From deciding a name to launching a business
Following on from ‘The Inspiration of tripAbrood’, in this blog post I’m going to walk you through the 10 steps I took from deciding on a name to nearing launch. I wish I’d had a step by step guide when I started the tripAbrood journey, so whether this serves to help inspire you to start your own business or gives you the confidence to explore tripAbrood and our services more, hopefully this one is for you.
I’ll never forget that moment when I finalised on the name tripAbrood. Something monumental happened internally. I went from ‘I’m sure there is a way to do family travel better’ to ‘I have a business’. Naming anything is such a powerful moment in time. Everything becomes real in a matter of seconds. And for tripAbrood, it was no different. I’m excited to share a step by step guide to how tripAbrood came to life from naming onwards.
1. Set up the company: The first thing I did was to register tripAbrood as a company on Companies House. No rocket science here but a good thing to do when you’ve finalised your name to ensure no one else has it.
2. Register a trademark: I took one step further than just a company registration and trademarked the name tripAbrood in both UK and Europe. I worked with a company called Briffa to do this who were recommended through the British Library. Although not a cheap option, I found this a powerful step in securing the IP of the name tripAbrood.
3. Research the market: Coming into travel from the outside after a long and fruitful career in Financial Services, I had so many questions. How big is the family market? What’s the average order value of a family holiday? Has this market grown over time? What are the known challenges to servicing the family market? What are the projections for growth in this market versus other travel markets? What are some of the systemic challenges to technology and data within the travel sector and family travel specifically? Who else is doing something meaningful to solve the challenges with family travel? To answer these questions, I spent 3 months of my life going to the British Library on a weekly basis, consuming all the research I could find on both travel in general & family travel specifically. I was shocked to only find one article from back in 2015 on family travel, and I very quickly realised how underserved the family segment is in travel from both a research, data & technology point of view. What was clear though was how big the family travel market was (£600 billion spent on family holidays globally per year!) and how few businesses were making a meaningful difference to this vast specialist market.
4. Talk to our target market: Armed with knowledge on the sector & with clarity on both the opportunity and the challenges ahead, I shifted focus towards researching my target market. No better way to do this than speaking to parents themselves about their own challenges booking family holidays. I toured the country, speaking to parents from all walks of life. A huge thank you to everyone who gathered friends and family in their houses and let me quiz them for an hour or two! I was overwhelmed by the consistent feedback on how time consuming it was to find the right family holiday and how many times parents had been disappointed when they’d arrived and found something totally different to what they’d expected. I even heard parents saying they’d given up on family holidays altogether as the stress of researching holidays had made the whole experience unbearable. I knew there was a huge opportunity and I was fired up to solve it!
5. Create a founding team: From the beginning I knew I wanted to create a company with someone. Finding that someone took time and wasn’t an easy process. It’s one of the hardest things in the journey of any startup - finding the person/people that are willing to make your company their life. Because ultimately that is what is required for startup founders. I’ve had some amazing people who joined me in the initial stages of tripAbrood, but ultimately it didn’t work out for very valid reasons. And I am grateful for everyone who was part of the journey for however short or long it was. The breakthrough for me was when I focused my attention on finding a technical co-founder. Cue Ketan Anand. He came recommended through a world class accelerator that I’d been mentored by in the early stages. They say you know a good fit in the first few minutes of an interview and I knew straight away that Ketan was the ideal technical co-founder for tripAbrood. He came from Lloyds Bank where he was Engineering Lead and came with a huge amount of experience in complex back end technologies and recommendation engines – the backbone of what I knew tripAbrood would become. And as they say, the rest is history. We’ve been co-founders since September 2019.
6. Decide on the fundraising strategy: For me, I took the option of bootstrapping tripAbrood for the first year. Not easy in any way, but this allowed me to take initial ownership of how I wanted to set the business up and who I wanted in my founding team. I found it a liberating experience initially to know that tripAbrood was my business to shape and mould in those early days. However, I knew that to solve the challenges of family travel through technology would require capital. So, from the very beginning of the journey, I started putting feelers out to my network. Getting that early advice and engagement was a very important step to closing our first funding round which we did in October 2019. At that stage, we had the enormous pleasure of having Vic Walia, former Global Head of Marketing for Expedia Group, join us as an active member of the founding team, helping to set early direction on the vision of the company and secure that first round of funding. Advice from me if you are setting up a business: surround yourself by super knowledgeable people that plug the gaps in your own expertise. You are only as good as the team around you and that premise starts from the very beginning of startup life.
7. Test out the idea from day one: The first thing we did after we raised our first round was to test the idea of a virtual travel agent that recommends the ideal family holiday with our target market. To do this, we set up a test product on Facebook Messenger where we had a chatbot speak to families about their holiday requirements. We put a decent spend behind it on Facebook Messenger and started seeing families interacting with our chatbot which we named Aita (AI Travel Assistant and “Love him/her” in Chinese). More on this in point 8.
8. Hire our first employee: To support this test product, we hired in our first employee, Katie Stepek, who joined us initially as travel consultant, providing recommendations to our customers who were interacting via Facebook Messenger. Katie had experience in startups before joining us and had run the EMEA flight expert team at Scotts Cheap Flights. She was brave enough to join a super early stage startup, with only a founding team in place and an initial funding round under our belt. Over that initial few months, we saw the Facebook messenger test product grow 200% week on week, with more and more people engaging with Aita and great feedback coming through on the recommendations Katie was giving out. We then ran a survey to people who used the test product, and with 86% of testers saying they would book through us, we knew we had a solution to family travel that people would love.
9. Build the team: With initial validation in place, we knew it was time to build the team that would bring out our AI-powered family travel booking experience to life and create the sort of personalised service you get through a physical travel agent, digitally and at scale. We took an early decision to be remote first and when covid-19 struck, this proved to be the right strategy. Over the last few months, the team has grown to 10 people across Engineering, Product, UX, Data, Marketing & Growth. And the team is spread across London, Scotland and India. We've also brought on key advisors and board members into the business with significant expertise in travel from world-leading organisations including Virgin Holidays, Travelport and American Express. As a team, we’ve secured partnerships with some of the leading names in Travel and Tech. And we’ve built out a customer experience that is totally unique – a service we believe will reduce the time it takes to research and book the right family holiday for you, from the current average of 30 hours to under 10 minutes. Keep up to date on our blog for more details on how we are building the world’s first AI-powered family travel booking experience.
10. Grow our database of early adopters: As we geared up to launch, we focused on how to reach out to parents in an effective way that built up the trust in a new travel brand solving their problems. During lockdown, we set about creating content that inspired families to travel virtually all around the world. You can read more about this in our blog post on “Activity Packs: Exploring the world from your living room”. Over the last few months, we’ve grown our community of early adopters by 500% and received a 5* Trustpilot status with all the lovely reviews from our community. We’re excited to be launching to them very shortly.
We are about to launch our AI assistant, Aita, via www.tripabrood.com in August 2020 and we couldn’t be more excited as a team. With covid and all the challenges with travel in general at the moment, we know that families need to build up their trust again in where to travel and how to travel safely.
At tripAbrood we are determined to help ease families back into travel in the safest and funnest way possible. More to come on our launch very soon!