The British startup Journeazy has created GetMeToMyFlight, which touts itself as the Web's first destination-specific route planner and booking engine.
It's still in private beta. But the product works like this: Type in your destination for a journey from a UK address, and the site will summon a comparison of the routes and modes of transport, such as plane, bus or train, to get to your flight, plus links to book.
The site takes advantage of government data on train timetabling, existing data on car routing and coaches; and a network of affiliate relationships with ticketers.
The company also plans to provide a B2B platform for use by existing OTAs. It says it is in its first round fund raising and is aiming for a public beta launch shortly.
Q&A with CEO Sam Evans:
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?
There are a minority of journeys, typically those whose destination is either in a city centre, or an airport, where detailed route planning, comparison of transport modes, and online booking are useful.
Our site addresses these types of complicated journeys.
As far as we are aware, we are the first to offer such a service in the UK.
We have identified three areas where the principle can be applied, and plan to develop a single engine, powering each of the three brands: getmetomyflight.com, getmetomymatch.com and getmetomygig.com.
We plan to provide social travel planning for groups of fans traveling to matches or gigs, by alerting them to other local fans traveling to the same event, and suggesting solutions such as car pooling or coach hire.
We are working with existing fans groups and car pooling sites to provide this service.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
By effectively planning and booking the most preferable travel solution for a given trip, customers and business can save money, time, and effort.
Furthermore the addition of this engine onto the functionality of existing OTA's operations will mean that for the first time they can offer true door to door booking, giving these businesses leverage in a very crowded and competitive market.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers?
For the B2C side of the business we will be investing heavily in SEO and online marketing. We hope to be included in an upcoming press release from the cabinet office which cites us as an example of innovative uses of recently released opensource train data.
We expect that this and online articles will increase our profile. We have been working hard on establishing a Twitter presence over the last two months.
One of the major strengths of this business is that the B2B-licensing-model allows us to reach a vast and established customer base via well established OTAs. This will provide us with a significant volume of customers.
On the B2C side, we plan to continue to increase our brand profile with online and traditional media coverage.
We expect significant customer retention and organic growth, using a common brand identity between our sites, and encouraging social media interaction between our customers, particularly those using getmetomymatch and getmetomygig.
What other options have you considered?
We have identified and assembled a wide range of high quality data providers, programmers and SEO and marketing experts to deliver a high quality product.
We plan to establish the viability of the idea through extensive market research, primarily via a community of beta testers and subscribers recruited via the sites' landing pages.
What mistakes have you made in the past?
The idea for this business came to me when I was planning a trip myself and was suprised to find that there is no online facility to coherently build a trip itinerary using more than one mode of transport.
It seemed an obvious gap in the market ready for someone to exploit.
I have been in this position before and didn't grasp the nettle.
My idea at that time was for a safety system for use by kitesurfers in order to prevent injury or death should the rider become incapacitated. I designed the solution, and explored the option of patenting it.
In the end I shelved the idea as I was busy with other things. Within a year of this an almost identical system was released by a major manufacturer, and a variant of the system has since become standard around the world, fitted to almost every kite produced.
I was pleased to see an advance in safety, but frustrated that I hadn't seen my idea through.
I decided that the next idea I had I would pick up and run with - as long as it represented a viable and useful solution to a real world problem.
I believe that Journeazy's products will accomplish this, and that our three brands are a logical refinement of the original idea.
What is wrong with the industry that require another startup to help it out?
As currently configured the online travel industry is comfortable but lacking innovation.
There are large numbers of OTAs, all of whom use the same data sources (such as GDSs), and present the same data (fares and times) in similar ways.
The consumer uses fare aggregators to choose which OTA to use, and the price differences are generally very small.
No OTA is truly innovating and improving the experience for their consumer beyond cosmetic adjustments to the presentation of these results.
However, increasingly consumers are using search in their day to day lives, and they expect to be provided with a complete solution.
Our vision of travel search is truly innovative, and represents a significant improvement in the provision of joined up travel search and booking.
By using both B2C and B2C approaches we will be able to make the model work effectively in a range of applications whilst maintaining the integrity of the idea.
To monetize, GetMeToMyFlight will rely on affiliate links, sales of white-label versions to OTAs, and sales of an upcoming HTML5 app.
This multi-pronged approach to multi-modal travel might sound too ambitious to the ears of other entrepreneurs.In brief: A tiny startup can work on a B2C product, a B2B product, or a paid app. Choose one. Not all three. And certainly not all three to serve three brand concepts concurrently (referring to getmetomymatch and getmetomygig as the other two brands).
Startups that thrive tend to focus on a single problem that is painful enough to a specific group of people that that group of people might actually pay money for a solution.
There's a customer in mind, whom you can interact with and learn from.
Right now, Journeazy is looking at multiple groups of people: UK travelers going internationally, UK travelers going to sport matches, and UK residents going to events.
The needs and even the type of people (age, online habits; willingness to invest time and or money in learning a new solution) of each group could be quite varied.
For more on this idea of focus, GetMeToMyFlight's founders also would be well advised to read a couple of the essays by Paul Graham about startups.
Graham is a successful entrepreneur and VC. Any of his essays will be enlightening, such as the ones on common startup mistakes.
One of his core lessons is this: It can be difficult trying to find a customer with a problem that's painful enough the customer will pay for your solution to it.
Of the ideas presented, the B2B white-label tool sounds the most promising on this score.
There's a specific target market of companies that might use this.
Reach out to those companies, and find out what their needs are. Don't build a product in a vacuum without knowing what a customer would really be interested in.
If the B2C or app product is more tempting, though, because of the interests and skills of the founders, then I suggest trying to find investors.
Outside investors could give focus.
True, bootstrapping can work sometimes. Sure, companies like 37signals and Metalabs were bootstrapped and found success.
Yet those companies are rare. Those companies' success may have more to do with having worked on products that were focused on narrowly defined products for markets that were already proven because they were already being served by other companies.
Getting outside investment means proving your concept to someone. Investors put their money where their mouths are.
It also means getting access to invaluable insight, which investors can deliver through hard won experience.
If the founders don't know any investors, then Kickstarter is a good way to raise money.
The development of a Kickstarter campaign, in which you only get money from people if the overall financial goal is met, will force the founders to define their product in a way people want to invest in it.
Seeking investment will help test the theory that British travelers are sufficiently bothered by their current methods of planning a trip to get to the airport besides driving to it that they would take the time and effort to try an unfamiliar new tool to solve the problem.
It's smart for the company to work with partners like OTAs and trusted voices in the sports- and events-sectors who may be able to identify and market services to these travelers on behalf of GetMeToMyFlight.
For the events sector: Reaching out to companies like Stubhub or Viator to find out what possible needs they'd have could help focus the product plan.
The creators of GetMeToMyFlight also need to be more aware of the challenges that rivals have faced is important in understanding the multi-modal transport market.
Looking at the competitive field, standouts include Traveline, a UK tool for planning intermodal travel, and Rome2rio, an Australia-based point-to-point metasearch engine.
Neither enables booking of all the components of the trip through their interface, and neither offers a B2B solution (along with the possible additional revenue stream from selling a B2B solution).
To its credit, GetMeToMyFlight aims to differentiate by tackling these challenges.
But these competitors do have strengths worth noting.
Rome2rio has set a high bar for designing multi-modal travel booking, thanks partly to that site's co-founding by a couple of former engineers from Microsoft.
Traveline has enjoyed an adequate amount of world-of-mouth among UK residents.
Clearly, there are multiple opportunities in this digital space.
But to the focused go the spoils.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.