TLabs Showcase - iGottaGuideNewsBy Kevin May | May 27, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based iGottaGuide, a platform to connect travellers with locals in cities.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?I am Keith Petri, lifelong entrepreneur, lover of travel and hater of tourists’ traps. I founded my first business in high school - an online market place for art meant to give artists a less-exclusive retail outlet, and buyers a way to discover new art.Just like iGottaGuide, the idea was all about democratization - taking the power away from the gatekeepers and giving customers a greater range of choices at a lower price.Between then and now, I have started and run a number of other businesses, such as eBranding Me, which is all about educating people (especially students) about the importance of managing their online footprint, and how to do that.What financial support did you have to launch the business?iGottaGuide has been completely self-funded up to this point, however, we have some pretty exciting ideas and may look for outside funding to realize them very soon.What problem are you trying to solve?Nothing is worse than a spectacular trip made mediocre by bad planning. Nobody tries to book bland, cookie-cutter trips, but the reality is that the current offering of guidebooks and travel websites don’t make it easy to find unique activities.Instead of limiting you to established tours, iGottaGuide helps you find an authentic, local experience that caters to your interests.We want to save you from a vacation wasted on big-box tours where the guides walk backwards with gaggle of tourists in tow. Don’t compromise - it’s your vacation and it should be about you, not you and 30 strangers.Describe the business, core products and services?iGottaGuide gives visitors a way to find professional and amateur guides with unique local knowledge so that guests can see New York like a real New Yorker.Our goal isn’t to offer the same generic tours that other sites have; our goal is to host, small, offbeat tours you can’t find on your own.Who are your key customers and users at launch?We are focused on New York right now, but once we move out of the beta stage we will be expanding to other cities as well.Our key customers are visitors to the city, but we’re also marketing our services to New Yorkers who are looking to experience their hometown in a fun, new way.Actively recruiting new guides has been integral to the success of our site; we’re always looking expand our offerings with more of the unique experiences other New Yorker’s have to offer.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?The hardest thing I have had to learn as an entrepreneur is to trust a good idea, and trust that consumers will recognize the value of that idea. If you put the money before the customer, you’re bound to poison the well.Put the customer first, and money will almost always follow.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?My vision is to one day make iGottaGuide entirely free, but in the meantime we charge a 15% service fee with hopes of reducing that in the near future.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: We’re the only site to offer a purely open market for local experiences - anyone can become a guide! Our open market model ensures that costs are kept low, quality is kept high (something assured by our review and ratings system) and ensures that a wide array of tours available. We want to have tours to suit every interest! Weaknesses: In the beginning we have to fight against inertia. We’re committed to keeping the quality of our offerings high, which means I am personally reviewing our initial tour offerings until the rating system can take over quality control. It’s time intensive, but we think our customers are worth it. Opportunities: Travel and tourism is a worldwide industry, and the activity market is currently the fastest growing segment – representing $26.7 billion in annual revenue. Tourists aren’t content to simply see sights anymore, they want to get out and do. iGottaGuide offers intrepid travellers the chance to get out and live like a local. Threats: There are a number of tour aggregation websites already in the market. None of those sites foster the creation of new, unique tours like iGottaGuide does, but because they already have established their web presence they could potentially detract from iGottaGuide’s traffic.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Initially some were skeptical online communities could autonomously control the quality of their participants. However, websites such as Quora, Wikipedia, and especially eBay, have proven that users can self-regulate with remarkable effectiveness.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Within 12 months I would like to have a growing number of independent tours listed in New York, and be in the initial stages of rolling out iGottaGuide across the globe. Hopefully I’ll manage to fit in a vacation of my own as well.Here is a clip:httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxNrOaoEprc NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.