WanderWe is a new travel startup with a discovery and booking platform targeted on the short duration vacations.
The company has taken the fact that 50% of all trips taken in the United States are less than four days, and yet there's a dearth of resources explicitly focused on this "2-4 day getaway" travel segment.
The company says that, "this realization led us to ask the question 'Is the way that travellers discover, book and experience short getaways different than longer trips?' We found the answer to that question to be a resounding “Yes”.
WanderWe was born out of the Accelerator Services Program at Oversee.net, and has a full time staff of six employees.
Below is a 6-second Vine overview, followed by the Tnooz Q&A.
Please talk about your startup's concept.
We found that travellers are taking more and more short vacations and that these trips are more flexible in destination and duration. Therefore planning and booking of short trips requires a profoundly different search and recommendation algorithm than what was in the market.
Current online sites are tied to destination and duration searches where the traveller knows where and when they want to travel – eliminating a level of flexibility for discovering, planning and booking a getaway trip. With this in mind, we created a business plan that allowed us to receive funding and resources from Oversee.net to build a prototype focused on California getaways to test our hypothesis.
What is the size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
WanderWe currently employs the equivalent of 6 Full Time Employees. This includes 3 online travel industry veterans dedicated to sales, marketing and product development (including the General Manager Raj Beri) and 3 engineers. Key executives are:
What are your funding arrangements?
- Raj Beri- VP&GM- WanderWe (Former COO of IgoUgo-Travelocity, Director of Digital at McGraw-Hill, Board Advisor at AdventureLink and Level Skies)
- Tara Gay- Head of Business Development (formerly at British Airways and Travel Guard)
- Joe Nuccio – Head of Product (formerly at LuxuryLink and WeddingChannel)
- Derek Smith- Head of Engineering
WanderWe is funded through 2014 by the Accelerator Services Program at Oversee.net. Oversee.net is providing technical and marketing resources as well as access to 4.5MM monthly unique users of their online travel portfolio of sites and mobile apps. While Oversee.net will be providing funding for WanderWe, we expect to start earning revenue in January 2014 and will use that revenue to support our expansion.
What is your estimation of market size?
Based on research from PhoCusWright, US Travel Association, and our own commissioned surveys, we estimate the market size to be 45% of all leisure trips taken in the US annually, approximately 400 million potential trips.
In terms of monthly traffic, the market is conservatively estimated between 40mm-50mm unique visits which factors in all the applicable online travel users that are in the market for 2-4 day trips in any given month in the US. Additionally, traffic will be consistent throughout the year since the short-trip market is not as cyclical as longer leisure trips.
Please go into detail about your competition.
After extensive research, we could not find any other online travel sites focused on the end-to-end needs of the getaway traveller. No other online travel site provides travellers with discovering and booking short trips.
Traditional OTA’s have some getaway content buried on their sites but it is a clear afterthought. Other non – OTA sites are more editorial in nature and focus on the inspiration only. These sites are mainly regional publications like TimeOut or local newspaper travel sections-and stop at inspiration – not providing interactive utilities that allow booking.
Sites like TripShare and TripTuner do have interest based search but don’t focus on the short trips market in terms of content and functionality. Everything we do at WanderWe is about 2-4 day trips. That allows us to focus our product on the full cycle of getaway travel whereas other sites cannot.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
The core Wanderwe business model is based on a hybrid media and e-commerce product. A large portion of revenue is projected to come from commissions earned from hotel, activities, events and car rental bookings. CPM, Sponsorship and deals/exclusive offers will also provide a significant percentage of revenue. For example, we are working with Tourism Boards in secondary market destinations on marketing partnerships.
We are on track to earn revenue by January 2014 and we will be profitable by the end of the Year based on observed e-commerce conversion rates, from our beta launch, between 2%-3%.
Profitability will be achieved early on through low traffic acquisition costs driven from our partnership with Oversee.net. We will tap into Oversee.net’s travel properties and market to their millions of visitors and subscribers.
