PathWrangler aims to ease the trip building and experience sharing processNewsBy Karthick Prabu | June 13, 2013Share This article was originally published on Nowadays, tours and activities operators have numerous tools at their hands to run their end-to-end businesses effectively.PathWrangler, a San Francisco-based company has created a platform where tour operators or guides can create a trip plan (along with itinerary, map, travel gears), define the parameters (description, cost, dates etc) and publish it for travellers to view.Tour operators will be able to selectively invite people to view the itinerary. The platform also enables traveller to collaborate among themselves as well as with the organiser (tour operator).Post trip, tour organisers can enable the option of 'storytelling' where travellers will be able to share their feedback on the trip.We asked Doug Heinz, CEO of PathWrangler about why he started the company, he says: "I moved to the Bay Area in 2000 after college because I wanted to have my own startup one day. After working for some great software and web companies, it all came together in 2009 to head out on my own. "As a lifelong world traveller and a passionate climber, I felt there was a significant problem in planning and organizing trips. I met Eric Remza, a 16 year International Mountain Guide, on Mt Everest. "He helped me to validate that as a business owner in this market, it was an extremely significant problem for his business and that solving his trip planning problems was commercially viable."Share this quote PathWranger has three full time employees, Doug Heinz, CEOMikey Clarke, CTOEric Remza, Client Development Advisors/investors of PathWrangler, DG Elmore, Elmore CompaniesChristina Heyniger, Vital Wave ConsultingBrad Wisler, Sproutbox & RunUp LabsNeal Patel, Google The company raised a seed round supported primarily by DG Elmore.Q&A with Doug Heinz:Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?Simply put, PathWrangler simplifies and eases the process of creating experiences and telling stories about them.Planning an adventure trip or an outdoor excursion is like herding cats. It is maddening to get everyone and everything prepared. Our web app brings the conversation together in an interactive place designed specifically for adventure and outdoor enthusiasts to dream and organize their trip together. It works for everyone from Himalayan guides to weekend warriors.We take the conversation that normally occurs over emails, spreadsheets, PDFs, Word Docs, etc and put it into a central place where your team/group interacts with each other from a single version of the truth. It is interactive, dynamic and a way to get everyone involved.It doesn’t end there. All that hard work turns into a place for everyone to tell their personal stories and share photos after the trip. They can be private to you, your team, or broadcasted via Facebook to friends, family and other followers afterward.Why should people or companies use your startup?PathWrangler has proven to reduce the costs of operations and increases word of mouth referrals (which typically comprise 70 – 90% of all bookings) for tour operators, clubs and university wilderness programs.Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?We almost exclusively sell directly to tour operators and other outdoor organizations. Trade shows and member organizations have been key in helping get the word out. Partnerships with some key companies and distributors have also been a great source of new clients.How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?The core idea has essentially remained the same. We built our product from prototype to unskinned Alpha, to Beta and to Production release with up to 20 different tour operators and outdoor guides who gave us lots of feedback and direction as we built on a 1 – 3 week release schedule over time.We have pivoted on how we charge customers, though. We’re in the process of optimizing our subscription revenue stream by not charging clients on the basis of number of trips they run.We're moving towards a premium model that is similar to LinkedIn, where the commercial clients pay for the ability to manage their organization’s trips, clients and personnel, while being able to apply their own brand and integrate with their websites.What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?Subscriptions: Tour operators pay a subscription each month to use our productAffiliate gear sales from recommendations about gearIn our upcoming release, our big revenue opportunity will come from sales leads generated from operators offering open inventoryWhere do you see yourselves in three years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?In three years time, we would like to create the marketplace for adventure travel.Most aggregators currently fail in this model because they have a chicken and egg problem. In our case, we own the chicken (the tour operators). Tour operators use us to manage not just their trip logistics, but also their inventory.Since our tool has become very powerful at generating word of mouth and referral sales, we hope to create a marketplace where there is constant inventory being offered, but also a place where individuals can search and find trips more suited to them based on the stories other people tell.Secondly, we are selling quite a bit of gear through our site. We hope to have a wider network of online distributors around the world that can tap into our trips and expeditions that need constant outfitting.What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?Existing business models are insufficient for the next generation of travel.Travel is such a personal experience and people seek out “Adventure” or “Experiential” travel because they want something that is unique to them.Almost all travel tools today are built with a goal that optimizes volume, which commoditises offerings.Our tool brings the human element back into the game. It allows not just travellers, but those that serve them to diversify their offering and differentiate themselves in an ocean of other experience providers.This isn’t just a neat technology, but one we hope helps to support and increase the margins on this side of the business.Tnooz view PathWrangler is a tool that can be used quickly to create an itinerary, associate a cost, enter day-wise details and publish to clients (travellers). It looks like the target market is small/medium-sized tour operators or individual tour guides. Though PathWrangler claims that the discussion feature is their USP, its competitors have much advanced features. PathWrangler says that their competitors are GetConcourse and Peak15. All those various reservation systems built exclusively for tour operators are direct competitors of PathWrangler. Also, all platforms that connect locals to travellers are related competitors: Triip, Peek, Toursbylocals, Localguiding, Pigafe, Meetrip, Govoyagin. PathWrangler estimates the adventure travel market at $100 billion and outdoor recreation at $800 billion. But, given the number of similar players existing in the market, the question is the share of PathWrangler in this huge market. The platform is easy to use, self explanatory and simple. There was no need to go through any documentation to create a trip and publish it.Share this quote NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.