TLabs Showcase - Inspire2GoNewsBy Kevin May | November 30, 2010Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Canada-based travel guide and ideas site Inspire2Go.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Inspire2go is an inspirational travel planning website that uses a personalized recommendation engine to help travellers discover new places that match their unique taste.Inspire2go was founded by Bob McCallum and Brad Forsyth. Bob has been a CEO, senior manager and strategy consultant to more than 20 software, web, and consumer products companies, spanning online travel, language technology, specialized search engines, and enterprise software.Brad also has over 20 years of senior management experience, including founding and leading one of Canada's 20 largest software companies, Mxi Technologies. Brad is a board director and advisor to several early stage technology companies.What financial support did you have to launch the business?The company has been boot-strapped with founder investment and sweat equity.What problem are you trying to solve?The online travel planning experience remains fragmented and frustrating, particularly for physically and culturally active travellers seeking experiences off the beaten track that match their unique interests and tastes.Since many unique places are buried in the search long tail, discovering a previously unknown destination, hotel or attraction is a difficult process of hunting through an overwhelming amount of biased or irrelevant information from dozens of guides and online travel sites that mainly cover the same limited set of over-crowded destinations.Describe the business, core products and services?Inspire2go is a social travel planning platform that helps you discover great new places that match your unique taste, whether you're looking for a restaurant across town, a hotel in a specific neighbourhood, a hiking trail nearby or a destination far away.Inspire2go's Travel Discovery Engine learns your taste when you rate the places you've been to. It then uses the ratings from the most like-minded people to generate your personalized recommendations of places to go and things to do.Inspire2go's members add new places, ratings, reviews, photos, videos and "Top 10" lists that help each other explore on and beyond the beaten path.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Leisure travellers in the inspirational phase of planning trips and Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) interested in showcasing their unique experiences and being discovered by new travellers with an affinity for their place.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?We conducted formal usability testing with consumers and market research surveys with DMOs.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?Affiliate advertising for travel services and recommendation engine licensing to other web and technology companies.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Startup management experience; depth of backend technical expertise; proprietary recommendation engine; a flexible, scalable platform to evolve the service upon. Weaknesses: Lack of ratings data at the outset to drive recommendation engine; limited resources constrain growth Opportunities: Rapid growth through viral nature of Top 10 list voting and recommendations; strategic partnerships with major online travel players who need to increase loyalty and attract/engage travellers early in the inspirational phase of trip planning Threats: The introduction of competing services by Google and major online travel playersWho advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Response to the original idea and the actual service has been overwhelmingly positive.There are always naysayers but we gathered enough feedback and data, along with our decades of startup experience, to be confident in the opportunity and our approach.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Traffic levels and conversion rates to attract significant investment and an ongoing quarterly growth rate of at least 100%.NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.