TLabs Showcase - Insider TripsNewsBy Kevin May | May 9, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based travel deals platform Insider Trips.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?I (Christopher Stuart) have a very extensive background in different types of industries. I've built several websites in the past; some which were profitable, some which brought in some decent income for me. I'm kind of like a jack of all trades...I can do some design, some programming, very experienced in search engine optimization.But aside from web stuff, i've worked in finance for most of my adult life, achieving several very distinguished designations in the financial community. I think I bring an entrepreneurial mindset, with the balanced approach of someone who has very good analytical skills.My sales director has spent his career in travel sales. He knows the ins and out of the travel industry and has been a very important resource for me as we build the business. He has worked in sales for the Las Vegas Hotel industry, as a group travel manager for several cruise lines, and as the manager of a travel agency in Boston. His experience along with my business acumen, and startup knowledge makes for a great team.What financial support did you have to launch the business?All self financed thus far, so no outside investors... Mostly a lot of blood, sweat and tears to this point. But seriously, we’ve been working day and night for the last six months to get going, and not sure if you want to count the time spent on the previous version of the site but probably a similar amount of time.What problem are you trying to solve?Let’s face it, the old school options for travel websites have become somewhat stale to today’s user. Big sites such as Priceline, Orbitz and Travelocity provide users with too many options.Our goal with InsiderTrips is to offer users substantial savings on only a few "Select" deals, encouraging users to purchase a trip they may have not otherwise considered.These sites are meant to be the one stop shopping source for someone looking for travel. Our site is different. We only have five to seven deals running at once.So if someone doesn't like what we have, yes they will likely go somewhere else. But our difference is that we are also trying to sell an "experience". Not just a hotel room, but a hotel room, with dinner, an activity, maybe a tour of whatever region they are going to. And all of this at a price they cannot find anywhere else.Most likely you have heard of this concept before; however, InsiderTrips aims to become a stand out in the social-buying industry. We focus solely on travel, as opposed to other providers which also cater to restaurants, retailers and non-travel related products.Our motivation is strictly travel and we avoid offering deals that will suit any current need to drive new business..Describe the business, core products and services?Insider Trips offers exclusive deals on hand-picked properties through partnerships with establishments such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, inn's, activity providers, etc. Deals are offered on our website for a limited timeframe (typically 14 days) in order to promote impulse buying.Our service offers an efficient and cost effective way to bring new customers to a company's doorstep and capitalize on filling vacancies when they need it most.The Insider Trips team offers a personal touch, working to build a brand and tailor a package which will garner the most attention. Deals are released to our band of loyal subscribers; people who are very interested in travel and have a likelihood of buying on the spot.However the immediate rewards do not stop there! Given that thousands of our subscribers are extremely active in the social community it creates a great word of mouth buzz; tapping into clientele that would be impossible to reach otherwise.There are no obligations or fees in order to place a deal on our site. If we reach an agreement to post a deal and for some reason, it doesn’t sell any packages, the vendor owes us nothing. The only thing that we lose is our time in listing and posting the deal.Charges are only incurred based on the number of deals sold (a commission rate which compares very favorably to many competitors).Who are your key customers and users at launch?Women tend to be more of our ideal demographic, but also men. Young professionals from 25 to 40, college educated with jobs earning greater than $60,000 a year.We had the site active for about a year previous to our new launch, so we built up a decent subscriber base.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?In my attempts at contacting vendors, there is a LOT of interest from travel suppliers looking to post deals on our site. These vendors use many different options for advertising, and there is a lot of money to be spent.We aim to only capture a portion of this huge industry; an amount which would still be a considerable amount of revenue.In my discussions with these travel suppliers, there is a lot of interest in dealing with a person who can actually help them make money on this sort of promotion. The big deals websites demand exorbidant fees and while they may be able to promise a lot of visitors, in the long run it ends up hurting the small business.We work hand in hand with the owners, trying to figure out what sort of margins work for them (remember i'm a finance guy!) and how we can still make the deal a success, while also making sure it is profitable. Almost all are receptive to our ideas for them, and appreciate the opportunity to speak with someone who will actually try to help the business succeed and not take half of the profits.Also, as evidenced by our large following on Twitter and Facebook, there is definitely an interest from a consumer standpoint. People are always looking for deals, especially on travel.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?We take a share of the revenue generated on each travel package sold. We cannot discuss the specifics of this, for competitive reasons.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: I think it comes down to hard work, believing in our business, trying to be one of the first to market, trying to be extremely active in the social community, trying to be as honest and reliable as we can be. One thing i've told my partner, is that I don't want to sell any hotel deals which have poor reviews online. I only want to sell the best. I want to lead on quality but also on price. Weaknesses: Our team is still relatively small: me, director of sales, and two others...so we are dwarfed by many big companies. But I’d rather start small then expanding too much too soon. Opportunities: It's a big industry, one that is still growing tremendously. I think I can get market share from a lot of the big travel sites. Online global distribution systems account for $270 billion in revenue. If I can capture 0.001% of this business we're talking about $27 million in revenue. I think that's a lofty yet attainable goal. Threats:Of course the main threat is competition. Many of the new travel sites and tools that I’ve seen are impressive! I think there is plenty of room for more competition...and i’m sure there will be consolidation along the way.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?A few travel folks - hotel owners - who said they couldn’t work with us because we do not use a reservation system. We understand that a lot of the big corporate hotels won’t be able to work with us because of this, but we're okay with this.What is your success metric 12 months from now?I’d like to at least hit £2 million in sales over the next 12 months. If we can do that, and build our brand at the same time, then i’d be extremely happy.We want customers to think of our company when they want to get away--and by providing travelers with a great product at a very good price, I think we can achieve that. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.