Open since April, Roomkita is a startup in Istanbul that offers hotel search via partners like Booking.com, Hotels.com, HRS, and Otel, trawling more than 600,000 properties across 201 countries.
Unlike many other metasearch sites, Roomkita defaults users to a map-based view of their destination and encourages them to sort hotels by TripAdvisor ratings as well as by amenities and other factors.
A Q&A with co-founder Mümin Öztürk:
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
The initial idea came from our personal needs. While traveling abroad, we were having too much difficulty to find affordable hotels in good locations.
In the tourism industry, finding a good hotel is the most difficult part of the journey and having this uncertainty in the beginning of the process makes everything much harder.
One doesn’t lose that much time while searching for a plane ticket or renting a car, etc… The most important reason why it is difficult to find a good hotel is that today's websites are not able to show options by analyzing them effectively.
Finding a good hotel in a good location must be as fast as a wink and must be effortless. That is the reason we have build Roomkita. We're aiming to build a solution, and we think we're partway there.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
Roomkita was founded by myself and Ali Seyhun. We are currently team of 5. I am in charge of software development of site. Seyhun is in charge of finance and marketing.
We have a product manager and two mobile developers. We also work contract based with some professionals in the field of content and social marketing.
We have enough budget for financing the project and planning to go forward with our own budget. We may think of having investment on far future.
Estimation of market size?
The tourism industry is one of the biggest industries in the world and worth more than $100 billion.
Roomkita is focusing on finding the most suitable hotel for a traveller with the best rate received from the OTAs and is a competitor of some like-minded companies but also sees the OTAs as competitors in the far future.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
We will only get paid when the customer is referred to OTA’s from Roomkita and complete the booking.
To help the travellers choose the right hotel, we have a unique Smart Search System in which we believe once the traveller clicks off, the purchase will be completed on the other side. Our current aim is building community than profitability.
What problem does the business solve?
Our business will shorten the time for searching for a hotel in a suitable location.
We believe that three requirements need to be met: price, location, and quality.
- To find the best price we have decided to compare OTAs.
- To find a a desired location we use a smart map.
- To find a good hotel with a good review, we developed Roomkita Score, our ranking of properties based on average desirability.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
We only started our first beta in early 2015. The main idea and the focus has not been changed. There were only some changes in the user experience that we've made which are leading the travellers to use the site more effectively.
Why should people or companies use the business?
If the traveller is looking for finding the most suitable hotel with a best price and doesn't want to spend hours by eliminating and filtering unsuitable ones, they must try Roomkita.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We are targeting to be known worldwide by social marketing strategies. We have planned to make viral marketing. We also want to be a sponsor and host international travel organizations.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
Within three years, we are planning to be financially stable, with a big volume of income.
However we are not only interested in our financial future but also more importantly we want to have a big community of loyal users.
As the market has too much current and upcoming players, we have already planned our strategy in both near future and far future for these players. We will always be the one being followed but also we will always have something that will make us different than the others.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
The cheapest hotel is not always the best option.
Although the hotel search and price comparison sites provide some options based on price, the travellers can’t receive effective results which respect to hotel reviews and the location.
Finding the best hotel at the best price in a good location doesn’t seem easy with the current products in tourism industry. We are aiming at getting rid of this gap by providing our own Smart Search feature.
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?
Booking.com and Instagram are the companies we admire.
We mostly focus on developing new technological features for the ease of use. Our inspiration is coming from both in and outside of travel as one of the founders is in tourism industry and the other is in IT field.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Describe your startup in three words?
Extraordinary hotel search.
Roomkita has created a Vine.
Roomkita is not the first metasearch site to immediately direct users to a map-based view of hotel selection. Google.com/hotels has done that in the US for several years now.
Using the colors of circles as a heat map for how expensive the hotels are is unique to Roomkita. But the overall design is similar to many of the data visualization techniques of Hipmunk.
That said, Hipmunk remains fixated on only appealing to US users, and Google still has far to go on spreading its hotel finder tool worldwide.
Its biggest competitor may be TripAdvisor.
Its hotel metasearch offers rankings with the all-important user reviews and ratings. Click the "open map" view and you can see hotels plotted on a map, including its top ten picks -- not unlike the Roomkita Score. (See TripAdvisor hotel results for Istanbul here.)
In short, the competition is strong. (Kayak, Momondo, Skyscanner could quickly adopt this map-based default model if it proved effective regionally.)
Now time for praise:
Being local matters. Many people like to shop with the "home team," rather than foreign companies. Plus local companies are often savvier about the little quirks that define local preferences.
If you have any doubt of the above, consider the proliferation of metaseach websites worldwide in recent years -- many of them thriving: Viajala in Colombia; Skypicker in the Czech Republic; and Hotels.ng in Nigeria.
No wonder: The business model of metasearch has been tried-and-tested as a reliable generator of revenue.
If the founders can keep costs under control and relentlessly test to improve their product and copy Steve Kaufer's motto of "Speed wins", they can be quite successful business people.
Like many startups that become successful, Roomkita has a technical founder (one with solid Python, Django, and other skills) and a commercially minded founder.
This type of skill balance has proven to be an effective formula in other startups.
Note to developers: You should probably quit your job and leave your country and go partner with local techical talent in a developing market to create a local/regional metasearch platform.
Note to investors: Istanbul looks more and more like a promising place to invest in startups, given the number of interesting ones that have popped up lately (and despite its lively politics).
Anyway Tnooz wishes Roomkita well and is eager to see how it executes on its vision. Off to a promising start.