Carsolize is an Israel-based consolidation and distribution platform for travel brands, which first featured on Tnooz in January 2011 [TLabs Showcase - Carsolize].
So what happened in the intervening 12 months?
Are you making money yet?
Yes! We commenced sales during the pre-release stage, as soon as our demo prototype was ready.
We now have 19 clients on board, as well as an exclusive distributor in the African continent. Our Gross Revenue for 2011 reached US $400K in license sales (not including transactional fees).
What has been the biggest problem - building the product/service or marketing it to consumers/travel industry?
Commencing sales at a pre-release stage required us to find corporate early adopters, in an industry deeply troubled by global financial instability.
We went to great lengths to find those clients, but the investment was well-worth it.
Early adopters enjoyed not only amazingly low licensing costs for a great system, but also were given a unique opportunity to take part in the actual design of the system!
As our system matured and more and more elements went live, the overall uniqueness of our solutions became easier to demonstrate. The audience of potential clients grew, and so are our sales.
Biggest assumption in the business plan that was wrong?
We grossly underestimated the political climate of our industry. Gaining access to some of the resources (suppliers) now available through our system was not only expensive, but also required extensive negotiation and networking.
In a process similar to what we went through with our clients – by demonstrating our system’s capabilities, our suppliers were able to recognize the great potential in cooperation, thereby opening many of the doors we desired to enter.
Is your current customer base as predicted?
While we initially targeted small to mid-size travel agencies in particular countries, some of our clients today are actually major players in their respective markets across the world.
Clients intend to use our:
- API to enhance the range and quality of their product offering
- B2B system to streamline and exponentially grow their distribution network
- B2C plug-ins to rapidly evolve their online presence.
In short, client size, geographical location, and nature of operations turned up to be much more diverse than we initially expected.
Did you achieve your 12 month goals? If not, why not?
It was an absolutely exciting year, wrought with challenges and new discoveries. We’ve had several unexpected achievements, and our goals expanded accordingly:
Has the problem you were trying to solve changed?
- Goal achieved: With 19 clients on board, we reached our financial goals, and expect to reach 250,000 queries/day over the next two months. While the number of clients is less than expected, their magnitude is significantly greater that our original targets.
- Goal achieved: Having connected most of the suppliers we planned for the year – we solidified our ‘Mapping-Normalization’ technology, which is currently Patent Pending.
- Goal achieved: We’ve established the 10-day XML integration capability which today enables us to instantly scale our resource integration. While the typical connection of new XMLs is done upon request by client or supplier – two suppliers have already chosen to become Preferred (Premium) suppliers – JacTravel, and Exclusively Hotels – so that both are always available to our clients at no additional cost.
- New accomplishment: Our sales process changed, with an exclusive distributor running our African sales operations (headed by Mr. Udo Klotz and Tebogo Seagang) – we look forward developing our global network of resellers this year.
- Goal change: Instead of developing social and mobile applications at this stage (there are lots of solutions out there that can take our API and fill their content gap) we enhanced our distribution capabilities, providing clients with important tools to develop sub-agent networks. Some of these elements include multi-level financial controls, per-user B2C booking engine deployment, and sophisticated mark-up capabilities.
No. In fact it got worse: travel operations of all sizes are at a loss as to how to retain their market share, how to effectively connect new resources to their system, and how to effectively grow their distribution network.
Some of our clients were forced to work on 10 different B2B systems in order to offer competitive products!
Access to third party content, the ability to combine it with your own inventory, and the effective distribution of the resulting products across multiple sales channels are key components for any travel operation.
Presently available solutions are either extremely expensive and/or provide only a partial solution to the problem.
Which startup that has launched in the past 12 months did you think "Ah, wish we had done that!"?
Most of the startups launched this year focused on a single simple concept, with their long-term success depending on how long they can stay trendy, useful and relevant).
Our goal is to provide a solid back-bone for travel operations in the form of a powerful technological infrastructure, upon which travel operations of all kinds and sizes can effectively grow their business, taking into three major aspects into account:
- Connectivity to multiple travel resources (suppliers) and their standardization
- Offering a variety of travel products
- Effective sales through multi-channel distribution
No one has dared to undertake such an ambitious development – as it requires substantial funding, an in-depth understanding of the travel industry, and overcoming the considerable barriers to entry that exist in each market.
Moreover, we witnessed large established technology players making initial attempts to enhance their abilities to provide similar blanket solutions.
Our ability to use the latest technologies available, and quickly respond to market needs – gave us a substantial advantage in providing superb and cost effective products.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
“Get the best people you can, whatever their cost”. It was a long process of trial and error, until we got the team we have in place today.
Our ideas could not materialize without the remarkable talent, and out-of-the-box thinking of our people!
NB: Tnooz launched TLab Showcase in March 2010, a dedicated channel to give startups in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector an opportunity to explain their vision, company background and strategy to a wider audience.
As well as publishing an elevator pitch-type questionnaire for each business, Tnooz committed to following up with each startup after 12 months or so to see how well (or not) each performed.
NB2: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.