Diviac (Dive Maniac) was launched as a booking platform for scuba diving holidays.
Co-founder Joel Perrenoud wanted to bring the best of the web to the scuba diving industry as well as enable enthusiasts to avail of a cloud-based logbook service.
His fellow founder is Thomas Achhorner and both are based in Switzerland while a three-strong development team works from the Ukraine and a back-office team of two is based in Egypt.
Diviac has raised $1.4 million to date through two rounds, one at the end of 2013 and the second at the end of 2014.
The scuba-related travel spend is estimated at around $7 billion and while a number of websites exist - bookyourdive, divescover and dive-the-world, Diviac believes they are mostly one-man organisations.
In addition, the startup says they don't often offer the complete dive and accommodation package.
Diviac's revenue model is based on commission from dive operations including resorts, liveaboard specialists and dive centres.
What problem does the business solve?
Divers looking to research, compare and book their next dive vacation online currently need to browse dozens of websites, fill out enquiry forms and often pay by bank transfers or worse by sending their credit card details by email.
Diviac Travel is applying the best of modern online travel platforms such as AirBnB, booking.com and Tripadvisor to a specific vertical, the diving industry.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
From our roots as a cloud-based scuba logbook, we have now pivoted to focus on scuba-related travel. We believe the combination of the two to be a winner as divers can perform the full life-cycle with us from researching and booking a dive vacation to logging their memories during and after the trip.
Why should people or companies use the business?
With more than 10,000 dive centers, 700+ liveaboards and 900+ destinations, we offer scuba divers the biggest choice of dive vacations on the market. In addition, we don’t charge any booking fees, nor credit card fees and offer a best price guarantee.
Dive operators who offer packages on diviac.travel get access to a community of divers from more than 140 countries and thousands of unique visitors per day who are searching for dive destinations. If they want global distribution, we are right partner for them.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We have strategic partnerships with leading scuba diving equipment manufacturers and leading online communities to promote the Logbook.
Regarding Diviac Travel we are focused on SEO, SEM and SMM to drive traffic to our website. We are also setting up strategic partnerships with online media in our target space.
We also just acquired a leading dive reviews website (scubadviser.com), which gave diviac.travel a great boost in traffic from the start.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
In three years, Diviac Travel will be the leading one-stop location to research and book diving holidays. The main challenge in getting there is related to the fact that the industry is very much a cottage industry, with lots of small players who have not all fully made the transition to digital.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
Independent travelers today expect to be able to research and book their vacation online. They expect reviews, photos and pricing to be available. And last but not least, they expect to be able to book instantly and pay by credit card.
All this does not exist today in the vertical market that we are addressing. Information is hard to obtain, once a booking decision has been made a process of email or telephone exchanges is required to complete the transaction. Payments need to be made by bank wire or worse by having to give credit card details in a non-secure manner.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
Hostelworld and Airbnb have faced similar challenges and have a similar journey to bring an offline industry on to the web and offer travelers a simple and intuitive booking experience.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Major online travel agencies such as Expedia.com, Booking.com or TripAvisor
Describe your startup in three words?
Scuba diving vacations.
Bringing the scuba diving industry into the digital era will be no mean feat. As explained above the segment is full of small operators who, for the most part, based their businesses around a passion for the pastime and their knowledge of particular dive spots.
Turning all that into an online platform will be challenging in terms of persuading the industry it needs a central resource and getting it ready for crucial elements such as the terms and conditions around online payments.
Diviac also faces all the challenges of most startups in terms of getting the world out and building scale. SEM, SEO and social media will play a key role and the acquisition of a scuba divers review site was a clever move.
Whether this industry is too niche to catch the attention of online travel giants mentioned above is up for debate. The segment's worth of $7 billion is not to be ignored but it feels like a segment, that as a consumer, you would want to know that you are buying from experts.