TLabs Showcase - LocaloNewsBy Kevin May | April 21, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based destination services and social marketplace Localo.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Localo is a social marketplace that allows you to travel like a local, by booking rooms, homes, sofabeds, boats, private islands, whatever!... from locals willing to share them.It is co-founded by: Alberto Saavedra - Beto is the community connector of Localo.com. He has lived and worked in diverse cities like Stuttgart, Seattle, Monterrey and La Paz. Prior to Localo, he spent 3 years as a program manager at Microsoft. He was the only Latin American student which completed successfully Google’s first Summer of Code in 2005.Alexander Torrenegra - Alexander is a serial and parallel entrepreneur who loves the reverse auction concept (bootstrapped Voice123.com) and founded Torrenegra Labs, a creative incubator. Prior to his ventures, he has worked for a vacation rental directory (rentalo.com)Leonardo Suarez - Leonardo is a business developer focused on “what’s next”, he co-founded Element Group, a consulting company focused on new media ventures; Bogotech, an unconference and networking meeting for Bogota’s internet tech community; and HubBOG, Bogota’s first co-working space for Internet companies.What financial support did you have to launch the business?No external financial support yet, we are currently self-funded.What problem are you trying to solve?Social web technologies are empowering customers and the travel industry is no stranger to this trend.More and more travellers are not satisfied with vanilla experiences when staying at hotels and want to experience cities like locals, so they need a trustworthy platform where they can connect with locals and stay with the adequate one.Describe the business, core products and services?Localo is looking to disrupt the travel industry by introducing a semi-transparent reverse auction model which brings clarity and efficiency to the where-to-stay decision making process (travelers tell us what they want, get personalized offers, and book).Travelers search for places to stay in their next travel destination using our platform and submit their requirements in an itinerary which is forwarded to real locals nearby the location searched.These hosts – the localos – compete to provide the adequate personalized offer for the traveler. If travelers find a place which they love at first sight, they can book immediately given the lodging is available in the desired dates.And, when the time to travel arrives, they are ready to have fun doing what locals do!Localos can list their properties with sufficient detail for free, helping travelers make informed selections when searching for accommodations.They can even set their rates and manage their availability in our flexible system. Locals charge travelers directly and only pay commissions when travelers have booked and paid!Our service is backed by our 120% Happiness Guarantee and we offer human assistance.Who are your key customers and users at launch?We are trying to build the ideal service for travelers who want to avoid the tourist traps and are looking to connect with locals who will provide unique insider tips about the destination they are visiting.The localos are hosts who enjoy meeting new people and want travellers to stay in their bed & breakfast, boarding house, cabin, chalet, cottage, villa, bungalow or are willing to share their apartment, condo, flat or even private home.Travelers and localos match their needs in our social marketplace.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?Our innovation has been under validation by a sister site within the traditional hotel marketplace.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?We charge a commission to the lodging after a successful booking has been completed. We are actively exploring partnerships with travel providers who would like to use our technologies with their brands.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: The technology - a powerful engine which can be used by any real local as their online booking platform, the semi-transparent reverse auction marketplace - which helps travelers get personalized offers from localos. Weaknesses: As a marketplace, our main challenge is to reach a level of critical mass to succeed for both sides of the market: travelers and local hosts. Opportunities: Within the non-traditional lodging markets, online vacation rentals are less than 20% of the total and the business keeps booming, while other long tail lodgings are waiting for the adequate online booking marketplace to join. Threats: Local regulations related to short-term sublets.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Our patent lawyer. We didn’t listen to him because... well... he is our lawyer.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Our current success metric is to have both localos and travelers happy! NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.