Jerne is an SaaS platform for creators and experience providers to manage their relationships, navigate commercial agreements and track affiliate sales and marketing ROI.
Hotels are inefficiently managing requests from social media influencers who want to promote the hotel in exchange for a hosted experience, according to Jerne co-founder and CEO Tim Morgan. Hotels are not alone in this challenge, but they are leading the market, with tour and cruise following closely after, he says.
Founded in 2021, the Toronto-based startup has five daily team members.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
Travel and tourism is a $9 trillion industry made up of millions of hotel, cruise, tour and other experience providers. The creator economy is a $100 billion industry, consisting of 300 million creators influencing consumer buying decisions, fueled by a 49% annual growth rate. There has been no end-to-end distribution platform connecting them, until Jerne.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Jerne is an SaaS platform for thousands of creators and experience providers to manage their relationships, navigate their commercial agreements, control their UGC assets and track affiliate sales and marketing ROI.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
Strengths: Our team. We have deep travel and technology industry expertise, connections and product knowledge.
Weaknesses: Navigating a nascent market for travel. Being evangelists of the creator economy within the historically traditional travel and tourism industry is something that takes time but ultimately everyone will benefit from, as other industries like fashion and beauty have seen already.
Opportunities: The gig economy isn’t going anywhere and is growing, partially thanks to pandemic-era shifts in people’s view on balancing life and work, along with brands’ ever-increasing needs for economical content creation and awareness building.
Threats: The outside world is fraught with threats. COVID impacts on travel and tourism, economic instability and political instability are what keep us up at night.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
All travel companies have a massive challenge - and opportunity - when it comes to the creator economy. For example, from our research, hotels are inefficiently managing requests from social media influencers who want to provide content and promotion for the hotel in exchange for a hosted experience. Hotels are not alone in this challenge, but they are leading the market, with tour and cruise following closely after.
So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Our team and advisers have deep industry knowledge and connections that translate to one degree of separation from every major travel and tourism organization in the world. Jerne is the Official Creator Economy of Forbes Travel Guide (FTG), powering an FTG-branded version of its platform exclusively for the thousands of hotels, restaurants, spas and cruise lines that are part of the FTG network.
Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We spent nearly a year validating our entire business model and product with potential power users. While validation takes time, it ultimately pays off in being able to scale quickly once you launch. Validation also helped us understand the size of the addressable market, which turned out to be every travel and related company in the world.
How and when will you make money?
We are proud to say that Jerne is already making money. Experience providers invest in a monthly SaaS license with Jerne. In addition, they provide a commission as part of our affiliate program that Jerne shares with the creators on the platform.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Jerne was co-founded by Tim Morgan and Ryan McElroy, who have both worked with or served on advisory boards of some of the world’s leading travel companies. Formerly overseeing Canada and EMEA for Virtuoso, Morgan also co-founded The 1000, a $3 billion club for the world’s most influential travel advisers. McElroy co-founded Travel Agency Tribes, a provider of B2B2C travel marketing technologies used by thousands of travel companies and consumers every day.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
We regularly engage in intentional listening and data analysis to understand the needs of our users. Within the platform, Jerne allows users to self-identify their gender and choose content focus areas such as accessibility, body positivity, BIPOC, neurodiversity and LGBTQIA+, among other items, and Jerne regularly highlights these users in its materials.
Since Jerne’s founding, we have acknowledged our privilege and stance at the end of all Jerne.com subpages alongside our financial support of Black Travel Alliance, For Good For Travel, IGLTA and the Travel Foundation, which is particularly unusual for a bootstrapped startup. We emphasize the importance of increasing the diversity of board members.
What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
By far and away, COVID and its continued aftereffects have been the most difficult part of founding the business.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
We believe a combination of our deep industry expertise and connections coupled with an incredible product built on validation, validation and more validation will see us through to success.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
We plan to be doing exactly what we’re doing now but with 10 times the scale.
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc)
We are open to all possible opportunities that benefit our stakeholders as greatly as possible.
PhocusWire's Startup Stage
PhocusWire profiles startups in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.