TLabs Showcase - CruiseLabsNewsBy Kevin May | May 5, 2010Share This article was originally published on TLabs focus on startups featuring Texas, US-based CruiseLabs.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?CruiseLabs is a cruise technology company creating cruise booking and marketing solutions in line with the needs of internet-savvy travel retailers. Our approach is to provide solutions that drive traffic to cruise web sites and convert online customers into buyers with a next-generation online cruise booking application called NexWav.Finally, we recognize that a large segment of those shopping for cruises online still want to be guided by a professional cruise consultant. Using an intelligently designed online chat and co-browsing tool, we can drive-up overall booking conversion rates.NexWav is designed to meet the needs of all major distribution channels powering travel agency cruise web sites (ASP), a travel agent cruise booking tool (B2B) and as a private label cruise booking engine.CruiseLabs is led by Paul Jenkins and David Tossell. Paul oversees the technology platforms and is a veteran of Travelocity, the original Southwest.com (iflyswa.com) and was a principal in several non-travel startup companies.David oversees the marketing, business development and fulfilment operations and is a 15+ year travel industry veteran having got his start as his family travel agency in the early 90s and working in leadership positions at Sabre, Travelocity & Virtuoso.What financial support did you have to launch the business?CruiseLabs received its seed capital from friends and family angel investors.What problem are you trying to solve?We aim to deliver a rich online cruise shopping experience (HD video, interactive deck plans, cruise chat with a professional agent) that motivates the online travel consumer to make their cruise purchase online.Describe the business, core products and services?At the heart of CruiseLabs is the NexWav platform. NexWav is our hub that houses the cruise booking engine, real-time direct connectivity to cruise lines via XML, a state of the art price caching system and a search-engine optimized web site builder.The technology foundation is in the Microsoft .NET platform, and, the cruise booking application is written in Microsoft Silverlight. The NexWav cruise booking engine was featured in the product showcase of Microsoft’s Silverlight.net web site and received a 4 out of 5 star user rating.On the services side, CruiseLabs provides consulting to online cruise retailers. To support the private label cruise booking engine, we provide fulfilment services via our retail travel agency and call center.Who are your key customers and users at launch?CruiseLabs is still in its incubation stage and has its pilot web site at FunCruiseDeals.us. The site is optimized for natural search serves as a test platform for the NexWav cruise booking application.When launched, CruiseLabs will work with travel agencies and online marketers looking for a better online cruise booking platform than what is currently in the market today.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?No.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?The business model is diverse as CruiseLabs will license an ASP product to online travel retailers as well offer a transactional model for a private label business. From a revenue standpoint, the income from operations will be derived from recurring licensing fees, transaction-revenue and advertising revenue.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Next generation cruise booking technology. A diversified product offering (ASP and private label). Very low cost structure / overhead. Weaknesses: We are a young company with a breakthrough product – winning business from entrenched competition is always a challenge. Opportunities: Cruise is a growing market with tremendous upside potential to see more bookings shift from offline channels to online. Many online retail experts have stayed out of online cruise in favor of car and hotel – they are looking for a better cruise product than what is currently available. Threats: The market has few competitors and the current number is customers is also low. Current competitors could get very aggressive on price to keep from losing their customers.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Surprisingly, there have been no naysayers in the process. Those who are “in the know” on the online cruise market have enthusiastically supported our vision to bring a better cruise booking engine to the marketplace.The biggest concern has been over the timing of launching of a startup company – we started during the peak of the global financial crisis. This has certainly hurt our efforts to gain access to incremental investment funding, but, we feel optimistic that conditions will get better, and, the growth in our company during this time will prove that we will be successful in the long run.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Our key success metric will be in the footprint of the number of cruise retail web sites that we power and the traffic that comes across our platforms. Additionally, we monitor daily our position in natural search keywords / traffic and will look to increased growth over time of traffic from natural search.TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.To be featured as a startup in TLabs Showcase or to demonstrate a new product, email Tnooz for more details.