TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring US-based holiday property management site Timeshare Juice.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
My name is Erick Arndt. I was a management and technology consultant for Accenture and Ernst & Young Management Consulting for many years, helping Fortune 500 implement technology and save money and time.
I am also a timeshare owner for 14 years. I like traveling with my timeshare but got fed up with the never ending fees and poor service from my timeshare exchange service. I also found out the exchange service was ripping off timeshare owners.
Tired of complaining about it, I decided to use my savings to launch a free website for the millions of timeshare owners around the world to trade timeshares with each other for no fees at all.
Not only do owners LOVE the free trading but the ability to read resort reviews written by other owners is allowing owners to get “real” reviews of resorts not just rely on the paid-for reviews that they get today.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
What problem are you trying to solve?
Describe the business, core products and services?
- Today, there are over 6.5 million timeshare owners. Each has the right to trade their “time” or “week” with another owner so that each can travel to different resorts for vacation.
- For that privilege, my competition charges owners an annual fee of $100 to be part of an exchange club whether they want to trade this year or not. When they do want to trade, they have to pay another $150-$200 for that. There are also other fees associated with this. The service is awful because the two exchange companies know they control the industry. The more I travelled the more timeshare owners I met and realized it wasn’t just me that was fed up. Timeshare owners have no say and no power in this industry. It’s time for disruption.
- The industry is being held back by this “cartel”. I know timeshare owners avoid trading and traveling to new places because the fees; some try to sell their timeshare for anything so as to avoid the constant barrage of fees each year (by dumping their timeshare on the market it is driving down prices); less people are buying because word about the fees being charged has spread to prospective owners.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
- Owners join for free in 10 seconds (even faster with Facebook Connect). They list their timeshare in 1 minute. As soon as they list their timeshare, they can begin to receive trade offers from other owners. Each trade offer they can Accept or Reject with one-click. They can also make offers to other owners with 1 click. Trades are free. Both parties to the trade get auto-confirmation of successful trade along with confirmation number.
- Members earn “Juice” the more they contribute to the community (complete their profile, rate/review resorts, make offers, complete exchanges etc). The members with the highest Juice become famous!
I launched the service in May 2010 to a few timeshare owners I knew.
We had all traded timeshares by word of mouth for years. I had about 200 owners during the Beta test. The Beta test confirmed that:
- 1) owners around the world wanted to trade through the web for free
- 2) the website we built was so user-friendly that any owner from ages 18 to 80 could sign-up and trade online with TimeshareJuice.
Since then, word is spreading and now we have users all over the world and growing very quickly.
We are in discussions with several resorts about advertising on the site.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
I don’t have investors. But we did an alpha and beta test with timeshare owners to prove the process.
The feedback initially was that the concept was great but the site wasn’t intuitive enough. Too many people couldn’t figure it out (even though the instructions were there, people just didn’t read them – we learned that lesson).
Now the site is so intuitive that we haven’t gotten one of those emails in quite some time.
We spent a lot of time communicating (ie “listening) to our members about what they could and couldn’t do on the site in order to create a great user experience.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- The business model is to enable the trading of timeshares for free and build a global community of timeshare owners. The revenue model is to make money on the advertising of vacation products and services to people who are booking and planning their vacation. Resorts want to display their properties to existing owners of timeshare owners of other resorts. Our community is a market that is already interested in this product and they are also qualified to buy.
- We are also talking with online travel booking services about providing “targeted” travel booking services to our members. We earn commissions on each booking.
- Great user experience (fast, easy, and fun) and free exchange services. We also have a very low cash burn rate compared to our competition.
- Unable to mass market to owners around the world.
- Competitors are billion dollar companies with massive stockpiles of cash, brand recognition, and decades of business relationships
- Competition is abusing timeshare owners with poor business practices, high and higher fees, poor service. Owners are actively seeking a viable alternative to current providers. Resorts are well aware of this abuse but they are not interested to market our services openly to their owners for fear of financial repercussions from our competition.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- The internet is the great enabler on which anything can happen. We also realize that sometimes the first mover advantage isn’t always an advantage.
Honestly, I am my worst critic. I’ve never had anyone say that to me except me.
Sometimes it just pops into my head that this is a crazy idea to take on not one but two billion-dollar companies with such long established business histories.
Then I talk myself down from the cliff and get back to work.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
250,000 members, $50,000 monthly cash flow.
Our vision: We believe vacations are the “Juice of life”. You create lasting memories that inspire, cheer up, and share bliss when you’re on a vacation. It fuels the soul and the creative energies.
By connecting owners we are enabling more vacations to occur. We are trying to get the best (the “Juice”) out of timeshares. We want to make timeshares more fun!
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.