TLabs Showcase - TravelhandsNewsBy Kevin May | January 20, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Netherlands and Germany-based online portal for travel ancillary services TravelHands.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Travelhands is a European marketplace for complementary travel services, for example airport transfers, individual tours, family and barrier-free accommodation, rental services (wheelchair, baby gear) or personal travel assistance.Travelhands was founded by an international team from Germany and the Netherlands. The two main founders, Nicole Bosch and Peter van der Meulen are from the Netherlands, travelled globally, lived in the US for several years and now live in Germany. Their background is in (international) sales, business development, communication and journalism.Our front-end designers, Stijn Verhoeven and Jasper van Delft, are based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Our back-end developers Henning Blohm and Udo Offermann are from Germany and for many years worked for SAP.What financial support did you have to launch the business?We used our own financial resources thus far. We are looking for an investor.What problem are you trying to solve?Travelhands provides a solution for the growing demand for customized complementary travel services and the challenge for small service suppliers to be found and booked online.Flights, standard rooms and rental cars are offered by large travel companies and can easily be found on the internet. Often, travellers need some extra help and arrangements on their trips.For example, because they travel with children, limited mobility, in a wheelchair, with large pieces of luggage, or on a tight schedule. Or because they want a personal, unique, authentic travel experience.Demand for customized and complementary travel services is growing, partly because of demographic changes (ageing population), partly because of growing expectations with respect to convenience, individuality and authenticity in general.Suppliers of complementary travel services are mostly autonomous SMEs, sometimes even individuals. The (online) offer is highly fragmented and -because of dominant players in the online travel market- not easy to find/book online by travellers.We consolidate:Offerings along the travel service chain, so travellers can find a wide variety of complementary travel services on one platform, service suppliers benefit from being part of a network and can jointly promote their destination.Describe the business, core products and services?Travelhands is an online marketplace for complementary travel services. Anyone can offer (proper) complementary travel services, not only companies, also individuals.Maybe you can help out a travelling family by renting out that stroller that you don’t use anymore, or, as an exchange student show tourists from your home country the really good places.Suppliers can post their offerings and assign them to different service, geographical, language and target audience categories. Travellers can search for offerings based on those categories and request to be contacted by the suppliers of their choice.They can also post an enquiry, to which suppliers can respond. Agreements are made directly between traveller and supplier.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Our key customers at launch are travellers that prefer to book complementary travel services in advance, so they can spend their valuable holiday time relaxing. We focus on disabled travellers, senior travellers and families at first.In terms of suppliers, we invite all providers of travel services wanting to help travellers with specific needs or looking for an authentic experience with an easy and wonderful holiday trip.We launched the end of September 2010. In 2011 we focus on the German market. Our website exists already in German, Dutch and English.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?Our business plan was originally written as a Master’s thesis of an executive MBA program by a project team of 4 students. We conducted extensive primary and secondary market research.The concept was valued as very promising by industry experts and professors. During further development of the site we conducted many user tests with suppliers, experts and travellers in various target audience groups.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?Suppliers are charged a transaction-based commission fee. Listing offerings is free. We believe that the way to financial success is not to extract as much money from our customers as fast as possible, but to provide them with an easy-to-use and risk-free platform that makes their lives easier.We also plan to roll out the platform internationally as soon as possible.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Stengths: Our international backgroundOur market-based approach: we don’t sell technology Weaknesses: We are not from the travel industry, but that means we think out-of-the-boxLack of funds to grow fast Opportunities: Growing demand for complementary and customized travel servicesNeed for consolidation of the fragmented marketNew technologies, e.g. the system can be adjusted easily into a mobile app Threats: GoogleAbuse and circumvention of the rulesBoth the demand and the supply-side are highly fragmented and heterogeneous – a real marketing challenge.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?No one, people just said it won’t be easy.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Number of suppliers, number of bookings and growth tendencies for both. Internationally: comprehensive coverage in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Beginning push to the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.