Additionally, we will leverage Oversee’s existing Travel advertising partnerships to obtain initial CPM traction as well as their ability to drive paid traffic efficiently through an in-house proprietary SEM bidding platform.
What problem does the business solve?
WanderWe solves a significant problem for the short-trip traveller – that there is no end to end online product focused on discovery, searching and booking getaways. Traditional online travel products treat travellers searching for a getaway within 500 miles of their home the same as someone searching for a 14 day trip to Thailand.
To plan and book a getaway today, a traveller must visit multiple sites for inspiration, conduct multiple searches to find the destination and departure dates that meet their budget and interest needs - and then are sent to yet another site to book. Based on data and focus groups this one stop shop for getaway travel is a “Need to Have”, not a “Nice to Have” and a clear pain point for US leisure travellers.
Getaways less than 3 nights represent over 40% of all US trips taken each year and over 55% of these travellers are flexible on destination but are more restricted on their budget and interests.
These are all pain points and problems that WanderWe aims to solve. WanderWe is a Tablet first product that helps travellers discover, collaborate, and book – all in one place – a short trip. We are the only online travel site completely dedicated to addressing the getaway traveller’s current frustrations - pre-trip and on the go.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
Raj Beri, General Manager and VP of WanderWe developed the initial concept for WanderWe after realizing that there was a clear unmet need for booking and discovering a getaway trip.
The short trip market represents close to 50% of all trips in the US but has been an afterthought on most online travel sites. Through personal experience and his time working at IgoUgo and Travelocity, Raj noticed that it was very hard for travellers to search for and book a getaway when they didn’t have a specific destination or departure date in mind. Raj brought the idea of WanderWe to Oversee.net, who allowed him to assemble a management team and allocated technical and marketing resources to launch WanderWe through its accelerator services program.
The first phase of WanderWe was originally more inspirational in nature focusing solely on the recommendation engine and planning piece - catering to users who wanted to take a trip up to 5 days- by flight or by car.
The concept changed as the team brainstormed and surveyed the market. WanderWe’s first phase became focused on providing relevant personalized recommendations along with booking tools for getaways within 500 miles of a traveller’s home. WanderWe therefore became a one stop booking site where travellers can combine discovery and booking.
During the prototype development phase, the team also realized that many travel sites were developing for mobile, but largely ignored the huge growth of Tablets. Tablet users tend to have higher engagement, a better look to book ratio and most closely represent the use case for getaway travellers - that they do some discovery and booking pre-trip and a fair bit is done on the go. With this in mind, we decided to build WanderWe with a Tablet first approach and then in near future follow up with a mobile product.
Why should people or companies use the business?
If you’ve recently tried to plan and book a three day mini-vacation or weekend getaway you’ve probably been frustrated with the process. You most likely realized that finding a destination can require up to a hundred different searches – and then you are sent to multiple sites to make the booking.
At WanderWe we recognize that the short trip discovery process and experience is much different than a longer vacation and have built practical tools, including a destination recommendation engine to help travellers find and book the perfect getaway.
We have looked at every aspect of the getaway traveller’s needs – from personalized itineraries, original content for the most popular getaway destinations in the US – as well as those off the beaten path, one stop booking of hotels and activities, and accessibility on the go and at home - to be the end to end resource for getaway travel.
More importantly, we have changed the way travel is searched to meet the needs of the typical getaway traveller who may not have a destination in mind but does have budget, time and interest criteria. By focusing exclusively on 2-4 day trips and a combination of popular and unique short trip destinations in the US, we believe WanderWe has a laser focus on what matters to getaway travellers.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
One of the biggest challenges for online travel startups is demand generation. Our founding Team have all been part of start-ups that had a good product but struggled to drive traffic and with that experience we have built a strong business and marketing plan to ensure WanderWe is successful.
Our core strategy takes advantage of our placement within the Oversee.net Accelerator Services Program. The Oversee.net travel sites reach 4.5 million monthly unique visitors and have 3 million email subscribers targeted by preference and interests.
