TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring Los Angeles, USA-based travel planning site Tripline.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Tripline is an online application that makes it incredibly easy to create map-based plans and share map-based stories. Tripline is also a place where people can discover, compare and book packaged trips created by professionals. Tripline launched on August 6 2010.
Tripline was founded by former Yahoo! Video product director Byron Dumbrill. Prior to Yahoo!, Byron was head of product at Jumpcut - the award-winning online video editing application that Yahoo! acquired in 2006.
Today, Tripline is a team of three people working out of a converted garage in Los Angeles, Calfornia.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
None. Tripline is self-funded.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Fundamentally, we believe there is an unmet need for an online application that makes it easy to put a list of places on a map, attach related content and present a story in an engaging, easily shareable experience. We built Tripline to fulfil that need.
Who has this need?
- Travellers planning a trip
- Travellers who want to share their travel stories with friends
- Packaged travel companies & tour operators who want to market their trips
- Professional travel planners who want to market their services
- Travel suppliers who want to better engage their customers
- Travel publishers who want to enhance their online content
- Entertainment companies with TV shows that involve moving across the map
- Reporters covering map-based stories
- Promoters of events that involve moving across the map
- Authors and bands going on tour
- Teachers and those with interest in geography and history
- Non-profits whose activities involve moving across the map
Conceptually, we think of “trips” as a new type of media object. Tripline is what you use to create and share trips.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Tripline’s initial business offerings are focused on providing packaged travel companies, tour operators and professional travel planners a way to market and sell their products and services.
Our application provides an easy way for these companies to create a catalogue of trips and an exciting way to reach a younger, online demographic. Most importantly, Tripline provides a natural way for these businesses to extend their brand into their customers’ social networks - they become part of the story people share with their friends.
We launched with basic partner capabilities and are expanding our product to offer Pro Accounts with additional creative features, catalogue search, branding and featured placement.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
We launched the beta with Toronto-based GAP Adventures as a packaged travel partner. They have an amazing catalogue of trips, a well-developed online presence and are simply great to work with.
We’re developing partnerships with a number of additional packaged travel companies and tour operators, both large and small.
On the user side, we consider adventurous travellers to be the early-adopters in the leisure travel space; they tend to love maps, they certainly love to share their stories and we believe they are most likely to be the people who friends go to for travel advice.
For those reasons and more, we felt they would be the best people to attract first and we’ve targeted Tripline accordingly.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We don’t have investors, but all of the packaged travel companies we’ve talked to have responded very well to Tripline. We think our product is a natural fit, and a great marketing platform for any travel company seeking to engage their customers online.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
- Phase 1 of our business/revenue model is affiliate commissions on sales of packaged travel, augmented with branded sponsorships and promotions.
- Phase 2 is an expansion into a-la-carte travel purchases (flights etc.) as well as premium listings for tour operators, travel suppliers and local travel-related businesses.
- In our Phase 3, we plan to become a transactional marketplace where our users find and do business with with professional travel planners directly.
In order to achieve any of this at scale, Tripline must become a travel starting point - ie, become a place where people go to find things vs. being only a place to document plans and tell stories.
However, our strategy to achieve that goal is based on first being the best place to tell stories...for the following reasons:
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Travellers have many more stories in the past than they have upcoming plans. For us to serve our target users, we need to provide a place for those stories. We believe these satisfied users will likely use Tripline to create new plans.
- Advice from friends and family is 3 times more influential on travel decisions than anything else. One of our key features therefore is the ability to see where your friends have been and what they liked/disliked. Without stories, that’s not possible.
- Plans become stories. We think of planning as a creative process that often starts with a sketch and becomes a plan. In-turn, that plan becomes a story. We built Tripline to support this full life-cycle so people only need to enter information once.
- On the business side, “stories” are what travel companies create to market and sell their trips. We seek to enable a self-sustaining cycle: “Their stories become your plans, your plans become your stories, your stories become your friends’ plans”.
- Stories are critical to our traffic strategy and sponsorship business. Travel publishers, travel-based TV shows, travel-based consumer products companies, authors, bands, journalists, teachers, non-profits...they all want to create and share map-based stories.
- Social-media experience, technical capabilities, new approach
- Resources, content, experience & connections in travel business
- Brand sponsorships, partnerships with travel content companies
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Other startups and/or big companies with similar offerings
We wanted something like Tripline to exist for ourselves, and we thought others might also have such a need - we’ve yet to see how big of a need it is, but initial response has been great.
During the conceptual stages, several people said they didn’t see the point, and said that if we wanted to build a travel-related service, we should just focus on cheap flights and hotel deals.
That wasn’t interesting to us. We wanted to create something new, something that allowed people to be creative - that’s where our passions are.
Startups require intense personal energy and sacrifice., so you’d better enjoy what you’re building.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
In addition to our target visitor and booked trips metrics, we will be tracking the number of re-used waypoints vs. the number of newly created waypoints, and the number of copied trips vs. newly created trips.
When the former exceeds latter, we will have crossed a key milestone on our way to becoming a travel starting point - meaning we will have become a place where people go to plan vs. just a place to document plans and tell stories.
That transition is key to our long-term success.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.