TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based social trip planning site Gogobot.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Gogobot founders Travis Katz, CEO, and Ori Zaltzman, CTO, are executives instrumental in the success of some of the largest social platforms on the internet, including Myspace and Yahoo! Answers that reach a combined 350 million visitors per month.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Travis Katz built and launched the international business for MySpace in 30 different countries growing the user base from zero to nearly 70 million.
- Ori Zaltzman was the chief architect of the second generation of Yahoo! Boss and built Yahoo! Answers, which has 150MM users and recently surpassed one billion questions and answers.
Gogobot is financially backed by some of the brightest minds in technology, including its lead investor, Battery Ventures, along with the following investors: Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe. Slide GM Keith Rabois, and angel investor Oren Ze’ev.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Gogobot is about helping people connect with friends, not strangers, to create and share extraordinary travel experiences. In the past, online travel was a sea of frustration where you may have to spend hours on the Internet looking for that shard of information that’s relevant for you.
Even if you posted a travel question to your friends on Facebook, you would still have to go to 20 different sites to research what people recommended.
What Gogobot has done is it allows your friends to bring that relevant information right to you. Gogobot is different from other travel planning sites that claim to have a social component because Gogobot is connecting you with friends and people like you for travel advice and providing all the necessary research that goes with your friends’ recommendations such as maps, pictures, pricing and descriptions.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Gogobot makes it easy for people to tap into their online personal networks via Facebook and Twitter to get travel advice from the people they know and trust, rather than from strangers.
According to eMarketer, people prefer travel advice from friends and family almost twice as much as advice from any other source – more than guidebooks, travel agents, and travel review sites.
Imagine you were planning a trip to the Caribbean, would you rather ask some guy on the street or get advice from a friend who’s been there before? Gogobot is based on the knowledge that people prefer travel advice from friends, not strangers. Travelers can use Gogobot in three key ways:
1. Solicit personalized travel advice from friends, family and people with similar interests.
- Travelers can go to Gogobot to query friends for trip advice via their personal networks on Facebook, Twitter and email, and in just two clicks have an entire trip itinerary planned.
- Gogobot saves travelers from the hassle of further researching the advice of friends and family by providing maps, links, descriptions and booking information for all the places recommended to them.
- With just one click, Gogobot lets people download their trip plan to a mobile device to take it traveling with them.
2. Document and share travel experiences.
- Gogobot.com has a special section called Passports where people can document what they’ve done on a trip like a virtual scrapbook of their favorite travels.
- Gogobot users can browse their friends’ Passport pages to get insight and advice or find inspiration for their next vacation.
3. Journal trips and favorite spots in real time.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
- Travelers can use a mobile device “on the go” to capture favorite places and sights on their travels so it’s not forgotten.
Gogobot is a mass market product. Everybody travels and experiences the pain of making the right decisions for their trips, whether you’re a business traveler or a parent traveling with kids, anyone could benefit from the advice of friends who know their personal interests.
Gogobot’s early users will of course be those who already use social networks.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Travis Katz had the idea for Gogobot when he was living in London, working for MySpace. While he was there he liked to take is family on weekend trips to explore other parts of Europe.
He found to his surprise that figuring out where to go and what to do in a new place using the Internet was like finding a needle in a haystack.
The internet was cluttered with hundreds of sites offering conflicting advice and finding advice suited to his personal interests was time consuming and difficult. Travis recognized that when he could find a person who had been to the place he was going, the planning process suddenly became much easier.
It was then that he knew if he could build a site that would let users tap into their existing online networks to help plan trips, it would do most travelers a great service.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Gogobot’s business model is similar to a traditional travel planning site where it makes money through lead generation. So if someone decides to book something recommended through Gogobot by a friend, then that site will pay Gogobot for that lead.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Gogobot’s proprietary social recommendation engine will allow people to plan a trip in minutes, versus the hours they typically spent in the past. The evolution of the Web to a more social, personalized experience means the time is ripe for a product like Gogobot.com - the site is built explicitly from the ground up to leverage existing social networks for travel planning and sharing in a highly user friendly way.
- A lot of travel sites are now claiming that they offer social site integration so educating the marketplace on the Gogobot difference is a priority for us. From what we’ve seen, other sites that have some social component still leave the traveler to sort through the advice of friends manually and to do their own research, which takes a lot of time. Gogobot is different because it’s doing all the research for the traveler so they can focus on the fun part – creating an extraordinary vacation!
- US consumers spend $112 billion annually on online travel and $15 billion is spent on travel related advertising.
Who advised you your idea wasn’t going to work and why didn’t you listen to them?
- The travel industry recognizes that social disruption is here so online travel sites will be looking for new ways to tap into this market.
No one. We’ve had very positive and enthusiastic responses about the idea of Gogobot.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Gogobot hasn’t set a numeric target. Right now the company is focused on building the best possible user experience. If people have a good experience then they will tell others and you will see it in Gogobot’s growth rates.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.