TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring Singapore-based adventure travel site Fobo [Forget Boundaries].
NB: Fobo is appearing at the WITovation Entrepreneur Bootcamp in Singapore on Monday 18 October 2010.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Forget Boundaries Pte Ltd (Fobo), is an early stage venture (2010) with a Web 2.0 travel platform that provides users with a selection of travel activities and tours which are presented to encourage more eco-friendly and socially responsible trips.
Our vision is to inspire change and empower youth to travel in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner.
The management team is made up of four passionate and motivated individuals of different expertise and knowledge. Bounded by the same vision, these intellectually strong talents are committed to making this venture a success.
An important attribute of the management team is that all the directors have very strong business background, especially the two founders, Aadil Dafir and Zafirah Idris who has been awarded the Top Sales Achiever by Prudential and has attended many entrepreneurship/business seminars by notable individuals, respectively.
They have acquired essential skills such as financial management, business development and risk management.
The other two directors, Syazanah Haniff and Adeline Liew, have strengths and experience in the areas of marketing and communications, having interned and worked for notable companies such as IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Singapore Airlines.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Fobo was a semi-finalist in two business plan competitions in Singapore: Ideas Inc Business Challenge and Statup@Singapore 2010.
From the former, we were entitled to a funding amount of up to S$15,000 to develop our prototype. In May 2010, Fobo was granted the YES! Grant of $50,000 from SPRING Singapore.
In addition, Fobo was recently offered an investment amount of S$100,000 from a venture capitalist.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Pre-planned itineraries are seldom favoured.
Majority of young travellers care about the impact of their travels and have the intention of becoming responsible tourists but there is no convenient platform which consolidates relevant information and allows them to plan and book their trips.
While most brick-and-mortar and online travel agents provide pre-fixed packages, Fobo gives its users complete convenience, flexibility and control in planning for their trips.
We acknowledge that youth generally have positive attitudes towards responsible travel and demand for it. However, success in planning a responsible trip may not be guaranteed because of their imperfect knowledge of the 'greener' options available to them.
By aggregating all the travel activities and tours from big industry players to small and medium enterprises on Fobo, our users will be able to view and compare all the available options under one roof.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Fobo’s online travel platform aims to cultivate the culture of responsible travel to all users. We aggregate a selection of activities and tours that falls under the six categories of T R A V E L:
- T - Teach
- R - Recreation
- A - Adventure
- V - Volunteer
- E - Eco-conservation
- L - Lifestyle and culture.
Fobo ranks all the featured activities/tours on a grading system which favours environmentally and/or socially responsible operators. This ranking system ensures that users are provided with responsible travel options conveniently laid out for them.
Aside from the travel activities and tours, Fobo aims to inspire youth travelers to become more responsible tourists via featured short stories on the local communities they visit. The website is carefully designed to appeal to our target market and enhance their user experience.
Various features, like our itinerary planner, provide the user with an interactive, yet convenient way of planning their trips. With the advent of social networking among youth, users will also be able to share his itinerary with his friends on Facebook and other social networking sites once it has been confirmed.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Our primary target market is youth of the ages 18 to 35.
For the first year after launch, we will concentrate our marketing efforts on the Singapore market, building brand awareness and market presence.
This will include local youth, students on exchange programs and youth backpackers arrivals in Singapore.
We have an active Facebook page on http://www.facebook.com/forgetboundaries.fans. We have also spoken to youth from the local universities and other youth organisations who are keen on exploring and using the website.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Using our Facebook fanpage and our connections with the various educational institutions and youth organisations, we received feedback from our potential users and customers.
We conducted surveys and roadshows to better understand the needs of our target market. The information gathered was used in our development of the idea, further improving it from what we originally began with.
All these were done before we approached any investors with our idea.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
The Fobo platform is free for all users. Fobo’s revenue streams come from the commissions paid by our partners from the sales of travel activities, receipts from the sale of travel merchandise, and advertising revenue.
The addressable market for the first three years of operations include the internet-enabled youth market in geographical segments such as Singapore, USA, UK, Australia, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Globally youth travellers make up about 160 million international tourist arrivals a year. This market segment is worth an estimated US$136 billion.
Youth travellers spend more than any other tourist groups - at US$2600 per trip. This is expected to grow by 8% yearly. The market size is poised to increase by 3-5% per year for the next 5 years.
Some factors causing this trend include the greater number of low-cost carriers and the rise in educational travel among youth.
80% of young travellers use the internet to search for information and 50% of this market book their travel or accommodation with specialist youth travel agencies.
More than 42% of youth express the desire to help people and to contribute to the development of the places they visit.
Current world leaders in youth travel are STA Travel and EF, followed by other giant players such as Contiki Holidays. They share the space with a large number of small and medium enterprises and online travel agents.
However, Fobo plans to working with these big players, rather than against them. Fobo aims to act as an online distribution channel for these world leaders who primarily have brick-and-mortar business models.
Fobo prides itself on collecting and presenting a high quality database of travel activities and tours for our users.
Fobo ensures this by maintaining personal contacts with all individual operators featured on our travel platform. With our emphasis on encouraging responsible travel habits, Fobo hopes to guide users to put together a socially and environmentally responsible trip.
Fobo has a very strong management with extensive experiences in corporate relations, marketing and business development. All of these are essential to ensuring that the right deals are made for our users.
We will continually add applications to improve the user functionality of the travel platform, such as having an itinerary planning tool which users can use to conveniently plan the layout of their trip.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
Very few people have told us that the idea isn’t going to be successful. The common issue we faced, before launch, was getting activity/tour operators to understand our business model, how the transactions would work and how it will benefit them.
We have also received advice, from a few seasoned entrepreneurs, to constantly keep our users engaged by ensuring that we keep up the novelty factor on our website by adding relevant applications periodically.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
By the end of our first year of operations, we aim to have captured 0.2% of the youth travel market in Singapore, which would translate to about 1,050 successful transactions on our website. We will also be expanding the range of destinations offered on our website.
We also hope to launch Fobo as a mobile application, freely available to all mobile phone users who log on to Wireless@SG on their mobile phones.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.