Planning trips alone isn’t an easy task. Now imagine planning a trip for a dozen people or sometimes, even a few hundred. Managing the itinerary, all trip destinations, lodging, and transportation can be a nightmare, but making it work for a big group can render the job much more stressful.
David Chait, founder of Travefy, experienced the pains of planning group trips while still in business school and built a platform to solve all areas of group vacations. We recently sat down with David to listen to his story.
Bachelor Party Nightmare
David Chait started his road to entrepreneurship, surprisingly, as a corporate man. Fresh from college, he found a job as a business analyst at McKinsey and Company. While going back to Columbia for an MBA, he also changed jobs and became a Senior advisor to the Administrator at the SBA (Small Business Administration). While he was employed at the SBA, David met a variety of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and found that working with these self-starters was “eye opening”. “The amalgamation of all these wonderful people” created a desire deep within him, and he discovered that he wanted to change career paths and try something new. He wanted to, first, be in a role that involved the operational aspect of business instead of just the strategic side, and second, to start a company and build his own product.
While he was still in business school, a lot of David’s friends began to get married. Planning for bachelor parties would become a nightmare. Many trip planning softwares were not fit for the stresses of group planning, and many were also unable to integrate every aspect of the process into one platform. David recalled, “we couldn’t figure out where and when we wanted to go, someone booked a hotel date that didn’t even work for some people, and I got stuck with some bills that nobody payed me back for”. Later, he had an epiphany: the world was lacking a tool to plan all aspects of a group trip. Thus, Travefy was born.
What is Travefy
Travefy is a collaboration based trip planner, focused on delivering a platform to organize every aspect of your trip on. To improve the team planning experience, he created polls, a chat function built into the itinerary, and easy collaboration tools. He made sure that everything from booking hotels, to managing expenses, to finding things to do, was all integrated into Travefy. He also ensured that there were multiple final itinerary formats from online to offline.
An API Problem
Creating such a large, complex, and comprehensive platform was challenging. David explained, “In the early stages, everything is exciting, but everything is stressful”. In one of the first trips he planned for a classmate, the whole thing almost went to waste because of a problem with booking hotels. This issue, and many others in the early stages, would all happen due to the ongoing process of API (Application Programming Interface) integration.
An API allows a client software to communicate and use functions of another application or server through a defined set of methods (functions). In this way, one program can easily integrate google maps, youTube, Facebook, or tripadvisor, removing the barriers of having to program them all from scratch.
The problem for Travefy in the beginning was that they were not fully API integrated. Because one of Travefy’s chief concerns was to become as comprehensive as possible, they would have needed to include all the facets of trip planning into one complete program. Without third party system support some areas were difficult to operate.
Take for example group hotel bookings. Group travel planners needed to book hotels, but the process was different compared to booking for individuals. What travefy had to use for the period of time before the API was fully integrated was RFP (request for proposal) – a document that is submitted to obtain a particular service – making it so every time a group had to make a reservation, it became a manual process.
Travefy’s biggest challenge at this point would be to prove that they were “worthy” of using the APIs. Luckily, the providers thought they were and they were able to automate some of the more difficult processes.
Release the Data
Paying so much attention on refining the product might have led the company into a hole, one where they didn’t market the product and therefore would end up having no consumers.
One marketing method they used in the beginning was SEO (Search Engine Optimization). By targeting “target audiences” through their landing pages such as corporate travel planners or bachelor party planners, and using relevant, useful information, the landing pages would build upon themselves, grow, and attract more potential customers.
Later as the business grew, David noticed something interesting; he “realized there was a treasure trove of data” provided by their one million plus users at that point. Customer choices had created some interesting data trends for the company. From their data, they were able to glean information such as what types of trips people were going on. Releasing this data allowed media companies to use it. Media companies would then cite Travefy as a source, and their countless readers would see the name Travefy pop up, and be attracted to the business. In this way, they could indirectly obtain new clients.
Going through these obstacles have taught David a valuable lesson. David said, “You have to be willing to throw it [what you’re doing] away; adapt”. He has learned that one of the most important things to do when running a company has been to make micro-changes, to iterate until he had the result he wanted. From API integration to marketing, changing has been a common thread.
In the beginning, Travefy was a company set on the consumer market, building a complete group itinerary planner, but through the years, they’ve shifted their focus, becoming a B2B (business to business) company. Now, many of their biggest clients are travel agents and companies. In the future, David hopes that his company will be able to “take over the desktop”. This means increasing the tasks and functions that Travefy can support, whether that means Customer Relationship Management tools, communications during the trip, or payment streams. Their goal is to be the main tool used from the moment the customer walks into the door to when they walk out.
“Dive right in, learn by doing…and set yourself up for success”
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