TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Brazil and Argentina-based Zarpo, a new member-only service specifically targeting travellers in South America.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Zarpo is the first travel private sales website in South America. We are based in São Paulo and Buenos Aires and currently attend the Brazilian and Argentinian markets.
Since our launch in May 2011, we’ve seen solid regular monthly growth and gained increased market recognition.
Our ambition is to quickly develop verticals such as catalogue sales and vacation rentals, in order to become the first high-end online travel agency in South America.
You can have a look at our site thanks to this invitation link.
The three founders are French, friends from grad school and passionate travellers, all of them living in Brazil for a while. They have a mix of internet, business and travel backgrounds.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
After an initial beta-test bootstrapping phase we closed a seed round from successful European internet entrepreneurs a few weeks ago.
We have recently been approached by several investors interested in a Series A.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Despite a strong growth, we felt the online travel market in South America is still pretty basic. Studies show that Brazilians are among the most frustrated online travel buyers.
At the same time the region has a tremendous tourism potential and a fast-growing segment of experienced and demanding local travellers.
We felt that the market was ripe to offer a curated and differentiated offer along with a great online user experience.
Describe the business, core products and services?
We currently focus on hotels private sales but have concrete plans to add other models in the short term to offer a complete experience to our loyal customer base.
We differentiate from the crowds of daily deals with a highly selected offer, online booking (not vouchers) and a top-notch customer service (7/7 – 8h-24h – phone and chat).
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
In the first months we have quickly optimized the product with a core group of friends and influencers in the blogosphere. We now reach a large customer base of 200,000 members in Brazil, 70% of women.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Yes, we used the first six months to test and optimize the product and get the word spread within the trade before starting to grow more aggressively in the last few months.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
The business model is commission-based. We are now break-even operationally and hope we’ll reach a sustainable self-funded growth path before the end of the year.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- First-mover, strong and focused team, flexibility and agility to adapt to the local environment, well connected with the local internet and tourism trades, long-term vision of the product development.
- Lack of resources to tap all opportunities
- Build a strong regional brand that could be leveraged to fully attend the growing segment of online buyers that look for quality experiences.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- Losing focus and obsession with client satisfaction.
Nobody told us it was not going to be successful but some doubted the size of the potential market and the capability to reach our target customer in a cost-efficient way.
Fortunately, we’ve seen so far that the demand for a differentiated and curated offer is not limited to the happy few and that the word-to-mouth has been working very efficiently with more than 50% of our customers coming through referral.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Maintain our current growth rate (>20% month) while keeping our customer satisfaction as high as it is today (>97%).
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.