Fareness has come from a passion for travel combined with a frustration with online travel search and seeking out where and when to go for the lowest fares.
After exiting his previous business, ResellerRatings, Fareness boss Scott Wainner decided to fully focus his attentions on improving online flight search.
"Travel search is very clunky, tedious, and designed to keep consumers from seeing all airfare options at once. Showing consumers tiny origin/destination/specific-date fare options keeps them in the dark about lower priced alternative dates, trip lengths, and similar destinations."
Wainner claims a track record in building up companies before selling them, starting his first during high school before selling it when he was 21.
He is joined by chief architect Steven Bitner who has worked at Answers.com as well as having designed warfare simulation software for the US military.
Funding so far to the tune of $250,000 seed money is provided by Avancer Ventures, Wainner's investment company.
For market rivals, he points to the likes of Adioso, Skypicker and Google Flights but also points out issues around user experience and fare data.
To keep the site clean and ensure user experience comes first, Fareness wants to keep the site advertising free and is working on a commission model on flights and hotel bookings.
Q&A with Scott Wainner:
What problem does the business solve?
Today, consumers plan vacations on dates and destinations on a "hope" plan - "hoping" that the fares for their searched dates will be reasonably low, with no way of knowing if their chosen travel dates coincide with the lowest priced day (without running hundreds of searches).
What’s more, although they may think they’re interested in traveling to Cancun, if they could also see the lowest fare (for trips of the same length within their travel period), they might choose a similar destination to explore instead.
All told, each of these searches. that consumers must manually explore, on a typical travel search site each take 15-20 seconds to run and generally takes days of research to find the lowest date/destination fare options.
To solve this, Fareness organizes 250 million flight and fare combinations per day, and makes these bookable flight options instantly accessible across 10,000 origin and destination pairs in less than one second.
When a consumer wants to see fares from San Francisco to Paris, for example, we retrieve 1,900 fares in less than one second (fares for the next 190 departure dates and 10 trip lengths).
Being able to keep all of this data up to date and instantly available is a huge data problem.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
Initially, we planned to offer consumers the ability to choose specific flights within Fareness.
To accommodate a summer launch, we’ve deferred this, but still intend to do it as soon as practical.
We also intend to launch a companion native app when able, although we presently offer a fully responsive experience for desktop, tablet, and mobile.
On the whole, the concept has evolved in a linear way, with careful detail being paid to both user experience design, testing and research, as well as the authenticity, bookability and integrity of our fare data.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Vacation travellers should use Fareness to discover the lowest priced fares to inspirational destinations (and anywhere) across 190+ departure dates and 10 trip lengths at a glance and with a single one-second search.
Once a destination and dates are chosen, our integrated hotel experience helps consumers find a hotel in the location that’s just right for their adventure. The result is significant time savings, significant money savings, and an overall pleasant experience planning a vacation.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
- We’re working on various social and PPC ad campaigns.
- Curated landing pages at Fareness for SEO.
- In-house blog content at Fareness for SEO.
In three years, we hope to become a significant destination where vacation travellers begin their flight and hotel search.
The airline industry is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, so how this plays out both in terms of government regulation and in the air carrier’s own policies with how they view their relationships with OTA’s and travel search metas like Fareness, will have an impact on the type and quality of platform that we can deliver.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
Historically it has taken days for consumers to search to find the best fares. The reason being, travel search sites are setup for specific origin, destination, departure, and return date searches (+- 3 days).
Without searching every origin, destination and date combination (for trips of five, six, seven, eight days etc), consumers will inevitably always be overpaying for flights.
In addition, travel is meant to be an emotional, life-changing experience: so, why are travel search sites built for robots?
Fareness has beautiful, hand-curated imagery for hundreds of the world’s most inspirational places, emotionally connecting consumers to their destination right from their first click.
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?
Airbnb. People once said "No one wants to rent out their apartments and houses", yet Airbnb came along and proved that to be completely wrong – it did so in an elegant way that feels inspirational, fun, engaging, authentic and trustworthy.
In creating Fareness, we had similar design goals in terms of creating a travel search experience that feels so much better to use than anything else available, while providing transparency (surfacing the lowest fares for so many dates and destinations at one time) authenticity (no travel "hacks" required to book our fares, no teaser "lead fares"), and efficiency (one second searches).
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Large OTAs that want a jumpstart into a significantly more transparent, comprehensive and simple to use flight search experience for consumers. Or, Google, to substantially improve Google Flight’s exploration/flexible travel components. I’m interested in creating a sustainable company that transforms the consumer travel search experience over the long term – not a quick exit.
Describe your startup in three words?
Instant Airfare Discovery
Fareness is seeking to bring some joy and inspiration to flight search through more than just the usual date and destination.
It's fair to credit the site with having appealing images, a nice to have map feature and most importantly reasonably fast search.
It's harder to say whether it's a business for a number of reasons. For example, and as the startup's boss points out, air travel and distribution is in turmoil with airlines saying the current model is not sustainable.
Already most intermediaries have moved to other products and services, mainly hotels, because there's no money in selling flights.
Therefore, and in the current climate, is it a B2C business or is it better to think of it as more of a B2B technology company if it can improve online flight search? Perhaps it can be both.
Another issue is that the meta market is already competitive - think Skyscanner, Kayak and others, so Fareness will have to offer something pretty special to divert eyeballs away from existing players and find a place for itself. SEO and PPC will help here.
To the startup's credit, its founder has startup and exit experience as well as experience of running a lean business. And, he says he's in it for the long-term.
Anyway, the name is memorable and the site is appealing so now it just has to deliver on the one-second, money saving and good user experience goal.