Today's travel startup watch comes from TripCake, a service that facilitates managing group travel via a shared interface and customized group offers.
The simple interface starts with a group poll, where the leader starts it off with personal trip preferences — budget, timeframe, length — and then sends it out to other members of the soon-to-be group.
Each of those members responds, and then the responses can be viewed together to see the commonalities.
After the group goes through this process, TripCake offers suggestions that fit the group's desires. The inventory available clocks in at 400,000 hotels, 30,000 vacation homes and other private residences.
A chat function rounds out the package to create a straightforward means of engagement within the group to hammer out specific details and move closer to booking.
This excellent Vine explains how the service helps groups narrow down choices, cut through the clutter and get to the booking. The Q&A follows.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
We often had the problem to organize a trip together with friends. In most cases, one of us was in charge of organizing everything from finding a date for everybody, a budget and a destination. The result: 56 e-mails and a nervous breakdown.
What are your funding arrangements?
We got a public funding of more than 50.000$ from INITS, a business incubator from Vienna designed to support students with new ideas.
What is your estimation of market size?
We estimate the number of potential customers to be 50 million unique group travelers worldwide.
Please describe your competition.
While the competition in the traditional online booking market is fierce between the mayor players like expedia.com, booking.com and others, the group planning and booking market is a relatively empty spot maybe also due to its high complexity.
We found only one direct competitor for the planning process -travefy.com- and some substitutes like Email, Facebook or Whats-App Chats. Group bookings may also be possible with groupize.com or hotelplanner.com, but their solutions are not able to scale the booking process for groups.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
In order to offer the tripcake platform to users for free, we will generate our revenue from booking commissions (8%-15% p. booking) and additional services. We expect to gain 1% market share (500k group travelers) by 2016.
What problem does the business solve?
The coordination problems of group travel. With tripcake.com you’ll never see again a email topic line like “Re: re: re: re: re: re: holidays 2015”!
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
There were two big changes. At first, we planned to work with travel agencies. The idea was that they propose the planning groups exclusive offers. But that would have been no real improvement for the customers and us, as we would have been another intermediary in the value chain.
Additionally. it would have been too much work for the travel agencies and a too low conversion rate for them. The second big change was the implementation of our easy-to-use userlist. In older versions we worked with a voting system, but the users didn’t get it. While testing we noticed that the users wanted to see opinions of co-travellers that's what is really important.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Because it’s easier, faster, better. In addition, we found out in a survey that many group tours do not take place because the planning process was too annoying. With tripcake they will take place. We believe in that.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We are testing different strategies. Currently we are working with facebook ads and different growth hacks. One of them was the “Samwer Ticker” (http://samwerticker.tripcake.com) - it counts every second your startup has not been copied by the Samwer brothers.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
We are planning from month to month. In three years maybe tripcake is the number one place for planning a trip together with friends - that would be great. Our biggest challenge is marketing. Therefore we need some additional fundings.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
It’s alright with the industry, but we think that there is no actual solution that helps group travellers with the planning and booking-process simultaneously. Everybody knows how nerv-wrecking planning a trip with a couple of friends can be and when planning has been done, searching for the right offers starts.
We want it to be as easy as possible to plan and book a trip with friends on a single page. That also includes offering travel specials that can only be booked together with friends and via tripcake (we are working on that).
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?
Our first thought was airbnb. They are doing a lot of things just right. The idea is great, the occurrence is great, the accommodations are great and it is also great for property-owners.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup, and why?
Maybe tripadvisor, because they have a huge userbase that is also interested in travelling with friends. And tripadvisor is not focused on flights, hotels or holiday homes in particular. Its more like a user generated encyclopedia of travel. And tripcake would be the matching tool to plan fast and easy. That would fit well, we think.
Describe your startup in three words.
Doodle for travel.
While the startup has a fairly loose assessment of the size of its market, it is fair to say that this is a significant addressable market. There will always be groups traveling, and they will be seeking tools to facilitate the many pain points associated with this type of travel.
Especially as millennials travel more, there will be more groups embarking on journeys together. This also means that there's plenty of competition - especially looking at Travefy, which has a fairly robust activity recommendation engine that sits alongside its group management software. The ability to split payments and share the cost burden is also a very serious pain point for anyone taking point as the group leader.
The opportunity is there, and the product is solid. The team is also based in Europe, giving it a leg up given the continent's history of large groups traveling (i.e. students heading on a multi-country tour). US students in a similar situation might just drive and wouldn't necessarily turn to a full-featured application to solve a non-existent pain point.
The key here is to build community while providing the most useful, accurate and targeted inventory for the groups to book. This should also include a full itinerary builder, with suggestions of group-specific activities. This is where a large additional revenue stream lies, as its not only hotels that would pay for access to groups with demonstrated interests. Restaurants, museums, tour operators and other such businesses would gladly pay for such specific, targeted potential customers.
NB: Selfie image courtesy Shutterstock.