TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based trip planning service for web and mobile, Goby.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Goby is an inspiration engine for exploring new things to do with your free time, anything from taking a unique vacation to just finding something fun to do this weekend.
Our search engine and our location-aware iPhone, Android and iPad applications allow you to quickly and easily find nearby activities, make weekend plans or explore a new location with just three taps.
Goby has millions of things to do across 350 categories, ranging from local festivals and events to hiking trails, beaches, restaurants, theatres and even playgrounds.
Goby covers every town and city in the United States, providing a rich set of listings and an interactive map for every category. In addition we give you social tools to save and share your discoveries and itineraries with your network to get recommendations and feedback.
Our team is a mix of legendary computer scientists, search industry executives and travel industry veterans. Our co-founder Mike Stonebraker from MIT has been a pioneer in relational databases for over 25 years, won the IEEE von Neumann medal was recognized by Computer Reseller News as one of the top five software developers of the century.
Our CTO Vince Russo was previously the Chief Architect at Lycos and our CEO Mark Watkins previously led R&D at faceted search pioneer Endeca.
Mike Bennett, our chief revenue officer, was previously General Manager at Cheapflights.com.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Goby is venture backed; our investors are Flybridge Capital Partners and Kepha Partners.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We are trying to help people make the most out of one of their most precious assets – their free time. Finding great things to do is hard – the information is scattered and fragmented.
Search engines don’t really solve the problem – they don’t enable discovery, or even allow browsing. Travel sites tend to focus on hotels and air tickets, often don’t cover more out of the way places, and don’t have access to events and non-business listings like hiking trails.
In contrast goby provides a comprehensive set of content along with an easy, task-centric user interface to help you find great things to do, on the web or on the go on your phone.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Our audience (over 500,000 per month) are focused on doing things. They have strong intent to purchase, transact, or participate. This makes our customers an attractive audience for travel and local advertisers.
In addition, our what/where/when search model on the web, as well as our location-based mobile applications, provide a very high level of targeting, so advertisers can reach the audience they want, at the right time, in the right context.
In addition we provide advertisers the ability to integrate branded, geo-located content directly into our user experience, so that they can participate in much more meaningful way than just running some banners.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Goby’s audience is a broad spectrum of people looking for things to do, both in their hometown, and when they are travelling. We see strong interest concentrations in family-oriented activities, outdoor recreation, sightseeing and tourist spots, and events & music.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We came to the concept behind goby from our own personal experiences. Our ceo Mark missed a Jack Johnson concert in his native Hawaii, and has been regretting it ever since.
The lack of an easy to use, comprehensive way to know “what’s going on” is something all the founders experienced, and we’ve validated that by both talking to “people on the street”, investors and industry analysts.
That gap in the market is an attractive opportunity to build a strong consumer brand and provide value to both individuals as well as advertisers looking to reach targeted audiences in the moment of decision.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
We make money through a combination of affiliate fees we collect from partners with travel or local products to sell, as well as through targeted advertising.
Our platform allows advertisers to reach self-targeted consumers who have expressed interest in certain categories of information – no guessing required. In addition we can target geo-locations on both the web and mobile devices to ensure the highest possible relevance for both consumers and advertisers.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Our strengths are our deep, discoverable hyperlocal content and our clean, elegant user experience. In addition, our platform allows for highly precise ad targeting to travellers or people having a night out on the town at home.
Our weaknesses are that (for the moment) we are US-only (we’re really excited to tackle the rest of the world as soon as we’re able!), and that as a small company we don’t have enormous marketing resources to spread the word, and are reliant on word of mouth.
The opportunity is huge – the travel advertising market is $8 billion a year and the local search advertising market is $14 billion a year. Advertisers are hunting for ways to reach consumers in more effective ways as they make their decisions, and our audience has very strong transactional intent.
While at present none of the big players (Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook or Yelp for example) really tackle this problem, of course a big threat would be that they would do so. But any startup’s biggest threat is simply getting people to know about you.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
Many people told us the problem we were tackling was too hard. The information organization challenge of covering 350 different categories is too big, they said.
We repeatedly got advice to do “just one city”, or “just one category, like music”. Respectfully, we ignored this advice. We’ve got a very strong team of technologists, some great technology from MIT, and were confident we could do it.
And we knew that if we built, say, a great Boston music site, we’d be forever branded as a Boston music site. And our ambitions are much bigger than that 8). We believe this is a problem most everyone has in their day-to-day life, and we want to be the company that solves it.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We are early in both audience development and revenue generation. Even though we have over half a million people a month using our service, we want to get that into the millions in twelve months, as well as developing a scalable, repeatable revenue stream.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.