Anyone who’s a parent or who’s been around younger kids are amazed at how quickly their young fingers become adept with our iPhones and iPads. And yes, listening to fathers gloat about their kids’ accomplishments can get tiresome.
But I gotta give it up to my daughter. Just started 1st grade and I think she’s ready to help run my web startup. One recent morning, she let out this zinger: “Daddy, how can people you don’t know get to your website?” I was flabbergasted. Just the other day a friend asked for my elevator pitch. And I was ready (it’s a web app for personalized trip ideas and on demand expert advice). But my daughter stumped me. Here I was, giggling on the outside but somehow stymied as I searched for a simple kid-friendly explanation of my marketing strategy! “Well…ah…you know, first you have to create something that people want…so that when they want to read about something…or, when they are searching for something that you have, you want to make sure they click on your site.” I totally flubbed it. How the hell am I going to pitch potential investors? Fortunately my wife chimed in: “you know, it’s just like when you search for Jonas Brothers videos on YouTube.” My daughter got the relevant example. “Oh. So you make it so people can find something they like on your website.”
Now as any entrepreneur knows, marketing is critical to any new business – the old adage about building a better mousetrap (and how the world will beat a path to your door) doesn’t hold true anymore. Finding a core group of “earlyvangelists” or champions for your product is critical to its success for sure. But continued growth will need to come from new customers – the strangers my precocious daughter was talking about. Fortunately I do have a plan, and part of it is something you can participate in. Please take the quick 3-minute survey at http://svy.mk/my6yrold
to see if you fit into our target market (or at least what we think it is). If you’re selected, we’ll give you a chance to earn gift certificates to your favorite places like iTunes, Amazon or Starbucks. And in the process, you’ll be helping out an entrepreneur trying desperately trying to stay one step ahead of his 6-year-old daughter. Which may just ensure success!
This story begins many years ago, with a young boy taking his first transatlantic flight. At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be on board what is now perhaps the quintessential symbol of global travel – a Boeing 747. It was my first true taste of travel, the spark that ultimately led to my current livelihood. I can still recall the feeling of wonderment when I awoke to find that after a full night’s sleep, we were still over water. As the sun rose, we crossed over a neat patchwork of Holland’s verdant green fields. I remember thinking “what’s it like down there?” It’s a sense of curiosity that has never left me. I get it even when I look at maps of random places. An unquenchable desire to see new places.
Fast forward to the late nineties. After ditching a corporate cubicle for a year-long trip around the world, I caught the tail end of the dotcom boom. Amid the lavish launch parties and overnight wealth of the dotcom boom, I was quite content to be writing promotional copy for a brash young startup called Site59.com. My job? Get people to take a spontaneous weekend trip someplace by crafting evocative, vibrant descriptions. It was a dream job. Describing destinations in a way that captured the inherent pleasure of travel was the perfect outlet for my travel curiosity. Our focus on communicating the overall experience was partly by pure necessity: as a young company we didn’t have inventory in places like Orlando and Las Vegas. We had to sell places like Cleveland and Omaha (no offense).
In two years we managed to sell enough to be acquired by Travelocity. Suddenly, we’re selling the big destinations and my focus shifted to the business side of things: market share, supplier rate negotiations, volume. Still, it was an amazing job. I had a choice territory (Caribbean, and then Europe) and naturally it required extensive travel (hey, somebody had to do it). But as with any mature business, the focus became more about driving volume and profits in popular destinations. Not much discovery.
A concept started forming, a way of capturing the sense of discovery in travel. While this is very much en vogue today (my project is one of a current bevy of “travel inspiration startups”) it was not a top priority for most online travel agencies. As these ideas germinated, an opportunity arose to work for an online agency called eDreams in Barcelona, a city I’ve always loved. Through my years there I gained tremendous insight into the European market, while taking advantage of the many nearby destinations: Tuscany, Tunisia, Provence just to name a few. And while the experience was amazing, the desire to start my own business brought me back to the US and to this project.
This is where we’ll write the next chapter. That’s right I said “we” – you and I. You’ll provide the comments and feedback (and perhaps one day become a customer), and I will do the work. Not a bad deal, huh? Please join me as we build an exciting new way to discover amazing travel experiences.