Who'sMyGuide aims to become top local travel guide search engineNewsBy Alex Bainbridge | July 11, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring France-based Who'sMyGuide, a platform to find and contact local travel guides anywhere in the world.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Gregoire Blond (25 years old) - graduated with a masters degree from the Toulouse Business School (France). Worked in the travel industry since 2005: safari guide in southern Africa, manager of luxury hotels in India, working in a travel agency. He continues to work as a freelance safari guide for French groups. Has lived in London since 2009.Simon Dujardin (26 years old) - an engineer, graduated from HEI Lille (France), has extensive experience in project management, from technical implementation to marketing. He lives and works in Lille, where the company is based.What financial support did you have to launch the business?We started the project with Euro 10,000 from our personal funds.What problem are you trying to solve?Who’sMyGuide was developed from a simple observation: it is easy for a traveler to purchase a flight ticket or book a hotel, but to find a personal guide is difficult and often requires booking through an intermediary.Who'sMyGuide is a web directory that allows travelers to book their guides direct!Describe the business, core products and services?We work with three main clients: Freelance guides - our business model is Freemium, where self-employed guides can publish their profiles for free. Their profiles will go offline after the guide has been contacted three times. Guides can benefit from unlimited contacts by subscribing to yearly offers.Travel companies that employ guides - we offer tour operators, tourism offices, etc the opportunity advertise their guides on Who’sMyGuide. Guides have on their profiles information including description, logo, link to employer website - all contacts go through the employer reservation office. Guide profiles are sold on an annual basis.Advertisers - we offer personal advertising space on each guide page. We include companies with related products, such with hotels, car rental agencies, etc, to advertise on their personal audience.Who are your key customers and users at launch?At launch we are focusing on freelance guides that have a real need for online visibility. In order to start with guides all over the world, we are offering a one year subscription to the first five guides of each country.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?We discussed with 50 different freelance guides through a mailing and phone survey. We also discussed with travel operators (big and small) at thee travel shows in London and Paris.The vast majority of our contacts were thrilled by the concept and saw a real chance to increase their online visibility and direct bookings.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?As mentioned above, our business model comes from annual membership from guides, employers and advertisers.We need to start with a database of quality guides from all over the world. Because of the lack of competition on the guiding directory market, we aim to become the world's leading guide search engine in the next three years with more than 6,000 guides registered for an annual turnover of £500,000 per year.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Good market knowledge.Founding partners synergy. Weaknesses: Lack of experience in creating a company. Opportunities: Lack of competition on the guides directory market. Threats: Potential competitions from travel planners big players.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Travel agents, obviously, because we are in direct competition with them! A minority of old fashioned guides that don’t see the benefit to be visible online. Some professionals who consider everything on the internet should be free, or on a commission basis.We have listened to them but we are confident that there is a real need from a large customer base of freelance guides and small and medium sized travel operators for whom the commission-based business model is not flexible enough for guides that want to manage the booking process (pricing, last minute booking...) from A to Z.What is your success metric 12 months from now?1 July 2011– 100 guides registeredAugust 2011 – first revenue1 September 2011 – 400 guides1 March 2012 – 1,000 guides1 July 2012 – 1,500 guides NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.