Groupize is an US-based group travel planning platform, which first featured on Tnooz in November 2010 [TLabs Showcase - Groupize].
So what happened in the intervening 12 months?
Are you making money yet?
Three months after launching the new site, we did a pivot and decided to focus on a larger opportunity.
We opted to stay in the group space and focus on building the first fully automated group hotel booking engine for 5+ rooms, which will launch in February 2012. Groupize ended up doing a few million dollars in group revenues in 2011 on the legacy group product and is now profitable.
What has been the biggest problem - building the product/service or marketing it to consumers/travel industry?
The biggest problem has been raising money as a non-technical CEO for this new venture.
Although we had an existing business, the right team in place and a good grasp of the opportunity, VCs and Angels weren’t ready to believe in us. They wanted us to prove the technology first, which we now have done.
Biggest assumption in the business plan that was wrong?
Last year’s model was based on our available resources at the time. We were going to offer a semi-automated lead generation process to handle group business, which probably wouldn’t have worked.
We have re-tooled and are re-launching with a fully automated and scalable model for the planner and the suppliers (hotels).
Is your current customer base as predicted?
From a business development standpoint, we are seeing encouraging interest for our upcoming white label application of the group hotel booking engine.
We will start to get real data on consumers and bookings trends once we go live in February.
Did you achieve your 12 month goals? If not, why not?
We achieved our goals for the legacy product, but not the goals we listed in the original TLabs article, due to our new focus on the group hotel booking engine as mentioned.
Has the problem you were trying to solve changed?
The problem hasn’t changed. Small groups is a $31 billion market that is offline and broken. Planner and hotels want more efficient tools than RFPs, emails and group desks.
A year later, Facebook and Google+ now offer better tools that we are integrating in our social sharing component.
Which startup that has launched in the past 12 months did you think "Ah, wish we had done that!"?
The group space is still where we want to be, but I have to admit Airbnb caught me off-guard. I didn’t think the model would work, but I guess I was proven wrong.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
A startup is all about uncertainty and learning. I guess not being able to raise money originally forced us to scale down the product to an MVP (Most Viable Product) and to find solutions to raise our own funds.
Fortunately, we still own 100% and are in a much better position now that we’ve proven the technology and are about to prove the demand.
I now realize there’s no shame in bootstrapping until it is really necessary to scale up.
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.