TLabs Showcase - Off Track PlanetNewsBy Kevin May | November 29, 2010Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based travel guide service Off Track Planet.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?The company:Off Track Planet is the ultimate free, independent travel guide, resource and community for young independent travelers.Developing original high-quality travel content, that resonates with youth lifestyle, surrounded by resources and applications to help users get inspired, plan, budget, manage and share their trips around the world.The project was conceived in Europe and born out of a Backpackers’ Hostel in Brooklyn, NY, at the end of 2009, by a group of young travelers who had life-changing trips abroad, and wanted to inspire and empower youth to travel and experience the world.Our team is a diverse group of young passionate travelers, with complementary skills: Freddie Pikovsky, CEO: Marketing background in the Music Industry in L.A., with experience in companies such as Elektra, Warner and Geffen Records.Diego Saez-Gil, CFO: Finance background, with international experience in companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Altran Consulting and Pluspetrol Energy.Anna Starostinetskaya, editor-in-chief: Editorial & legal background with experience in companies such as Hamburg, Karic, Edwards & Martin, LLP.Lisette Johnson, editor: Editorial background with experience in companies such as the New York Times.Rishe Groner, social media marketing: Marketing background with experience for companies such as Asutralia’s Pacific Brands. Additionally, 14 travel writers, video makers and designers complete the team. Experienced professionals of the travel industry compose the board of advisors.What financial support did you have to launch the business?We received seed funding from family and driends, with which the foundation of the company was developed. Also the co-founders invested their own savings.At the moment OTP is seeking a round from trusted Angel Investors, and simultaneously is establishing contact with Venture Capital firms for a series A to take place in mid 2011.What problem are you trying to solve?Traveling as backpackers ourselves, we discovered a lack of high-quality free information that resonates with our lifestyle and travel-style.We realized the absence of a leading brand in the youth travel segment that can provide us with free high-quality content, and also useful applications and resources to plan and manage our trips around the world in the mobile era.Describe the business, core products and services?We are a digital media business, developing original high-quality travel content, in multimedia format, designed to be mobile, interactive and up-dated.We go all along the way with our users, providing innovative products for the different stages of the travel cycle. In the “dreaming” stage we provide inspirational travel ideas in multimedia format.In the “planning” stage, we provide destinations travel guides and booking services and resources.In the “traveling” stage, we provide ‘on-the-go’ travel guides and mobile applications.In the “retouring” stage we provide community resources and social media integration.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Since launch we have had an astonishing response from users. Right now we have 50,000 unique visitors a month, mainly from the USA.According to our studies, they are mainly 20-30 years old, educated, affluent, media-savvy, independent passionate travelers.About advertisers, we are closing our first deals with relevant players in the youth travel industry, such as Hostelling International and several other hostel chains in Europe and USA.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?We launched a beta site before we received our seed investment and the response in traffic was really good. This market validation gave comfort to our first investors.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?The business model is based in the combination of five elements: High-auality branded content: The main element of our business model is the original high-quality content that our own network of travel writers produces, under specific guidelines of style and branding.Booking and freemium services: Developing the community of users, allow us to provide them booking services through key partnerships, and also our own Premium Services.Social media Integration: A robust integration with social networks like Facebook, allow our users to combine expert content with friend-sourcing on all the stages of the travel cycle.Mobile applications: Mobile Apps allow our users to access to our content on-the-go, but also we provide them with cool resources to help them organize and manage their trips.Complementary ad network: Complementary owned and partner sites, allow us to provide endemic advertisers with a strong communication platform to generate engagement and acquisition.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: A passionate diverse team with complementary skills, that works very well together.A growing network of passionate travel content developers around the world.A profound understanding of the youth travel segment. Weaknesses: Weak brand recognition.Limited resources.Big companies as competitors. Opportunities: Absence of a leading brand developing high quality content for the young independent travelers.Transformation in the print industry.Social-mobile revolution. Threats: Entry of big players to the segment with similar business model.Travel industry affected by global economic conditions.Traffic generation affected by search engine algorithms.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Many people including investors told us (and keep telling), that content and media models are not an interesting business.We think that there is a need that is not properly satisfied in the market, which was a real pain for us as young independent travelers.Also, we see a big transformation in the industry that means an opportunity for new players to come up with solutions that old big companies fail to produce.We listen the advise of everybody, and take it into account, but at the same time, we know that great entrepreneurs don’t follow the path and trust in their visions.What is your success metric 12 months from now?In the following 12 months we will focus strategically in content development, traffic and engagement, and revenue generation.Our success metrics will include: Destinations (we aim to cover 50 destinations)Articles (1000 articles)Traffic (500 unique visitors a month)Engagement (3 page views/visit)Revenue (we prefer not to disclose our revenue objective)NB: Here is a clip to explain more:httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyV6QHL_efINB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.