TripSwarm startup lasts all of a few weeks

Strange happenings at fledgling startup TripSwarm with news that at least one of the co-founders has quit, citing creative differences and saturation of the market.

The US-based company featured as a TLabs Showcase just ten days ago with a heady mix of flight and hotel search, itinerary planning, “social information” and more.

At the time the company said:

“We are looking to make the travel experience a more social and interactive one.  With features like a Travel Playlist, travellers will be able to show off their travels in a slideshow format including personalized journal, photos, and video.”

Revenue was going to be made from advertising, referrals through the Kayak metasearch white label and the TripAdvisor affiliate scheme.

But clearly something was wrong within the camp of five employees. An email from one of the executives (who will remain nameless) on Friday points to a clear division within the co-founding team:

“The entire idea was an unoriginal copy and a waste of time from the start. I was dragged into this idea under the assumption that it hadn’t been done before.”

The email continues that own private research illustrated that the marketplace “was already saturated well past the point of no return”.

This realisation, using an unusual but interesting term, was doomed to the point of it being “a pyramid scheme of waterfalling APIs”.

“There was nothing we could do that wasn’t already being done better by somebody else.”

The company’s holding page (for beta sign-ups) has already been removed from the web, along with its blog charting early stages of the business.

Emails to other members of the co-founding team have yet to yield any response.

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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. Tnooz in 2010 - Most popular, most commented, best comments | Tnooz

    […] When describing the failure of trip planning startup TripSwarm, one of the co-founders wrote: ” I discovered the market was already saturated, well past the point of no return, almost to […]

  2. Alex Kremer

    @steve: Trump and Sugar would also tell you that barring a few unfortunate business naming ideas that end up on Failblog, the name of a company has extremely little to do with it’s level or chance of success.

    The idea matters.

    • steve sherlock

      @alex – yeah i agree the model and execution is more important.

      tho distinctive, simple and memorable wrapping i think is still very important. Its like a bookmark in peoples’ brains. so in b2c large scale, i dont agree name has “extremely little” to do with success.

      i like to quote these examples:

      it was google not
      yahoo not
      expedia not
      ebay not
      amazon not not
      wotif not

      there are plenty of exceptions, but generally the dominant b2c brands have names that are not generic/descriptive of what they do.

      then again there is the seo camp, who would tend to favour generic descriptive names to help with indexing.

      to some extent, it depends where someone wants to position their brand, i.e. in search engines or in word of mouth.

      do you think there would be buzzing about if it was call

      • Alex Kremer

        I think you’re slightly conflicting two things here: The name of the company and the brand. The latter is of course incredibly important. But to your last question, yes, I think that if Hipmunk had been called Twipswarm, the buzz would be just the same. Ditto if Expedia had been called from the start.

  3. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @pissedcofounder – sounds like you all fell out. A co-founder (“technical” or otherwise) is an executive otherwise they wouldn’t be a co-founder, right?

    As mentioned in the article above, I tried to contact the other member of the team that submitted the original TLabs piece, in order to get what was clearly another side to the story, but did not hear back.

    But in short: clearly there were some high level disagreements over the direction of the company, something that lines of responsibility might’ve ironed out before it got to the unfortunate stage that it did.

    It is unfortunate that the business couldn’t be continued because one developer, “executive” or otherwise, left.

  4. Pissed off Tripswarm CoFounder

    So I can only assume that the “executive” cited in this article is our Lead Developer. While it is unfortunate that his opinion is the one that was broadcast, I must say the remaining founders do not share in his views.

    TripSwarm failed because of a distinct lack of professionalism. After repeated delays, our technical CoFounder and a developer we employed left to form an iPhone applications company (whose sole project is a quiz engine that is 5 months behind schedule) on what was to be our launch day. Of note, this “executive” made clear his intentions at an all hands meeting to discuss differentiation strategies.

    The entire process reeked of the particular brand of brashness only displayed by youth. Inasmuch, I and the other CoFounders were not allowed the opportunity to respond as this particular “executive” was desperate to get to a Halloween party and could not stay to chat. In following meetings we were, in succession: asked to front the capital for this new startup, offered a 5% stake as advisors and then told our services were no longer needed. Apparently, this founder had begun to use our office space (of which he owned no part of) as a base of operations for his new venture.

    While I am sorry to see this displayed so publicly, it is worth noting that a week before this article was published, this same founder refused to allow a post-mortem to be written and disabled the website using his administrative privileges. My initial plan was to post the finished portions of the website as repositories on github for future use by other entrepreneurs. He refused to allow this and stated that he wanted no part in TripSwarm or it’s legacy. Funny that he would bother to craft an email for publication.

    I am sorry that I could not offer any quotables for your users, though I do agree with Jon and Steve in their assertation that he is not someone who is an asset in a startup environment. Conversations with him frequently ended in rants about his former employers lack of respect for him or, alternatively, how soon we would get rich.

    Perhaps cancer is the best word to describe him; I suggest he rapidly and frequently subject himself to nearly fatal quantities of radioactive elements.

    • Pissed off Tripswarm CoFounder

      It should be noted that the remaining founders do not share his opinion of the idea and all other assertions are my own.

    • steve sherlock


      if this was the Apprentice show and you were called into the board room and gave the above explanation, what two words do you think Mr Trump or Sir Alan would say?

      (fill in the blanks)

      _ _ _ ‘_ _ _ _ _ _ _

      mate, number one thing in being an entrepreneur (in my view) is being accountable. no matter what the end result is, you contributed to the process and therefore have to own the result.

      Just like your developer he was not “dragged in”, likewise i dont think you were a victim, but you sound like one. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but someone has to tell you.

      so my advice to you, is to reflect on what choices, decisions, compromises that you made, ask why you made them, and work out how you could do better next time. at least then hopefully you will have learnt something to help you out next time, rather than blaming others and making same mistakes over.

      btw: there are already oodles of sites with the word trip in the name. tripit owns that space now, I think you should have taken a different name for starters.

  5. jon

    What a bizarre story – if there were 5 founding employees, I don’t see how one leaving could dynamite the entire company. Especially if you have proper vesting and everything, the other four people who believe in the idea should be able to move forward without skipping a beat.

    And why would you join a startup like this without having done any research about the market beforehand? He was “dragged” into it? If I was one of the other founders I’d be happy that this person left as early as they did – it is clearly not someone you want to be working with in a startup environment.

    • steve sherlock

      i agree with @Jon. People don’t get “dragged in”, not unless at gun point. Otherwise its a choice. In this case seems like a naive choice.

  6. Karl

    Thats on my crimbo list, i’d like a ‘Pyramid scheme of waterfalling api’s and a pair of socks please santa’ But sad that they think/feel that they could not do anything better than was already in the market place.

  7. Stuart

    Sorry to hear about the implosion, but the anonymous emailer certainly has a bright future as a copywriter …

    “a pyramid scheme of waterfalling APIs”


    • Graham

      “a pyramid scheme of waterfalling APIs”
      I was going to say, that is the best line I’ve ever heard!


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