We plan to introduce WanderWe to these users to build a core loyal user base. Additionally, Oversee is a leader in the Domain business and its Traffic Match network reaches over 300M monthly visitors that we will target based on keyword data.
Finally, Oversee.net has long been a leader in big data and performance marketing and they are fully committed to providing us funding and proprietary tools to help us scale the marketing and branding efforts behind WanderWe over the next 12 months. These activities will help us achieve initial traction while we grow an organic traffic base and build the WanderWe brand.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
In three years we intend to be the “Go-To” tablet and mobile product for travellers looking to get away for 2-4 days in North America and Western Europe.
While we are starting with US travellers, we know there is a market for our product around the world and plan to expand to Canada and Western Europe where the incidence of short trip travel is even greater than the US.
We will soon be introducing a crowd-sourcing element to our recommendations and in three years want to be well on our way to having the largest selection of user sourced tips and itineraries for getaway travel.
One key challenge will be to continue to deliver on personalized and relevant getaway recommendations and refine our algorithm, which pulls in from many disparate sources, as we scale to add in more unique activities, events and lodging partnerships.
Additionally, there is execution risk, as with any startup, in delivering the intended product features we have planned in a timely manner so as to realize our full product vision. To do that we have to be able to retain focus on a “Test and Learn” approach to deliver features that help the getaway traveller and be okay with quickly removing those features that do not resonate with our targeted market.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The travel industry has started to embrace the idea that not all travellers are the same and layer in personalization and products that eschew the one-to-many marketing approach for the one-to-one approach.
However, the same cannot be said for the trips themselves. In large, all trips are still treated the same by most travel sites and data shows that just is not the case.
The whole process of discovering and booking a getaway that is close in to your home is not the same as booking a longer vacation – from what criteria are important to travellers, to destination choices to planning and booking lead times.
When we looked at the data on the explosion of trips three nights or less within 500 miles of someone’s home and saw the options travellers had to discover, search for and book these trips- we saw a broken process.
Other sites and apps had content and recommendations but did not layer in context to understand that the needs of someone looking for a three day trip to San Francisco from LA is different than someone looking for a week-long trip to San Francisco from London. Their travel search functionality did not speak to the 58% of getaway travellers who are flexible in destination.
Furthermore, we were unable to find any site that could marry three day getaway editorial content with the ability to book those trips on the same site. This means that there was an unmet need in the market. We saw this as an opportunity to alleviate traveller frustrations and created a product with a singular focus on 2-4 day trips to help the millions of travellers each year who take mini vacations.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
WanderWe’s culture is probably akin to that of Zappos in the early days. Similar to Zappo’s laser focus on the customer we like to think we are singularly focused on the getaway travellers end to end needs and this permeates our culture and how we go about building up WanderWe each day.
Similar to what has been written about Zappos, we like to think of WanderWe as a very collaborative and open environment where the goal is to have a Team that takes data driven feedback from users and constantly iterates the product- while loving to come to work each day to help make getaway travel more hassle free for our users.
Also, in a similar way that Zappos looked at the e-commerce space and saw a glaring unmet need for a better way to buy shoes online and said we are going to own the footwear e-commerce space and everything else is a distraction (at least initially), we have that same cultural mantra about a singular focus on getaway travel and owning that space.
WanderWe has a solid niche, as short duration vacations continue to be popular throughout the recession and anemic recovery. The challenge here is to on-board enough customers to make the business viable model - and perhaps to leverage customer numbers in a move away from any affiliate networks and into direct supplier relationships.
The website is attractive, with a straightforward interface that delivers compelling options for trips. So that's most definitely a plus. Customer service is another area of differentiation, and while we didn't have a chance to experience the full end-to-end user experience, the company must excel here to get those all-important repeat customers. And with short duration vacations, repeat customers will be even more valuable since they likely are planning multiple trips per year.
We'll be watching as the product iterates and the marketing rolls out, to see what approaches the company is using and how successful they are with these approaches.