TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based travel services and transportation platform GoScopia.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
GoScopia creates, aggregates and displays scheduled, unscheduled, public and private modes of transportation around any city, address, geographic coordinates or three-letter IATA codes worldwide.
Search results are weighted and grouped, allowing the user to quickly build customized intermodal itineraries. Current modes include all types of air, rail, bus, shuttles, taxis, limousines, car rentals, motor home (RV) rentals and ferries.
Other services currently included at airports are lounges, parking and Park & Fly hotel packages. We are also working to add cruises, yacht rentals, motorbike rentals, bicycle rentals, hiking trails, scooter rentals for the disabled and free hotel airport shuttles.
So much of online travel is geared toward airlines and rail, yet those are just two of many modes of transportation available to the average traveler.
Our goal is to be able to respond to any travel need, whether it is the type of trip or the type of traveler.
In the first phase of development, we are simply displaying data in a dynamic platform. In phase two, we will be focused on employing our proprietary algorithms to provide customized connections and booking capabilities for the individual traveler.
GoScopia is a product of Scopia Technologies LLC , a travel and transportation software company based in Milwaukee, USA.
Established in 2004, the company provides intermodal trip-planning solutions in the air and on the ground for travelers and other user-types, as well as an inexpensive, global, targeted marketing platform for transportation companies and other travel-related products.
Development of the GoScopia project started in March, 2010.
We have an international team, each with more than 20 years experience in their respective fields. Those fields include travel, travel technology, software development, business development, marketing and advertising.
The ethnic and cultural diversity of the team brings unique perspectives, delivering a tool that works for a wide array of travelers across the globe.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
We are currently funding our operations through personal investments, a small business loan and a few small advertisers.
What problem are you trying to solve?
For most on-line travelers, booking any trip currently requires a time-consuming series of web sites, search engines, e-mails and phone calls.
There is no one site that puts it all together in an easy-to-understand search and booking tool. In addition, other intermodal booking tools are hard-coded while we believe such a system should be extremely dynamic and flexible during the planning and physical travel phases.
Although Scopia Technologies LLC developed the algorithms for one of the world’s first intermodal search engines during 2005-2007, we realized those algorithms would not work without the creation and aggregation of useful and relevant data sources. The team has dedicated much of its time to building the data foundation in order to offer the most comprehensive search capabilities to our customers.
In aggregating the data, we realized three important factors:
- That the display of the data provides a unique marketing opportunity for transportation providers, tourism attractions, accommodations and other travel and tourism services.
- That the data itself could be extremely useful to third parties as a tool to enhance revenues by integrating intermodal solutions and by displaying supplementary services which can be purchased by customers.
- That for many transportation providers who do not have software development staff, we can help them format and aggregate their data for display on GoScopia.com and many other global platforms.
With the data foundation in place, we are focused on creating the connection and booking tools required to truly offer a one-stop travel portal to a worldwide audience.
Describe the business, core products and services?
For travelers: We have created a website which can quickly and simply show users which modes of transportation are available nearby any point (as long as we have it in our data, which is updated continuously).
In a matter of seconds users can answer such questions as: “which airport is nearest to City X and which airlines fly there? How do I get from the airport or the rail station to my final destination? Which local bus company has a stop nearby and what routes are served by that stop?”
When searching the site, users see the transportation solutions displayed and color-coded on a map, as well as a listing below the map of the type of transportation, distance and direction and other information. Proprietary algorithms attempt to make the display as relevant as possible.
GoScopia “clusters” the modes around airports for greater ease of use. If until now users could only see the modes and nodes in a list below the map, now they can see whatever might be available around a particular airport or rail station.
Near an airport, for example, they can see the links for scheduled airlines that fly there, air taxi operators that serve that airport, public transportation, rentals, lounges available at the airport, transfers, parking and airport hotels.
Further, the user can see advertisements for products which may be relevant according to the user’s physical location and/or according to the destination searched. A user from the UK searching a destination in France will see advertisements for UK residents as well as products in France.
For transportation providers and other travel-related suppliers: We have created two very unique “products” for our partners. The first is a global, targeted and inexpensive marketing platform on which our partners can advertise. Partners can choose to advertise only in their respective market(s), only to specific markets or a combination of both.
As in the example above:
Showing a banner only to users in the UK who are searching for a destination in France. Further, since some advertisers wish to show their product in multiple locations worldwide, we have developed a system which helps to easily upload hundreds of location entries in just a few minutes.
The second product for our partners allows them to unify their data with other providers so that they can display their locations, routes and prices as part of our solutions as well as send it off to other trip planning platforms around the world.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
- Travelers (leisure and corporate)
- Travel agents
- Corporate travel managers
- Licensing customers such as transportation providers, airlines, tourism organizations, etc.
Although we had strong customer validation before talking to investors, we didn’t need to bring any of them to the presentations. That is because each and every presentation we made before investors was followed by a procession of investors who just had to tell us how they could have used our trip-planning tool on their last trip.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
The business is transportation geo-location and on-the-go purchasing of travel and tourism products. We hope to achieve revenue from advertising (we already have two paying advertisers), affiliate commissions and licensing fees for use of our API.
Our strategy for profitability is to continuously introduce new and better features, solutions and products. Our site is usable on smart phones and we hope to gain attention for that aspect of our product as well.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- GoScopia.com is the most comprehensive globally oriented tool out there. Our listing of secondary and tertiary services is a differentiator for GoScopia. The ability of GoScopia to weight search returns and cluster the data in a relevant manner. We further believe one of our greatest strengths is our deep understanding of the tourism and travel.
- Cash flow and speed to market. This is a rapidly changing environment and we are limited by our availability of resources.
- The popularity and sustainability of smart phones and other mobile devices create a need for our tool. Travelers’ desire to go beyond major cities and destinations drives the need for intermodal connections to get from one adventure to the next.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- As time goes on, our ideas may be implemented by competitors. We may miss the opportunity of being pioneers in certain areas due to lack of funding or ability to drive development.
Some people said we would never be able to compete with “the big guys” (even though we think “the big guys” might actually be interested in a product like ours).
Others said the plan was just too big. There were those who said we would never be able to collect all the data for all the places to show all the possible solutions.
We didn’t listen to them because that’s how great ideas die and because our experience in travel technology has taught us how to create and find the data we needed. In addition, we were confident in our research and knew those who couldn’t believe in the idea were not seeing the trends and opportunities our research had pointed out.
We also strongly believe our eventual products will surpass anything else out there.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We would like to have at least $100K in revenues from licensing, advertising and commissions by the end of 2011, so that we may speed up development.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.