SquadTrip provides an SaaS trip booking and marketing platform for group travel organizers and trip-bookers alike.
Founded in February 2022, SquadTrip says its software eliminates the need to manage multiple costly platform accounts for group travel.
What is your 30-second pitch to investors?
SquadTrip is the group travel booking and marketing platform where organizers and travelers turn trips into exceptional life experiences. The COVID-19 global pandemic spawned a renewed interest in doing work that people love, as well as a resurgence in group travel to make and reinforce important connections, enjoy novel experiences and generate irreplaceable memories to last a lifetime: destination weddings, family reunions, “friendcations” and more.
SquadTrip sees an opportunity to capitalize on a convergence of tech, travel and social trends by providing a purpose-built SaaS (software as a service) platform for group-travel organizers and trip-bookers alike.
Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.
Technology is at the core of what we do. SquadTrip is not just travel software, it’s a business transformation tool that increases productivity, drives sales and delivers a better customer experience. SquadTrip was launched as an all-in-one SaaS platform for travel businesses and organizers to quickly set up and manage booking, organization, marketing, payment and communication for group travel. It was designed to eliminate the need to manage multiple costly platform accounts for group travel, e.g., Wix (website), Travefy (itineraries), TravelJoy (invoicing), Afterpay (payment), HubSpot (CRM, sales/marketing), Mailchimp (emails) and Google Sheets/Microsoft Excel (spreadsheets).
Travel clients can sign up via credit card and be up and running in an hour with no long-term contract. SquadTrip targets small and medium-sized businesses and at-home travel entrepreneurs (such as travel agents), with the goal of servicing these customers as they scale to become larger customers with more sophisticated needs.
Recognizing the trend in unique trip curation for an increasingly diverse traveler profile, SquadTrip is designing features to enable online travel agencies and trip organizers to easily organize, customize and market trips. Key features include an AI itinerary builder, travel debit card, content sharing and marketing program support including education and referral features.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
The United States’ travel market is thriving, and with the resurgence in group travel, this is the perfect time and opportunity to launch a platform that helps travel agencies and organizers tackle some of their biggest challenges. As with many businesses entering the market, inflation and a decline in purchasing power could impact travel growth. However, we’re confident that our purpose-driven target audience and business model will allow us to adapt in any economic environment.
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?
One of the biggest pain points for travel organizers is time- and cost-efficient travel planning, without having to pay for and manage eight or more online tools required to execute group travel bookings for customers. SquadTrip built an all-in-one platform to streamline the process with a trip page and itinerary builder, invoicing, payment, CRM (customer relationship management), sales and marketing, customer database management and more. Creating a SquadTrip account takes minutes, three maybe, and our team supports travel professionals with responsive customer service in the process.
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For SquadTrip, it’s all about helping travel pros excite and delight their consumers and stay nimble in changing times. For travelers, it can be tough to find amazing trips tailored to one’s passion points and interests. And once you do, the booking and payment process can be arduous. SquadTrip helps organizers design custom trips to meet travelers’ unique interests, streamline the booking and payment process and create a central access point for trip information sharing and communication.
So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Group travel is about community, so we’ll be launching a community-building strategy in 2023. But just as important as customer growth is customer satisfaction. A core focus for SquadTrip in 2023 is to super serve our current client base, because there’s nothing more valuable than satisfied clients who refer other great clients.
Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.
We’ve launched multiple travel and social businesses before SquadTrip and discovered a genuine need through our own group travel experiences with friends. In our network, we know a number of lifestyle influencers, DJs, musicians and businesspeople who’ve made real money through group trips.
But the whole process of organizing trips, using seven or eight apps and chasing after logistics, was painful. We decided to build SquadTrip as an all-in-one platform to make group travel easier. There was definite interest pre-pandemic, and now only more so. In our customer discovery, travel organizers have been increasingly moving toward group travel - not just for the money, but also because of the demand among companies organizing trips for remote staff, as well as people prioritizing adventure and cultural experiences and wanting to spend quality time with family and friends.
Once we realized we were serving many unmet demands, we continued to refine our model and applied to Build In Tulsa Techstars Accelerator. Since graduating Techstars, we’ve only increased customer discovery. We’re getting a lot of organic demand through word of mouth about our customer service. Organizers are telling us they like SquadTrip’s customization features, which allow them to better tailor their business around personal passions: everything from yoga and soul food retreats, to adventure and luxury travel.
How and when will you make money?
We make money when travelers book experiences via our platform and from travel agents or organizers who sign up for premium features like our day-by-day itinerary builder.
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?
SquadTrip is venture-backed and was one of 12 startups that participated in the Build In Tulsa Techstars Accelerator, a program for businesses led by diverse founders.
Co-founders Darrien Watson and Stevon Judd are startup founders who met in college and have launched multiple businesses together in the travel and social space. With nearly 20 years combined experience in product management, platform development, architecture and product management, Darrien and Stevon are on a mission to connect people through travel experiences.
How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?
We start there. As a Black-owned business, it is in our DNA. From our diverse team to the customers we serve, to the destinations they frequent. Our goal is to use travel to open doors to a more equitable future for all.
What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?
The biggest challenge for us has been prioritizing and pacing because the initial customer response has been overwhelming. The more we respond to travel organizer needs, the more clients who come to us with their needs – and this is a good thing. We want to build faster, but we’re also focused on testing the features and flows that deliver the best experience for travel organizers and bookers alike.
Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?
We are laser-focused on our customers and serving this growing blue ocean of entrepreneurs with a passion for travel who are also serving the growing appetite for curated experiences with like-minded people.
A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?
We will be in a high-growth phase.
What is your endgame (going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)?
Our goal is to become the largest travel-booking platform to turn group trips into exceptional life experiences.
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