TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based WhereYaTravelin?, a deal platform for tours and activities using custom-picked coupons from local merchants.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Where Ya Travelin? (WhereYaTravelin.com) allows you to create personalized trip itineraries that consist of money-saving coupons offered by hand-picked local businesses in popular tourist destinations.
Travelers submit their destination city and travel dates to the site and are presented with coupons in three different categories. Users can then select, purchase, and download up to 5 coupons for just $5. Coupons typically provide savings of between $8 and $25 per person, so the user always comes out far ahead.
The site just launched and is live with great deals in Seattle, San Francisco and Hawaii.
Ben Brannen and Matt Senechal are the co-founders of Where Ya Travelin?
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
- Ben Brannen has held positions as financial analyst at The Walt Disney Company and creative manager at BMG Music Publishing. In 2004, he founded and operated Brannen Creative Management and ARES Records, building profitable businesses in the music industry from the ground up. Most recently, Ben was partner and COO at Digital Trellis where he oversaw all daily operations, technology implementations, and business development.
- Matt Senechal is a technology attorney that has advised technology companies on a wide range of legal and business issues associated with electronic loyalty and couponing and various other consumer-facing mobile and electronic solutions. Prior to Where Ya Travelin?, Matt practiced technology law at Perkins Coie, LLP and worked inside a variety of technology companies including Amazon.com, Microsoft, and drugstore.com.
To date, Where Ya Travelin? has been entirely self-funded by co-founders Ben Brannen and Matt Senechal. Ben and Matt have funded and managed everything from branding to technology development, marketing, sales, and operations. By focusing on a core concept and keeping a close eye on costs, we’ve developed a successful business model for Where Ya Travelin? that is consumer-focused, cost-efficient, and poised to scale.
What problem are you trying to solve?
At its core, Where Ya Travelin? is designed to solve the age-old problem faced by all travelers once they’ve booked a trip: "What do I do when I get there and how can I save some dough doing it?"
In many ways, the Internet has made this problem even more severe for travelers by providing too much information in too many different locations. Information overload can make deciding what to do on your trip almost impossible.
Travelers need a trusted and easy-to-use solution to find great discounts on recommended activities and restaurants on their trips.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Where Ya Travelin? is an ecommerce website that allows users to create personalized trip itineraries that consist of money-saving coupons to great local businesses in popular tourist destinations.
Where Ya Travelin? cuts through the Internet-travel clutter with an elegant, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface that presents travelers with a manageable number of high-quality deals.
For any given search, Where Ya Travelin? presents up to 30 carefully selected deals that the user can easily sort into 3 categories. Because all deals are carefully sourced from top-quality, recommended restaurants and activities (and never aggregated from other sites), travelers can be assured that each deal will provide a real discount on a quality experience.
On the merchant side, Where Ya Travelin? is a high-value, low cost marketing tool. Where Ya Travelin? essentially serves as a digital couponing engine that specifically targets travelers visiting local destinations.
With no up-front participation costs and no back-end profit sharing, Where Ya Travelin? gives local merchants an easy opportunity to expand their customer base to travelers without risk, reaching travelers before they even land in their city.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Where Ya Travelin? has two sets of key customers at launch:
- local merchants who are seeking to promote their businesses to travelers
- travelers looking for good deals in their destinations.
On the merchant side, Where Ya Travelin? invites unique local merchants to participate and provides the opportunity for each to attract inbound travelers to their business at no cost.
On the traveller side, Where Ya Travelin? is designed to appeal to a broad base of Internet-savvy, active travelers looking for great activities, local flare, and money-saving offers.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes. On the merchant side, Where Ya Travelin? received overwhelming positive feedback while on-boarding merchants for launch. Merchants we have selected consistently recognize that the opportunity to distribute discounts targeted to travelers is a focused strategy that can build their business at virtually no risk or cost to them. Merchants relate bad experiences with daily deal sites and recognize that Where Ya Travelin? is distinct from that model.
Where Ya Travelin’s co-founders discussed the concept with countless consumers that validated the idea that they would pay a minimal service fee for a product that saves time when planning activities and provides easy access to hand picked, money-saving deals. Since launch, we are proving this with happy customers.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Where Ya Travelin? charges a flat $5 service fee for each five-deal itinerary. Five deals for $5.
Limited advertising on the site and business licensing strategies are other sources of potential revenue, but not part of the core model at launch.
The Where Ya Travelin? model is designed to have low overhead costs to support a predictable, linear scaling of the business. Unlike daily deal sites, the Where Ya Travelin? model does not require an unrelenting need to stock new deal inventory for each day.
Due to the comparative infrequency with which individual users will repeatedly visit any one particular destination, quality deals for each destination can remain on the site for longer periods of time. Therefore, sales staff can focus on adding new destinations and the company can dedicate resources towards user acquisition, incremental technology improvements, and investor returns.
Where Ya Travelin? is committed to building its core business, focusing on costs, and continuing to increase its user base.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Where Ya Travelin? is a unique model that provides great value to merchants and travelers. Any deal combination will render savings to travelers of 5x or more of the service fee paid. And, with no fees to merchants, there is no risk for the free marketing. The Where Ya Travelin? site is simple, easy to use, and approachable enough to appeal to a wide range of travelers. The business model is low cost and scalable.
- Where Ya Travelin? is a new, disruptive concept. There are a lot of biases against daily deal sites in the local business communities in which we work that must be overcome for merchant on-boarding. But, once merchants understand the model, their acceptance is high. Similarly, because travelers have not experienced deals in the way presented on Where Ya Travelin? early resources must be focused on marketing, advertising, and user acquisition/education strategies.
- Where Ya Travelin? has the opportunity to become the one-stop, go-to destination for money-saving trip activity deals, tourist itinerary planning, and local business-to-tourist target marketing. In addition, we have identified opportunities to provide deals to users through travel sites (e.g., present deals to travelers who have booked flights or hotel rooms) and to hotel concierges (e.g., providing deals and discounts that concierges can distribute to guests).
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- One of the biggest challenges for Where Ya Travelin? is brand recognition and user acquisition. Any number of existing players in the travel and/or deal space could devote resources to develop a similar concept.
A successful entrepreneur insisted that the Where Ya Travelin? model should be flipped – that merchants should pay and not travelers, because travelers will never "pay to save".
With several weeks of merchant outreach, the message we received was loud and clear: merchants love the idea of no-to-low cost marketing through coupons.
There is so much resistance to daily deal sites, fees, and back-end deals that merchants anticipate that all online solutions will be a bad deal for them. The bottom line is that if we charged a fee to merchants out of the gate, we would have 0 deals.
On the traveller side, there are a number of proven models in which consumers will pay to save. "Entertainment" books have provided consumers with local print coupons for years. Similar types of local and specialty coupon companies have also moved into the space.
Based on these models, we remained faithful to the notion that, if the value is presented, users will pay a nominal fee to save time and money.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Alive and kickin’ with enough revenue to keep the lights on, the user base growing, and the offerings improving.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.