Frustration with travel reviews drove Triptease founder Charlie Osmond to develop the service after six years working in social media for big names across fashion and politics.
The startup is privately funded with Osmond investing proceeds from previous ventures as well as receiving some angel investment.
He is joined by co-founder Alasdair Snow, Chris Warren Gash, marketing, Elsie Rutterford, business development, Pawel Lipka, development and Andrea Perrini, design.
Osmond says Triptease is going after the luxury end of the global online travel market which is worth an estimated $75b.
Competition is massive between Facebook because of its volume of social conversations and reviews giant, TripAdvisor.
"We’re after a higher-end audience. When it comes to review creation, a typical user for us is more likely to be someone who would never contribute to Tripadvisor. When it comes to browsing reviews, Tripadvisor is a more direct competitor."
Revenue will be drawn from affiliate fees from click-throughs and the company is also planning some secondary services and revenue streams.
"At present the industry encourages guests to post ratings to third-party review sites. Every review posted drives bookings via OTAs who take a cut from the hotel. We’re taking a different approach based around review freshness (less than six months old).
If a partner (hotel, agent or airline) encourages a guest to create a review on Triptease, for a period of six months, while the review is fresh, we link directly back to the partner for free – no OTAs in the way."
Q&A with co-founder Charlie Osmond:
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?
Online travel reviews are a decade out-of-date. They're over-run with irrelevant and anonymous ratings, and they can make even the best looking hotels in the world look visually terrible. Triptease provides people with the tools to bring their experiences to life, portraying the best and worst in a great looking format. Merging text and images, we create a finished product that's worth sharing with like-minded travellers. We are aimed at anyone who appreciates great travel and wants to find a way to share their experiences with people like them.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
We've found that both consumers and hotels are suffering. Both hate anonymous text reviews, reviews that make their hotel or holiday look terrible and reviews that fail to hold any relevance to them. By creating highly shareable image-based reviews Triptease is pushing up the quality of reviews, whilst at the same time providing the antidote to anonymity. It helps us build a vibrant community so that you can find the people who are most relevant to you and whose travel opinions you care about.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Hotels hate anonymous text reviews and they're desperate for a change. That's why they love and promote Triptease for us, through their emails, websites and face-to-face. We give them great content to share on their social channels and in return they give us serious distribution.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
We started with the consumer pain in mind. I’d felt it myself. Reviews were ugly and mostly anonymous. The key change for us has been the growing recognition that however much consumers suffer, hotels feel ten times the pain from existing reviews sites.
This led us to evolve a set of tools and a business model that gives hotels a fairer deal and a lot more value from social media and reviews.
Now, if a guest creates a review, the guest shares it, the hotel can share it and the review links back to their own booking engine for free.
Where do you see yourselves in three years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
• We will have encouraged millions of people who never write reviews, to create and share every time they travel
• We we’ll have created a platform where industry insiders and consumers stand side by side sharing the best of travel
• And, if things are going really well, we might have managed to end the era of ugly faceless reviews
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The industry spends billions on architecture, design and branding. But when it comes to reviews, even the world's best hotel's are made to look unappealing, forced into a standardised mould that falls far short of reflecting the reality, the hotel's are further undermined by unaccountable, anonymous text reviews.
The industry is failing to get value from social media. I recently judged the Travel Marketing Awards. I was astonished by the low bar companies set themselves when it came to getting a return from social media.
Travel is incredibly social – it is shared to Facebook timelines more than anything else. Yet, reviews remain one of the least shared forms of user generated content on the web. We can fix social media for the industry, making travel reviews shareable in a way that works brilliantly for hotels and consumers alike.
The name is catchy but is this different enough to make consumers swap a quick glance over TripAdvisor to get a broad idea of a property for a richer experience via Triptease?
Putting power back in the hands of hotels is one angle that might gain them some traction especially by giving the properties the content to share across websites and social media channels.
And, it's admirable to want to beautify the reviews space by combining text and images but it does make you wonder how a negative review will sit within the site.
The startup is also trying to tackle the issue of anonymous reviews which is causing the industry headaches at the moment especially if they can't be verified as genuine.
Also, will the Triptease team curate all the content - images and text? If so, people are less likely to be as upfront as they might otherwise be.
At the moment it's full of appealing and iconic images of cities and arty hotel shots and provides a great browsing appearance especially as it has been designed with iPad in mind.
It will be interesting to see how the site progresses and how a balance is achieved between vibrant images and text - positive or negative.
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