That you should monetize your project from the begging, or at least, have a plan to do it soon.
I’m a Portuguese-Aussie girl, born and raised in Lisbon who moved to Sydney a few years ago. I’m passionate about Digital and Traveling. For years I had Digital roles for big corporates and I was traveling for leisure, might have visited more than 50 countries. While traveling I realized my best source of information and the easiest way to get local tips was from friends who’ve been there, friends of friends or travel communities. So I and 2 other awesome and hard working guys decided to create Onepagetrip. It failed and I’ll tell you why.
The day I closed Onepagetrip I had a new vision :) but the runway was becoming an issue - as you can imagine Sydney is an expensive city. We can’t control the wind but we can adjust the sails, so I came back to Lisbon. I applied to a startup accelerator program called Lisbon Challenge at Beta-i and today I’m glad I did it. Talkifly, my current startup, was born here. Talkifly is disrupting business travel by putting an end to the repetitive and tedious work that Executives and Operations Managers have to go through to manage travel. Our cool technology serves highly efficient teams giving them the tools they need to easily and quickly get things done (things ie. approvals, billing, invoices, travelers profile and preferences, etc you name it) and is backed up by real-time chat travel assistants to whom they can delegate whatever they need and whose focus is to understand travelers needs and give them what’s best. Here’s a 30sec chat demo.
Onepagetrip was a travel itinerary sharing community. There, you could find itineraries from different people, pick the ones you related with and using trip planning tools you could mix them up and build your own itinerary. This 1 min video shows how the product used to work.
I was really lucky with the team. We were 3 founders, myself, Jose who was working for Expedia and Lucas who was an incredible tech guru with more than 20 years experience and an amazing person to work with, learned a lot from him.
We worked together for more than 1 year but we couldn’t make any money out of it. We built a product without testing the idea first, we underestimated our competitors, Jose and I kept our daily jobs which was a huge mistake and we were just rookies in this startup world. For one year the 3 of us were working on building the best product we could and on promoting the product the best we could with a very limited budget.
Ok, first I need to point out that we wanted to build a marketplace. So we needed people to write itineraries and people to use/download them. First, we started by asking friends and family. We asked them to create itineraries for trips they have done, local gems they had found and things that would be great to share with other travelers. They helped to increase our portfolio of itineraries and we did a lot of social campaigns, build social communities and nothing was really working, people didn’t have a strong motivation to spend their time sharing their trip with others and we didn’t have money to pay them. We launch a contest and that brought us a few new itineraries but was just marginal. So with the itineraries we had, around 50-60, we decided to start bringing users to the site and for that, we launched social campaign and we did a fair bit of Google AdWords. People would come to the site, use the information that was available for them, download a few itineraries and leave without spending a cent.
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I believe that, among other smaller issues, the big problem was that we didn’t know how to make money out of it. We tried these 2 things: 1) hotel affiliate booking - when a hotel was mentioned in the itinerary there was a click off to book that hotel, 2) pay to disclose the full itinerary - we would show part of the itinerary but if you wanted to use it you’d have to pay a small amount. Nothing worked.
Not having a good plan to make money from the beginning was such a stupid rookie mistake. We spent months building a product, making it better and better. We didn’t build an MVP as planned. We got so involved in features and details that we forgot the bigger picture.
I already mentioned a few disadvantages but let me summarise here. The biggest one was the competition, I had a feeling that I could put millions into Google AdWords and I could be the best person in the world optimizing for SEO but I would never rank in the 1st 50 positions. It was so frustrating, for every travel-related word there were so many billion dollar companies competing. It was impossible for us to stand out. It would take us years and we didn’t have the time. ‘Life is tough, my darling, but so are you’ - Stephanie Bennett Henry. I’m very persistent and sometimes that is more emotional than rational - can be a disadvantage too. But the second biggest disadvantage was our lack of expertise about how to build a startup, how to validate an idea, how to ‘pivot’, how to validate the basic Business Model Canvas. And the 3rd one I believe it was our runaway. Sydney is really expensive, we had to keep our day jobs and after one year Lucas, our tech guy, had to go back full time to a day job too. The team broke and there were no conditions to keep going.
Easy: quit my daily job, cut down my monthly expenses, apply to a startup accelerator program, get mentors, validate the idea before starting building the product, get advice from reputable mentors in the travel industry and build a strong business model before the 1st line of code.
I learned a lot. Not sure if I have the right words to explain, but I’ll try. I learned how to be efficient, how to leverage tools and methodologies, which I didn’t even know existed, to do my job quicker and better. I learned how cool it is to work with people that are driven and cut the bullshit. I learned how not to give a damn about what people think of me and of what I’m doing, how to do something just because I love to.
I learned all the ‘basic’ startup stuff, legal requirement, accountant details, what should an MVP look like, why are people obsessed about Product-Market fit, how important it is to have a strong Business Model and stick to it, etc. Most important I learned how to cool down and control stress.
My main advice is to avoid staying at home. I mean you can work from home but you need help. Go into a Startup Accelerator Program, learn why others have failed, what have they done wrong (you can use Failory for that), get into the startup community, build your network. Hear what people say but learn how to separate bullshit from good advice. Do your homework, before you build something, make sure people need it, people will use it. Oh! and before I forget, don’t do it if you are not passionate about it.
I recommend reading Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. It details the most difficult part of building a startup - build something that people need/use. Once you have something then you really need to focus on optimizing it. But the worst, the hard bit is to get from zero to one, to find your niche, your product-market fit.
I recommend this podcast called Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman. Reid’s theory:
If you want your company to truly scale, you first have to do things that don’t scale. Hand-craft the core experience. Serve your customers one-by-one. Then figure out how and what to scale. This podcast is addictive and helps you understand what works, what doesn’t work and how to build a company from zero to something.
Note: Talkifly was born in December 2016 and MVP launched & first customers acquired in January 2017. As you can see, we’re new :)
This is a blog post with the 3 bottom lines I use to guide me to keep improving Takifly: Delegate. Organize. Trust.
This is how Talkifly looks like at the moment.
This is a link to Talkifly facebook page.
This is a video of life mentoring with my co-founder Jose, Marvin Liao (500 Startups) and Max Kelly (Tech Stars).
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