Golightly is a private travel club for women providing a safer space to list and book vacation rentals and home-shares within a vetted community.
Launched in 2020, Golightly founder and CEO Victoria O'Connell says the platform aims to address the lack of safety, transparency and accountability on major booking sites.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
Golightly is a private travel club for women providing a safer space to list and book vacation rentals and home-shares within a vetted community. All properties are only listed and booked by a verified member, but she can travel with whomever she chooses.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Golightly is a platform for women to rent and list properties. There’s a marketplace aspect to the business as well as a networking aspect. Every member has mutual connections so she can see exactly how she’s connected to her host or guest.
The technology works similarly to any other booking platform, but the differentiator is that it’s a members-only, women-only, community and members can network with one another.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- Our biggest strength, by far, is our community. We have an incredibly passionate, enthusiastic membership of 6,000 women in over 80 countries who are committed to supporting other women and providing a safer community for travel.
- Our weakness is that we do not yet have properties in every location as we just launched a little over a year ago. About 50% of our listings are currently in the United States and the other 50% international, so we are not yet in every far-flung destination,
but hope to be there within the next year.
- Our opportunity lies in the fact that half of the world’s population is women, women do 80% of travel bookings and love to support other women and make travel safer.
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- Our biggest threat is a global pandemic: Luckily we already survived one, and feel confident we can now weather any storm that comes our way!
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
Lack of safety, transparency and accountability on major booking sites.
So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
All of our growth has been organic - through word of mouth. Women to love to invite their friends to join them in traveling and supporting other women. We have an incredible incentive program where each member can invite five friends, and they each get
travel credit to use on their next holiday (hopefully together). We’ve also been lucky enough to get great press, so that’s helped travel lovers and hosts all over the world find us.
Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We already knew anecdotally that there was a need based on my terrible personal experience. I listed my apartment on a major home-sharing platform, and the guest was a man with a fake account. They ended up destroying my apartment and stealing everything,
which felt incredibly violating.
Six months later, the man was still on the site with the same account and gave a great review (his review is still there). That started us down a path of research and we uncovered hundreds of similar horror stories (and much worse).
In speaking with experts in the industry, we found that there was a real demand for a women-only platform, and we were lucky enough to have six of the top female executives that helped launch and build HomeAway (and execute its sale to Expedia) join our
advisory board. Having their support, trust and backing gave us the ability to quickly raise money and move forward to launch.
We also commissioned an independent survey through Wakefield Research of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. women and found that they overwhelmingly felt that safety was their biggest concern while traveling and would prefer to rent or list homes through
a women’s network.
How and when will you make money?
We are already making money through bookings. We take a small fee from the traveler and the host for each booking to help cover the cost of operations. In addition, we will be rolling out a tiered membership fee in 2021, but we will always have a free
option to join because we believe safe travel for women is a basic right and should not carry a premium.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
CEO Victoria O’Connell is a business executive with nearly two decades of experience having co-founded and managed JDP Global, an international e-commerce and real estate company. With vacation rentals in Malta, London, Dubai and Miami, she’s long been
a customer of alternative accommodations sites. In 2017 her new London flat was burglarized and this led her to start Golightly. And as an avid solo traveler, prior to COVID-19, Victoria logged over 100,000 airline miles a year.
Golightly co-founder and CMO James Hirsch is a seasoned marketing executive with a passion for travel. James previously worked as a creative director at HBO and co-founded a marketing agency focused on providing digital solutions for media startups and
hospitality brands. Having known O’Connell for almost 20 years, they came together with the common goal of promoting women’s safety in travel and launched Golightly.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
Our business is jointly women and LGBT owned and we are committed to hiring women in as many roles as possible. In addition, we added a diversity and inclusion advisor to help us create the structure for an inclusive, equitable and diverse workplace and
overall community for our members as we grow. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination within Golightly.
What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
We launched about a month before COVID hit, so that was incredibly terrifying. But through the support of our advisors, investors and the incredible feedback of the community, we are coming out of the other side of it stronger than ever.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
The ultimate mission is safety for women and that alone is a common driver for impact as a community, even more so as that community grows. We also have the right team in place, we truly believe in our business model and we are firmly committed to our
purpose. And the fact that thousands of women who have joined, expressed their enthusiasm and listed their properties, even when travel was non-existent, is a testament to the need for Golightly.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
Hopefully not a startup. Our plan is to triple the size of our community and grow our listings exponentially in the next year. We anticipate and look forward to a full return to travel for our members in 2021. (And selfishly for us too - we need it!)
What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
The goal is to go public eventually but to maintain the close-knit friend-of-a-friend community feel and level of accountability and security that comes with each guest knowing exactly who her host is, and how they’re connected.
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