Elude takes a budget-first approach to booking travel, surfacing customizable trip packages to users that fit within their desired price range.
Founded in 2019 and launched in August 2021, Elude aims to put the power back into the hands of the traveler, eliminating the need to browse multiple search engines, says co-founder and CEO Alex Simon.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
People should be able to search for and book trips the same way they shop for clothes, real estate and just about everything else on the internet: inputting the money they want to spend and learning what they can afford. Whether it’s luxurious, cost-friendly, or somewhere in the middle, Elude allows people to discover, explore and book every potential travel option in a few thumb taps.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
On the business side, Elude operates similarly to most travel agents, taking a fee of each trip booked on the platform. We are simplifying the travel booking experience so people can save time and stress when booking a trip. On the technology side, Elude’s mobile app homepage allows users to input their desired budget, city of origin and departure date. On the “Explore” tab, users receive a shortlist of flight and hotel options that fit their budget. Contrary to other search engines, Elude moves the power of discovery into the hands of their customers.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
Strengths: Elude’s biggest strength is that we offer the fastest and most convenient booking experience in the travel industry. Especially with our newest, one-click booking feature, people can book trips as easy as they order food online from their favorite restaurant. We understand our customers because we are our customers: eager travelers who are frustrated with the time and costs associated with booking a trip.
Weaknesses: We are a new company, and still growing. Many of our customers see the potential for Elude, and will write into our customer success team with suggestions for how we can improve the app by adding features like itinerary planning, sharing plans with friends in-app and trip-stacking. We are so happy people see the great potential for Elude, and we are working hard to incorporate all these features.
Opportunities: We have the opportunity to change the way people think about booking their trips. A recent study from Expedia and Comscore revealed the average American visits 140 websites in the 45 days before they actually book a trip. That is 139 too many. Elude wants to make the travel booking experience as relaxing and stress-free as the vacation itself.
Threats: We’re introducing a new way of exploring and booking trips. When introducing a new concept that changes the way people think about planning, there is always the risk of a steep learning curve for our users. Our biggest threat is honestly that people are afraid to make their lives easier because they are so used to the time-consuming ways they used to book their vacations.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
While today’s search engines are built to offer users the lowest price options to travel to a location, they limit users to only travel to destinations they are aware of. Elude exists to solve this problem. Through its unique budget-first search engine, users can explore numerous travel packages (flights and accommodations) to a diverse range of destinations based on their desired price point. Elude places the power in the user’s hands, allowing them to circumvent the tedious process of sifting through several search engines to find a flight or hotel cheaper than they can find on another website.
The biggest players in today’s travel booking industry have kept the focus on finding the lowest prices for users, and are thus losing out on billions of dollars worth of booked travel to unique destinations. By moving the conversation toward personal budget, and away from the cheapest prices, Elude is changing the way people think about travel.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Marketing! Social media and travel can’t be separated, and we’ve surrounded ourselves with social media savants such as former CMO of Instagram Cliff Hopkins and head of international partnerships at Snapchat Juan David Borrero as company advisors. We fundamentally believe the problems travelers face are relatable, and by providing a better experience word will naturally spread.
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The platform’s easy, user-friendly interface brings one-click travel booking from its homepage. With a product as streamlined as ours - attention will follow. The travel community relies heavily on word of mouth, particularly with spontaneous and solo travelers. With an effective marketing strategy in place, we are confident that Elude will attract engagement from around the globe.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We experienced this need first-hand when we were looking to travel one holiday. After spending days and days combing through different search engines, we eventually learned that we couldn’t find a trip we could afford. This system had to be improved, so to save millions of travelers like us the time and frustration of finding the right flight, we came up with a platform to bring personalization and curation to the travel booking process.
While we target the travel industry as a whole, millennials and Gen Zers are leading the demand for a more dynamic travel experience. Millennials in the United States currently spend over $200 billion a year on travel, and over $28 billion on budget-focused trips.
How and when will you make money?
We make money every time a trip is booked. Like travel agents, we take a fee of every trip purchased on our platform.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
Frankie [Scerbo, co-founder and chief marketing and creative officer] and I met and bonded through our love of travel. Our personal experiences traveling across the globe brought Elude to life, and we’re ecstatic to couple our personal friendship with a professional partnership. Prior to founding Elude, I worked in investment banking, starting my career working for the private wealth division of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and later joining Deutsche Bank as the business manager of the COO of fixed incomes/debt operations. Frankie has a strong background in product development, as he served as the West Coast regional director for EON, a hardware accessory company at the forefront of the gaming technology industry.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
Everyone travels, and we want to create an app that speaks to all people, not just people like us. Elude launched with a social campaign that included a diverse set of social media travel creators, which is something that is lacking in the travel industry. We want to make sure all people feel safe booking travel through our platform, and sharing a message of “travel for all” is best disseminated through our diverse team of travel creators. We are also building out an advisory board with a diverse roster of celebrities and influencers - more to come on that later!
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
For obvious reasons, launching a travel business during the pandemic definitely hasn’t been easy. Yet in many ways, it has been a blessing in disguise because it gave us time to double down and focus on our product before launching it into the marketplace. We were so eager to get people out of their daily routines and into new locations that it really kept fueling us during the building process even though we just wanted to get the app out there! Ultimately we knew that it was more important to build a reliable piece of technology ahead of the launch rather than race to the market.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?
We built this business out of our personal pain points associated with the travel booking experience. Building Elude was a necessity because as eager travelers, we were spending hours researching vacations only to learn all the places we couldn’t afford to go. We are our own customers, and Elude has allowed us to make a lasting impact on the industry we love.
Additionally, Elude isn’t just another search engine offering users cheap flights or the cheapest way to fly. We are simply allowing people to see what their budgets can afford, and in doing so opening up a world of destinations that they didn’t know were realistic travel options. By bringing personalization into the travel booking process, Elude isn't just looking to improve the way people travel, but it is changing the way people think about travel.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
As Elude continues to grow, we will be opening even more opportunities for people to travel. While we’re already the fastest booking experience available, we want to offer more options to users so that their trips can be even more customized and personalized. Due to the ever-changing nature of global travel restrictions, customers are avoiding last-minute trip changes by purchasing two or more trips simultaneously, otherwise known as “trip stacking.” If their trips go according to plan, many consumers are electing to cancel their second, unused flights in time for airline credit. We are developing options for users to trip stack on Elude’s consolidated platform so they can find the right combination of flights for their budget.
We are also planning to add a hospitality component to the Elude platform, which will offer users hotel and accommodation sharing options in the destination of their choice - all within their desired price point. Furthermore, travel isn’t limited to airfare, as there are numerous rental, rail and ferry options that create a more dynamic travel experience for users. We plan to include non-air travel options to the Elude platform so travelers can plan their entire itinerary - from flight, car, train, or boat to hotel under one personalized service.
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
Travel changed our lives. Frankie and I grew up in Centra New Jersey and spent most of our lives on the East Coast. Travel opened our eyes to different cultures, traditions, people, perspectives and philosophies that changed the way we think and view the world. Our end-game is to bring people into the Elude family and remove the stress and time associated with booking trips and vacations. We want to get people out into the world to live new experiences.
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