TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring Singapore-based, conceptual, hyperlocal trip planning service ComeSingapore.
NB: ComeSingapore is appearing at the WITovation Entrepreneur Bootcamp in Singapore on Monday 18 October 2010.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
ComeSingapore is one of the products of Travelogy.com Pte Ltd. The Travelogy team comprises of three working partners and three non-salaried shareholders who are acting as advisors. All of us are degree holders in computer science but have working experience in various different fields.
- Winnie Tan, general manager - Winnie started her career in corporate communications at local statutory board. She then moved on to a highly successful career in the real estate industry, becoming a Sales Director and consistent top achiever in DTZ Debenham Tie Leung. In addition, Winnie has started two businesses, an art gallery and a retail beverage outlet. Both were profitable and were sold off as a going concern. She holds a BSc (Computer Science) from the National University of Singapore.
- Ethel Lee, project manager - Ethel brings 6 years of experience in IT project management, analysis, consultancy and implementation. She has worked in both startup and corporate environments, with local and regional working relationships with clients and vendors from SEA, India, China as well as the United States. She holds a BSc in Information Technology from the University of Wollongong.
- Lee Jia Ray, chief architect - Ray is an experienced web developer and systems architect. He started his career in a web development firm and has completed over 15 projects using open source technologies. He then moved on to be the chief architect of an online motoring classifieds startup, being in charge of development as well as business-IT alignment. Ray holds a BSc in Computing from Monash University.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Eric Koh is CTO and a founding partner of JobsCentral Pte Ltd, a successful Singapore startup turned SME in the business of selling online career media. He is our main mentor, advising us on business and technical issues. He holds a Bsc in Computer Science (Hons) and a MSc in Computing from the National University of Singapore.
- John Yip has an interesting dichotomy of work experience, in software development as well as editorial in magazine and newspaper. He is our content and editorial advisor and he graduated from the University of Warwick with a BSc (Hon) in Computer Science and Business Studies.
- Willy Foo is a serial entrepreneur and a social media enthusiast. He owns businesses in professional photography, events coverage and special interest travel. He lends his experience in entrepreneurship, social media and online marketing to our team.
We have raised Sing $250,000 from our own pockets as initial working capital.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We are trying to solve the problem of the fragmentation of travel resources and tools.
For trip planning, a traveller will need to visit multiple websites to research destination information, read community generated reviews and recommendations and perform bookings.
During the trip, he can use travel guidebooks and mobile apps to help get around. After the trip, he may use online sites to blog about the trip, host photos or videos, and share his travelogue on social networks.
What we want to do is, given a specific travel destination, build a one-stop online portal that will fulfill all the above needs of a traveller by engaging and helping them at every stage of their trip.
By niching to a specific destination, we will be able to provide more localised and in-depth resources and tools compared to other general websites.
By using our destination portal, travellers will enjoy a more personalised travel experience and greater convenience. Futhermore, the portal then becomes a very compelling media platform for the travel industry at the destination to reach out to a highly targeted group of potential customers.
Describe the business, core products and services?
ComeSingapore will be our first implementation of such an above-mentioned destination travel platform.
For the travellers, it will have free and comprehensive travel resources pertaining to visiting Singapore, including content like articles, reviews, recommendations, business & event listings, maps (in the form of editorial, user-generated and ads) and tools like online bookings, itinerary planner, printable pocket guidebook, mobile app etc.
For the businesses in Singapore, we are a powerful media channel they can use to reach out to a highly targeted user group for lead-generation as well as branding. We think our portal will be a lot more effective compared to other ad channels simply because it engages the travellers at many different points of their trip.
If this concept proves to be successful, we plan to extend this platform to cover other similar cities or countries.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our key users to the website will be travellers or would-be travellers to Singapore, especially those who will research online about Singapore prior to their arrival.
On the business side, our customers will include the hotels, restaurants, shopping retailers, casinos, places of attractions, tour agencies, international event organisers and government organisations.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes, you bet we did, since we are technically the investors, and three of us quit our jobs to work on this startup!
We explained our ideas to our overseas and online friends and asked them if they would find such a site useful. We also spoke to people in the tourism industry and successful technopreneurs to pick their brains and refine the business plan.
Most people and businesses we spoke to think ComeSingapore will work as long as we can create real value for travellers by having useful resources and tools and as a result of that plus good marketing, gain enough traffic to make it a viable ad platform.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
In 2010, Singapore projects to have 12 million visitors and tourist receipts to the tune of 18 billion dollars. These numbers are expected to continue growing in the coming years.
ComeSingapore is primarily in the business of selling media space in the travel industry to allow them to reach out to these tourists and their money. We will sell online, mobile and print ad space, business listings, advertorials, priority recommendations, electronic direct mailers etc. to businesses, government bodies and event organisers in the travel and hospitality sector.
We will also earn transaction commissions when users book flights, accommodations, tour packages, rent cars and buy tickets to attractions and events via our portal.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Domain knowledge in online media business.
- Strong technically, able to develop all technologies in-house.
- Strong in online marketing, project management, sales, content generation.
- Team has no direct experience in the travel industry
- War chest could be larger - need to seek second round funding externally
- Trend that more and more travellers are going online for their travel research and bookings
- Trend that more and more travellers are using travel mobile apps when they are at destination
- Trend that businesses are shifting more marketing dollars spend on online media
- Very strong and growing visitor numbers and tourism receipts to Singapore
- Able to replicate this business to other cities and countries outside of Singapore
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Big content and media players like Google and Facebook may come into this niche market
There are always naysayers, usually along the lines of “someone else is already doing this”, or “there isn’t anything ground breaking about this”.
We are not too concerned because we have already decided on a niching strategy to focus on Singapore, for a start. Thus we can take the best of breeds travel technology out there and apply it to the local context to give a more relevant and personalised user experience.
Also, even if ideas are similar, the difference is in the execution, and we are fairly confident of implementing our idea.
It’s always easier to shoot down an idea or reshape another’s vision. But we are a startup and if we don’t have the conviction that our business idea will succeed then we have nothing.
Of course, some points that were brought forward were perfectly valid, and for those, we adjusted our assumptions and plans accordingly.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We have just started operations.12 months from now, we will expect our website to be fully launched with reasonable traffic and some actual media sales.
By validating that the concept works in Singapore, we also hope by then to attract investors to help fund our growth to other cities and countries.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.