TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based trip planning and destination service Travelhoppers.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Richard Earls is the founder and creator of the site. I’ve been in the travel industry since 1990 as a travel agency owner, a technologist and a publisher/writer.
In 1999 I sold my first company, SmartRes, to a public company in Canada. They crashed it. In 2001 I sold my second company, Intelliguide, to Northstar Travel Media.
I became the publisher of Weissmann Travel Reports, the Star Hotel Guide, Intelliguide and BTP23, taking all of those publications to electronic from print.
I left Northstar in 2005 and formed Travel Research Online and in 2011 launched Travelhoppers.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Self financed through bootstrapping and a lemonade stand that does nicely, but only in the summer months.
What problem are you trying to solve?
I wanted a really intelligent consumer site that educated the public on travel planning, including the use of travel specialists.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Travelhoppers provides the consumer with a place to begin their travel research.
They can locate destination guides, brochures, websites, expert travel writers, articles and a community of travellers as well as the ability to find and work with a destination specialist.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
We stress value over pure price considerations. The consumers who find our site interesting are as likely to be fascinated by the editorial and the inner journey reflected in travel as they are by “travel deals”.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
I’ve worked in the travel industry as a publisher and a writer for many years, so I’ve managed to keep a pretty good sensibility for what people look for in their research. Travelers like to read, research and talk.
We are providing an opportunity for each of these.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
We are advertising driven. Plenty of sales and a low cost structure.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Strong writers, volumes of well-organized content, and a set of advertisers hoping like heck we succeed. Low cost overhead. Experience in the travel industry and in publishing. No debt, no investors.
- No extraneous capital, but that can also be a strength. We can’t get into too much trouble.
- To capture the imagination of travellers, to develop a community around the Travelhoppers’ concept.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- We are in the travel industry, maybe one of the most vulnerable to every natural disaster, economic downturn, viral pathology and ill-tempered political nut. Other than that, I think we will be fine.
Who advised me the idea isn't going to be successful? Everyone who told me Travel Research Online would not work.
Why didn't I listen to them? Because they told me Travel Research Online would not work.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
If we have a database of 800,000 consumers and monthly visits of 60,000 uniques, I’ll feel like we have done a good job.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.