Having used, owned and run hostels, Hostel Rocket husband and wife team decided to try and address the difficulty of searching for and booking the accommodation online.
The team behind the startup consists of founder and chief executive Michelle McBryde and founder and chief technology officer Donald Mullen. Working alongside them are two software developers, a front-end designer and coder, marketing specialist Guy McBryde and a team of bloggers.
In the past four months, funding of more than $100,000 has come from the Startup Factory and prior to that Hostel Rocket was self-funded.
The startup values the hostel sector at $93 billion worldwide and is going after a market of 208 million travellers who stay an average of 10 nights per year in hostels, according to the United Nations Center for Tourism.
Competition comes in the form of a couple of major online hostel agencies and a handful of smaller ones which often also offer budget accommodation. Hostel Rocket argues that this mix can make for a bad user experience.
Companies such as Airbnb and Booking.com are also on its horizon but Hostel Rocket doesn't believe anyone has created an experience 'disruptive to the hostel booking space' yet.
Revenue will come from the hostels via a percentage of each transaction at the time of booking.
What problem does the business solve?
Have you ever attempted to book a hostel online? From an app? How about from a tablet? It's frustrating, time consuming and difficult at best. It's hard for people to spend their money!
One of the biggest issues is how fragmented the industry has become. Their is hostel inventory on one site but not another, different reviews all over the place, and images. No site yet, until Hostel Rocket, gives the full picture of hostels in the world.
Plus, gives a fast and super simple user experience - our motto is "You are 5 clicks away from your next nights stay!".
Plus, we have some pretty disruptive stuff about to hit the world of online and app hostel booking that will change the way travelers search and book hostels, engage with each-other, with locals and with hostel operators that is not another social app or network but, rather baked in Hostel Rocket for a usable and seamless experience.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The idea evolved out of necessity to create a solution that would ultimately be a better booking experience for the hostel niche market worldwide. Originally we were going to be another online travel agency and get our own hostel inventory.
After about four months heading down that path and doing lots of research and talking to customers (potential) we discovered that was not at all the direction we should be headed. We discovered that rather than start from scratch and get our own inventory that we could aggregate all the other OTA's inventory and solve a lot of the bigger issues with hostel booking for the consumers and the operators.
It was one of those "Awww-ha!" moments and literally within two hours we had the whole business model changed and off to the races we went.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Travelers are already using the site to search out hostels, check pricing, read reviews and look at pictures. Eventually they will be building itineraries, canceling and re-arranging travel on the fly without loosing their deposit or paying silly insurance to get a refundable deposit.
They will also be engaging with other guests and hostel operators before they even book a trip so they can get a better feel for the location and the hostel right from their device.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
Our mission has always been really simple: talk to other travelers like we would want to be talked to. Give travelers the information we would want to get. And always be true to our love of hostelling and the adventure of travel.
It has all worked out great, last time I checked I think we had a little over 166,000 followers between Facebook, Twitter and and Google +. We also, have a blog that is written by some of the best travel writers and photographers in the industry whom are also in hostels 300 days out of the year .
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
This is always a tough question- of course I have so many dreams and aspirations but this is a marathon and not a sprint. Three years is not a very long time for a young start-up.
We want to hands down be the best hostel booking experience a traveler can have anywhere in the world from any device in the world and/or browser-based system- we want them to make us a part of their normal travel routine and their friends too!
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Hostel travel is one of the fastest growing budget accommodations in the world and has been for the past eight years and is not looking like it's slowing down anytime soon. It has been virtually untouched and unchanged even though people are becoming more and more dependent on their technology and complete strangers to help guide them on their next travel adventure.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
I think we are a lot like Airbnb in the fact that we are our customer. Our company is very customer service hands on. Our design is simple and intuitive. We are innovators for our industry and think outside of the box.
This is an interesting business - a sort of self-styled Kayak for hostels - aggregating inventory from existing players and trying to create some order out of the chaos and fragmentation that is the hostel market.
The service will live (or die) by its promised experience and if it can truly provide the hostel booking community with a single place to go, then it's on to something.
When Hostelworld announced its intention to buy Hostelbookers just over a year ago, the chief executive talked about the 'big beasts' in online accommodation and the ability to compete with them. Hostel Rocket also mentions, and will have to contend with, these players.
However, more telling were the comments made about the existing technology, user experience and the needs of the hostel community, both owners and travellers.
The additional promise of features such as itinerary management will also provide a boost to the business as often travellers are looking to book three/four hostels at a time as part of a longer trip.
Achieving scale will be a challenge but if Hostel Rocket can display the best prices alongside reviews and property information and make it all easy to book within the site, the hostel booking community will probably spread the word for it and social media will help here too.