TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based MondoWindow, a tool which gives airline passengers a different take on in-flight entertainment.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
MondoWindow provides web based, in-flight, location-aware content and entertainment to wifi-connected airline passengers.
The service is a map that tells you where you are and what you’re looking at as you fly; it turns the plane into a geobrowser, availing the passenger of points of interest, audio, video, games, and social interaction from top tier partners.
The company was co-founded by Tyler Sterkel and Greg Dicum in 2010. Tyler is a digital curator who specializes in taking massive collections from institutions like the Smithsonian, the SFMOMA, and others and making them accessible to the public in digital form, including online.
Greg is a journalist who focuses on travel, business, and technology for the likes of the New York Times and The Economist. The concept for MondoWindow grew out of Greg’s 2004 book “Window Seat.”
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
We are funded by the founders, a limited amount of friends and family investment, and a massive dose of goodwill from our partners and contractors.
It’s not something you hear of often in startup discussions, but goodwill can be even better than cash -- one example in our case is Stamen Design, the geoweb design geniuses, who are so enthusiastic about MondoWindow that they built our core technology for us on extremely favorable terms, allowing us to get a solid beta out the door in time for SXSW last year.
What problem are you trying to solve?
The world of in-flight entertainment (IFE) is the last significant consumer digital space that has not yet been disrupted by the internet.
That is on the verge of happening. MondoWindow’s approach is to look at the core value proposition of IFE and the impending disruption in the sector, and figure out what passengers are going to want after the disruption.
In our view, location services -- starting with a map, but not ending there -- are among the few elements of existing IFE that will thrive in the new environment of onboard broadband we expect to be ubiquitous after 2015.
Describe the business, core products and services?
MondoWindow’s design exists in two different architectures. Our completely Internet-based version makes use of on-board connectivity, but otherwise requires no interaction with the aircraft.
MondoWindow On-Board is a configuration that stores the heaviest files on an on-board web server, and makes sparing use of connectivity, when available, for real-time updates, gaming, and social interaction.
The on-board web server is owned and maintained by a MondoWindow partner, be it an airline or an IFE systems provider.
With either architecture, MondoWindow can be packaged in a range of brand- and technology-appropriate ways. The flagship MondoWindow.com site can be white-labelled or fully integrated into either web-based or on-board IFE systems.
It can also be packaged as a web or mobile app and integrated with any existing system, including frequent flyer and other loyalty programs.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our direct-to-consumer site, http://mondowindow.com is just one part of our strategy. A lot is going on in IFE right now and we’re talking to airlines, wifi providers, and IFE systems manufacturers about how we can work together.
We’ll have some very very significant announcements really soon!
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We’re in the middle of that now. We have the potential for more than mere validation from customers -- we are on track for significant revenues in the near term that will put us in a very strong position with investors.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
MondoWindow is a platform that can be hosted on the web, hosted on a plane, or hosted on a device like a tablet or smartphone.
It can be a standalone app or an integrated component of any other system built around web technology.
Mapped onto that technological flexibility, we have a suite of revenue streams that includes straightforward advertising, sponsorships, software licensing, third party content licensing, and in-app sales.
With that structure in place, traction equals profitability. So our strategy for profitability is to achieve traction.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- First movers in combining IFE with web technology; revolutionary vision that others are just beginning to glimpse.
- Key customers are gigantic companies, so sales cycles are very long; they are inherently conservative and have yet to understand the competitive advantages of web technology.
- IFE is in the first stages of disruption; we are in the middle of the discussion, helping to define the future of the sector. There are a lot of new entrants that are natural partners for us.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- We won’t be the only ones in this space for long; if and when the big non-IFE players wake up to it, they will be able to move into the space effortlessly.
A lot of people have told us it would be hard -- and they’re right -- but nobody, including investors who have turned us down, has seriously suggested that MondoWindow would not be successful.
The most cogent concerns have been twofold: first, our success depends on deep partnerships, and second, we are genuinely ahead of the curve in IFE.
Complex partnerships take time and business skills far beyond the basic technology elements of most startups.
And if we’re too early, all we’ll do is bust our butts blazing a trail only to create the pathway for others to succeed after we crap out.
We think we are up to both those challenges.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Being in business. Profitably.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.