potential.
- B2C Google. They are doing more in travel. If they want to dominate one vertical (e.g. hotel search) they can.
Who advised you your idea isn’t going to be successful and why didn’t you listen to them?
We spoke to many investors prior to launching the business. We only pitched the B2C model back then. We often heard “great team but bad idea”.
Then we found a business angel and serial entrepreneur who said “your team is great. I do not understand the search business in detail but I believe in you because you have experience in this field.
You will come up with a solution that the customers and industry needs”. This was the validation we needed to push forward. We found lead investors one month later.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
On the B2C side, we hope to have more than one million unique users for trustyou.com. The website will be highly profitable because we have great conversion rates.
On the B2B side of the business, TrustYou Analytics becomes the leading reputation management tool in the US.
We hope US travel sites will adopt our semantic product to improve their search and organization of their own websites and for mobile applications.
And last but not least, we will launch new verticals– e.g. restaurants, bars, nightlife, shopping etc.
With facebook, yelp, twitter and foursquare (to mention a few) there are a lot of popular websites that aggregate millions of reviews and user opinions – at some point, they will need someone like us to make sense of their huge amounts of content.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.