TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based Twigmore, a Facebook-based platform which connects travellers and locals through friends.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Twigmore is a travel networking tool on Facebook that connects travelers and locals through friends. The company was founded by Stephen Smyth and Peter Baer.
- Stephen has a product and engineering background and was general manager of Reuters.com.
- Peter has had senior sales and marketing roles at Warner Brothers, CBS and a mobile startup.
We are both travel enthusiasts who wanted to solve one of our own problems: how to find trusted locals wherever you go. We were already friends and we both had some startup experience before we teamed up on Twigmore.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
We bootstrapped the business for the first seven months and then received $125,000 in funding from angel investors. Last month we closed another $150,000 in follow-on funding from largely the same group of investors.
What problem are you trying to solve?
It’s hard for travellers to find trusted locals who can answer questions, show them around or just help when things come up. We kept seeing Facebook posts such as "Heading to Seattle this weekend. Does anyone know anybody there?", so we set out to answer this question. This is the first step on our path to put people, not places, at the heart of travel.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Twigmore is a Facebook app that connects travellers and locals through friends. Without leaving Facebook, users can now easily tap into their friend network to find real people on the ground wherever they travel.
For example, on Twigmore, when a user is planning a trip to Berlin, they may discover that a friend knows someone living there. If the user likes live music, with a couple clicks, they can get introduced to this local contact for the scoop on concerts, and perhaps even go see a concert with the person when they get to Berlin.
Additionally, the user can get notified if other friends are going to be in Berlin at the same time.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
We’re targeting English-speaking Facebook users aged 18 to 34 years who travel at least four times a year. We believe our product is most useful for people travelling by themselves – whether for work or fun.
Our target customers are lodging, dining and live entertainment companies who want to market to our audience.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes, Peter and I spent our own money to design, prototype and test several concepts in the field before asking investors to get involved. We felt that it was really important for us to have confidence in the concept before asking others to do the same.
In our experience, the best way of doing that is through field testing.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
We currently make money when a user buys things to do in their destination. Last month we integrated and started testing Groupon daily deals and our users can now get discounts on everything from restaurants to concerts to spas in over 100 destinations in North America.
We’re also developing an advertising product for lodging companies.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Our friend-of-friend technology has enabled us to build a database of over 1.7 million local contacts in just a few months of beta testing.
- Having to educate travellers on the benefits of connecting with a trusted local contact in their destination.
- We can take travel networking mainstream.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Facebook may release similar travel features.
The initial idea for the product came from a solo trip one of the founders took to Japan and Korea. He was lucky to get introduced to a few local friends-of-friends and this transformed the trip – and he made a few friends in the process.
Our initial prototype had a broader scope and helped users get introductions for work, dating, travel and more. From our field testing, we learned that it would be challenging to market the product for such a wide range of use cases.
So we went back to the original travel idea. One of our investors felt that we were now focusing too narrowly and that there was indeed demand for a general purpose networking service.
Based on what we learned, marketing best practices and, perhaps most importantly, our instincts, we decided to stick with the use case we knew best – travel.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We’re aiming to have over one million registered users by the end of 2012.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.