Travel startups always have wonderfully optimistic ideas and aspirations – in fact, overwhelming positivity is practically omnipresent and often rather intoxicating.
But as an industry we see startups come and go quicker than you can say “trip” (a very intentional pun, drawing on how a few years a string of sites with “trip” in the name fell by the wayside in quick succession – The Curse of Trip, it was called back then).
The reasons for such failures are varied, sometimes dramatic and often devastating for those involved (and customers).
The past few years have been particularly tough on many of the intrepid and determined travel startups, given the state of the global economy and the ability of some existing players to grow organically through new products and services.
So as folk from around the Asia-Pacific region congregate in Singapore for annual WIT Conference Summit, what do we want to see and hear evidence of from budding travel startups?
Here are some suggestions, some serious, some less so:
1. Establish a better way of describing why a business was created other than “...after returning home from a round-the-world trip, I was enormously frustrated...”. This approach invariably makes a business appear that it was created just for the founders and their mates.
2. Be prepared to explain exactly what research and customer discover methods were carried out during the initial phases of a startup. A lack of hard data to support even the foundations of a fabulous idea is worrying for travel tech journalists let alone potential investors.
3. Be honest about the product and its predicted impact on the marketplace, especially when claiming something unique (“world first”?!) that clearly has competitors on every continent. A great idea is even more impressive to the outside world if you acknowledge the challenges but address how you might tackle them.
4. Use social media intensively and extensively pre, during and post launch of a product. Twitter and Facebook fan pages are wonderful ways of getting buzz ahead of launch and allowing users to give constructive feedback. Also an easy and cheap opportunity to build of community of users and potential word-of-mouthers.
5. Meet potential users in a live setting – in other words: get out and about and interact with real people. Trade shows and travel and technology meetups are perfect places to spread the word about a product, meaning not only a chance to introduce yourself to potential partners but also – shock, horror – you might learn something from other people.
6. Be cost-conscious, but not cost-shy. One risky error to make is to assume that the internet is full of so many wonderful and free tools that an entire business can be run using them. Skype, Google Analytics are free, easy-to-use and invaluable, but not investing in decent and reliable technical tools such as hosting and network services can be fatal.