Launched in 2021, Govy is an all-in-one vacation platform that curates weekend getaways for spontaneous travelers.
The Austin, Texas-based company is building a community of travelers and actively engaging customers in product development.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
Did you know taking more weekend getaways has been linked to a wealth of benefits, including improved mental health, happiness and life satisfaction? But booking travel usually requires opening a million browser tabs and tons of time, and everything is disorganized once booked. Govy helps spontaneous travelers close the gap between the joys of a weekend getaway and the struggle of organizing it. Think of us as your weekend travel agent genie in a bottle.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
From a business standpoint, our goal is to deliver the same quality of vacation curation as a travel agent, but at scale and without any additional fees or time spent on the phone and email. We deal directly with our suppliers and earn a commission on each transaction at no extra cost to our customers.
Our technology provides travel agent curation and personalization by:
Collecting first-party (1P) data from our suppliers and our apps;
Stitching travel content and social data to develop a unified view of ideal weekend trips filled with hidden gem destinations and experiences;
Enriching the data through human curation and merging collected 1P data with additional 3P data from proprietary and public sources;
Refreshing dynamic trip profiles based on near-real time analysis of data streams.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
Strengths: Our team combines not only leading expertise and experience in applied, real-world advanced analytics across a wide range of industries, products and services, but also consumer branding and marketing skills from the world's most reputable ad agencies. We’ve created a system of advanced analytics with a focus on integrating unique data sources to offer a new type of inspiration, planning and booking experience in travel with a simplified user experience.
Weaknesses: We are a new travel business with limited industry expertise. We’re learning and exploring new methods to innovate, but we’re still getting to know this massive industry.
Opportunities: The pandemic was a temporary event, but the disruption it caused (i.e., remote work) has resulted in a permanent shift in how people think about vacations. People can take more weekend getaways while avoiding the backlog of emails and catch-up meetings that results from the one- to two-week PTO burn. We’re capitalizing on the niche weekend getaway opportunity and building THE platform for curated weekend trips.
Threats: We’re introducing a new way to plan and navigate trips that will be unlike anything else on the market. Despite the lack of customization, our goal is to make the trips so turnkey and curated with hidden gems that you won’t want to change a thing.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
When it comes to weekend getaways, we take care of all the specifics for our customers. No more looking for answers to questions like, “When is the best time to visit Hawaii?” or “What are the best Asheville hidden gems?” or “Where is the confirmation code for that flight?” We offer complete ease, expert curation and organization of all your weekend getaways. Our mission is to make vacation planning a joy, using technology to translate feelings into an action in the simplest and most beautiful way possible.
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If you’ve visited one travel site, you’ve visited them all. It's what we call a “pull” system. A traveler enters the dates, where they want to leave from, and where they want to go, and then the system pulls in all the details to organize their trip. We’re implementing a new system in which we design each trip package and "push" it to our consumers through a visual feed similar to a social media platform. Essentially, the look-to-book ratio for the travel sector has been streamlined.
So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
We don’t just want people to use the platform to make purchases. We want to create a community of spontaneous travelers who want to discover all the weekend getaway hidden gems that aren’t available anywhere else. With more than 4,000 followers and tremendous engagement, we’re just getting started on TikTok. From here, we’ll keep improving the product based on real-time input. We are actively involving our customers in product development and creating the platform they want. We’ll soon be offering incentives for sharing travels with others to incorporate virality directly into the product.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We created the business after experiencing the agony of spending four days trying to plan a four-day vacation. We found that most people felt the same way after conducting initial research and some preliminary surveys. As a result, we began talking to potential customers and developing low-fidelity prototypes. We went through multiple iterations before writing any code to ensure that we were creating something that people genuinely needed.
The most important lesson we learned is that, in terms of well-being, these mini-breaks work wonders because they eliminate many of the complications that arise when organizing longer vacations. You’re probably burning up a significant portion of your paid time off (assuming you're even able to be away for this long), not to mention the expense of such a trip and the mountain of work that will have piled up upon your return.
The opportunity? There are 1.9 billion leisure trips taken each year in the United States and nearly eight in 10 (78%) are four days or less.
How and when will you make money?
We’re currently flying out of Austin, Texas, and have generated revenue from this test. Our revenue comes primarily from commissions with our suppliers.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Justin Johnson, CEO, is a former consumer marketer who traveled to more than 15 countries while working with clients like M&Ms, Snickers, SC Johnson, Bud Light and Disney. Justin graduated from Northwestern University with a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, with a concentration on consumer insights and strategy. He is a licensed travel agent as well as a serial entrepreneur.
Alex Castrounis, CTO/CPO, is a former INDYCAR engineer, race strategist and data scientist as well as the author of AI for People and Business. He is an adjunct at Northwestern University’s Kellogg/McCormick MBAi program, teaching applied AI for business. Alex has spent the last two decades advising businesses of all sizes - from startups to Fortune 100s - on how to use data, analytics and technology to drive business and customer success.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
We’re building our team with diversity and inclusion at the forefront. Our goal is to have as many different perspectives as possible within the company so that we can provide the best possible service to our customers. Travel is undergoing a huge shift, and if diversity and inclusion are not priorities for everyone, the sector as a whole will suffer.
What has been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
It’s been a wild ride so far. After emerging from a travel recession caused by the pandemic, there is now discussion of an economic slump. With so much macro uncertainty, it has made fundraising tough. Even still, people need vacations - possibly now more than ever to help relieve stress. So that’s what we keep an eye on: making sure people can easily find some time to relax and recharge.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact. Why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
We’re not trying to beat the incumbents at their own game; we’re a first mover in the new world of travel. We’ve identified an underdeveloped niche in weekend getaways and curated experiences. We have an ability to build innovation at the core versus retrofit legacy systems with upgraded systems and UX. Most importantly, we’ve involved our customers in almost every part of the product development process.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
In this new era of travel, we’re only scratching the surface. We want to fully reimagine the antiquated concept of vacation packages so that our content is optimized and our customers can find what they’re looking for at the exact right place and time. There are a lot of possibilities in areas like transportation and accommodations, but our primary focus will be on our ability to not just identify hidden gem experiences, but also book and secure everything you need for a spectacular vacation in a couple swipes. These aren’t going to be the vacation packages you’re used to seeing!
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc)
Our primary goal is to ensure that our consumers are satisfied and have a unique travel experience. As a company, we want to make sure we’re growing, but our ultimate objective is to build something that solves a real need in the travel industry.