TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring Australia and Europe-based TourRadar.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Shawn and Travis Pittman (brothers) co-founded the online travel site Bugbitten.com back in 2003. TourRadar was spun-out of Bugbitten in June 2010.
- Shawn, 38, is based in Sydney, Australia. His background is in finance industry, who was employed as an Investment Analyst from 2001 to 2006 for LMS Capital, a boutique Venture Capital company (circa £200m) based in London with investments in the UK, Europe and USA. His role saw him travel frequently to New York, Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco, Moscow and Edinburgh to meet with the Funds to discuss and analyse their portfolio of investments.
- Travis, 31, is based in Europe. He is an engineer with a varied background of public and private sector experience in both Australia and Europe. Travis’s last position in London was as the Project Controls Manager for Atkins Rail who was responsible for the Comms installation of the £30b London Underground Station Refurbishment programme.
Since 2004 the team behind Bugbitten has been researching and developing the tour search technology which now is at the heart of TourRadar.com.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Both bugbitten and TourRadar have been bootstrapped by the Founders.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Our goal is to make every tour in the world discoverable by bringing the key players in the Tour Industry closer together. The only way that can be done is by creating a single platform that provides integrated solutions for each segment, which respects their individual business models.
We’ve seen in past few years websites come and go who have focused on developing solutions for the tour industry that always revolve around the booking engine/commission model.
Bookings are obviously the end result operators want... however it’s an old model which isn’t suitable to creating an online solution that benefits ALL the key players in the tour industry (plus many operators have invested heavily in their own booking technologies and don’t like being dictated to by these sites).
Describe the business, core products and services?
TourRadar provides individual solutions for the four key players in the tour industry.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
- Tour Operators can add their individual tour listings into one platform (TourRadar.com) and then choose (via a click of a button with our Self-Service model) which Publishers in our advertising network they would like to ‘turn-on’ their tours with and pay for direct leads to their website on a simple Pay-Per-Click (PPC) basis.
- Publishers can add a free ‘Tour Search’ plugin to their website as an additional feature for their site visitors and generate ancillary revenue on a PPC basis from this (as our experience has shown that CPA-based Affiliate programs are worth very little to Publishers).
- Travel Agents can create a private login to TourRadar where they are able to easily search for tours suiting their customer’s criteria (instead of aimlessly flicking through brochures or just getting high level results from the major search engines, without being able to filter by Price, Trip Length, etc). Agents even have the ability to select their preferred suppliers and search only from their tours if they want to.
- DMOs (Destination Marketing Organisations), like Publishers can add a free ‘Tour Search’ plugin to their website. We do not charge DMOs or their members (who’s tours that are included in the DMO’s plugin) for any clicks generated from the plugin.
Tour Operators and Publishers. The more Tour Operators who add their tours to the TourRadar platform, the more choice a visitor to Publisher’s websites will have when looking for a tour to their next travel destination. The more Publishers we get on board, the more choice the operators will have on the audiences they can reach to market their tours around the world.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes. We have been working with some of the world’s best and largest operators (Contiki, Intrepid, Topdeck, etc) for years as we developed our tour search technology (listening to feedback along the way).
We’ve also partnered with some of the best traditional Print Publishers (TNT Magazine, Student Traveler Magazine) who have given us invaluable incite into the needs/wants of Publishers who operate both offline and online.
Other publishers we’ve been working with include large-scale travel communities like tripwolf.com and Tourism Organisations like TTNQ in Australia. All this experience and feedback has been used to create TourRadar.
Like everything - we know our solution is not yet the perfect solution for everyone... however by listening to the feedback from all the players who use our technology, we’re pretty confident we’ll get there soon enough!
We are now at the point where we are starting to look for investors, as we are no longer a technology start-up seeking seed capital to build the platform; we are now looking to raise capital to recruit a sales team, marketing/PR team and expand our development team.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
TourRadar employs a PPC model for charging/paying operators/publishers. For agents, after a free 30 day trial, they pay on a Software-as-a-Service monthly subscription basis costing them less than a cup of coffee per week per user account.
TourRadar is a complete self-service model and is hosted in the cloud, so our running/operational costs are much lower in comparison to others.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- We have long-standing, paying operators who are seeing success from our platform. We have publishers who are generating ancillary revenue from their website traffic.
- Not having the funding to expand at the rate we need to, to stay ahead of our competitors.
- With the aggregation of nearly all travel products (flights, hotels, car hire) - Tours still remain one of the only sectors where there still is no clear market leader. TourRadar has a fantastic opportunity to be this market leader.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Google’s foray into the online travel sector (recent acquisitions of ITA Software and Ruba) is still an unknown factor, as to what they are actually planning to do with these technologies.
Like every startup - we’ve had our fair share of criticism and people thinking we were crazy to be doing what we’re doing.
Because we started out developing Bugbitten in 2003 which was a community where travellers could share their blogs, photos in an online travel journal, it has been quite difficult to get to where we are today - launching what has been our ultimate goal all along, a platform that brings together all players of the tour Industry, where it’s a win-win for everyone.
We knew we had developed the technology to serve an entire industry, however Bugbitten was always viewed as a publisher site aimed only at the 18-35 year old market, hence the need to create TourRadar.
The feedback from friends, operators and publishers since the launch of TourRadar has certainly validated our reasons for going to the effort of developing an entire new brand and platform.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
- For tour operators to recognise TourRadar as one of the must-have channels in their online marketing strategy.
- For publishers of websites (both small and large) to add our free plugin to their site to start generating more ancillary revenue from their visitors.
- For travel agents to think “How did I ever find a suitable tour for my customers before TourRadar?”
- For DMOs to install our free plugin to help promote their member’s tours without the hassle of building (expensive) stand-alone solutions.
TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.