CityHook is a Dublin startup aiming to help travelers in Europe (and eventually worldwide) determine the best connection between an airport and a city center.
This morning the company officially announced its free apps, covering 130 European airports and their nearest city centers.
Users can sort results by criteria such as preferred journey times (from "gate to door"), journey cost, and drop-off locations.
The apps and website aim to list all transport options, such as city buses and paid limousines, at major travel destinations worldwide.
Last week, the Apple app debuted, while the Android app and the website debuted earlier this summer.
Behind the project is Kevin O'Shaughnessy (Dublin) and Tommaso Solesin (Milan), who met while working on their master's degrees at UCD.
Q&A with co-founder Kevin O'Shaughnessy:
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?
From the passenger perspective, finding the best connection is about understanding three simple things for all of the available options - the journey time, the cost and then the drop-off location.
Right now, it’s usually hard to find a complete, independent source of information for all modes of transport.
CityHook shows independent information about all travel options in a user interface and design that tries to make it easy to intuit which option to pick by looking for visual cues, rather than reading text.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
We strive to be complete and independent. Sometimes the best transfer options are not covered by the commercial ground transfer websites.
For example, Milan Linate is a quick city bus journey from Milan, costing less than €2, but it’s not easy to find information about this, and is relatively hard to find on arrival.
Taxis are also one of the most popular forms of transport for many european airports and the basic information about them is often unclear.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
One of the most important channels for any startup in the early days is PR and some viral spread. We have identified search engine traffic as a key driver for the business and we’re actively working on this right now.
We’re also evaluating strategic partnership options and our current technology and database setup means that we have quite a lot of flexibility in this regard.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
We have a number of options open: the technology and database are quite flexible and we’ve a number of ways of marketing the data including licensing.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
What both co-founders have brought to CityHook is focus. Simply speaking, it means that some great features and other priorities have had to wait to prioritize what we’ve built so far.
Today, we’re focusing on building our team, improving our database and growing our audience.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
We believe we can build CityHook as a great new channel for ground transfers. We had a chance to confirm some of this at ITB Berlin in March this year.
Both independent travellers and transit operators alike are interested in the product.
To this end, we create free listings for verified transit operators providing they keep their data up to date. We also link directly to their booking systems on same-terms as their other affiliates.
We have yet to find someone doing quite the same thing. The information is out there, but its either hard to find or sometimes hard to interpret. Over on Google, competition for search traffic from ground transfers queries is fierce.
Both of the founders work part-time to bootstrap CityHook. They've built software and design in-house, and even researched travel time data on their own.
The company has applied for the Seedcorn Competition, Europe's largest business competition for early-stage/high growth companies with a prize fund of €280,000.
The focus on airport transfers only heading to the nearest "city center/downtown" location is a limitation right now, at least for leisure travelers in may situations
As a reviewer of the app for the Daily Mail pointed out, "From Malaga Airport you're shown transfers just to Malaga, and not to resorts along the Costa del Sol, where many people flying in to Malaga head on to."
The founders plan to keep their website free for personal users and free for transport operators to publish and update their listings, separating this part of the product from the commercial, mobile app side.
Today when users click through to their booking systems, CityHOok charge a small fee using basic affiliate schemes.
As traffic grows, the company plans a number of value-added services in the pipeline. As such, it sees commercialization in two distinct steps: revenue and audience growth, followed by new product introductions.
The apps themselves are free.
Looking at products like GateGuru and SeatGuru that have grown heavily with user-generated content, it seems likely that much depends on user-generated contributions for this product to grow.
Right now, the user-generated component isn't adequately emphasized.
Ideally, the product could partner with an OTA or a GDS to have a link to download the app generated free and sent along with itinerary information.
Partnering with taxi apps like MyTaxiand Uber may help, too.
The inadequate marketing plan raises another red flag.
The app doesn't seem to have been sufficiently designed in a way to win Apple App of the Week and other showcase venues.
Apps like SpotWorld have put more effort into putting in design touches that Apple curators favor to get spotlit in the App store.
Trying to get consumer attention among the tens of thousands of travel apps is obviously difficult.
But mobile is clearly a huge opportunity for airport transfers, and anecdotal evidence shows that consumers could widely adopt a product like this.
The product does seem to have promise. All depends on the execution.
CityHook promotional video:
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.