So, last year I started a website. AdventureHoney safely connects travellers direct to adventure tour and activity operators that were previously invisible online. (Exclusively in Thailand, but launching new Asian destinations soon!) The experiences these operators sell are curated by our users, so what we end up with is a marketplace of awesome adventure tours and activities which are added and reviewed by our users.
It works like this: you find an adventure tour or activity you'd like to do, pay a 20% deposit then settle the balance in local currency on the day you do it with the local operator.
As with any start-up, it's a steep learning curve. Here's 5 lessons from our journey so far:
1. Systems are critical. From systemising how we user-test traffic to creation and posting of social media to back office functions like accounting - start building systems from day one.
2. Clear offer. We have a strong social mission with AdventureHoney where 25% of proceeds are invested into our Changemaker Program. The program empowers local social entrepreneurs with ideas that can lift local communities out of extreme poverty.
In start-up, you want to keep things simple. A clear, focused message. We've found it challenging to communicate the social element of our offer without diluting the essential: find kick-arse, adventurous things to do when you travel.
This is a work in progress, but we're committed to the challenge. By 2020, 10% of global GDP will be moving around the world through travel. The opportunity to leverage that expenditure and in some small way make the world a better place is too big an opportunity to ignore.
3. It's really hard to get a merchant account - especially in travel. The banks have been burned by chargebacks from dubious businesses and are highly conservative. This is a process that will take months, not weeks. PayPal is expensive and takes customers away from your site, but in hindsight, this is a better solution in the early stages where it's less about cost/margin, more about simply getting it out there.
4. Disrupting the status quo. There's a lot of legacy thinking in the travel industry (which is as much an opportunity as it is a problem). From the old supplier/wholesaler/travel agent systems to the way product is marketed, we see tremendous upside.
5. Everything is much slower than you project it to be through the obligatory 'rose coloured glasses' given out to entrepreneurs ;) You know you won't simply build it and they will come, but you kind of think some might…right?! Well, no. It takes time. We're getting there and bookings are growing, but unless you're building the next Instagram (sorry, you're as likely to win lotto as build something that moves as fast and returns as big as Instagram) it will take time.
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