Friday, March 23, 2012

Adioso profile: exchange with Adioso founder Tom Howard

Here is a Q&A exchange with Adioso founder Tom Howard (pictured right with co-founder Fenn Bailey). This is an instalment in my profile series on Australian travel search start-ups.

BOOT: Date founded

Howard: January 2008

BOOT: Name of founders

Howard: Tom Howard and Fenn Bailey

Both of Melbourne, Australia

BOOT: Name of backers/investors

Y Combinator, Paul Buchheit (Gmail, Friendfeed, Facebook), Alexis Ohanian (Reddit, Hipmunk), Stephen Bartlett-Bragg (Qantas, Sabre, EB2) and a handful of other investors from Australia & Silicon Valley

BOOT:How much money have you raised

Howard: $380,000

BOOT: Description of the business

Howard: Adioso is a travel search & discovery site that allows you to:

- search without constraints on dates & destinations ("Sydney to South East Asia late May", or "Brisbane to anywhere under $400")

- 'follow" destinations and search phrases to receive alerts as soon as new inventory is found that matches your interests and budget

BOOT: What is the revenue model

Howard: Initially, commissions on transactions facilitated via the site.

Later, services to airlines and suppliers.

BOOT: Any success metrics you are happy to share (traffic levels, customer numbers, revenue numbers, number of searches)

Howard: We don't consider our traffic particularly boast-worthy at this stage, but our we're approaching 100K visits/month, and we refer about $2million/month in leads to airlines. We're expecting much more rapid growth in coming months once we start rolling out the new features we have in the pipeline.

Our favourite stats are:

- Avg session is > 8 minutes

- Average active visitor worth >$45 in referred airline revenue

- Our user-satisfaction survey told us that 95% of visitors would be at least somewhat disappointed if we didn't exist; 50% of those said they'd be very disappointed.

BOOT: Something you learnt along the way

Howard Travel's an awfully tough business for start-ups as you're up against decades-old technology and business practices. But if you can persist long enough to find a way through, the opportunities are vast and exciting.

BOOT: Something you wish you had done differently in launching a business

Howard: Though a lot has gone wrong, I wouldn't wish it to be any different. We'd be better off if we hadn't taken so long to get our back-end technology working properly, and sometimes I lament the 12-18 months we've been delayed due to going about that the wrong way.

But because of that challenge we've been forced to learn so much more about the fundamentals of the travel industry and of building a great company, and have had to do it on a shoestring budget, so overall we're much better off,

BOOT: What's next for the business. What are you working on that is exciting Howard: Just last week we turned on the new version of our site UI. It doesn't actually have any major functionality over the previous version, but it gives us a platform to start doing a lot more cool stuff.

We're in the process of finishing our new search platform, that will enable us to scale to handle global airline inventory, including full-service carriers via GDSs (to-date we've been limited to low-cost airlines).

We've been trialling a hotel search feature, using HotelsCombined and Airbnb as suppliers, and we'll soon be adding this into the new version of the app.

We've also been trialling our "following" feature, that allows people to subscribe to alerts on destinations, flights, hotels and activities that are of interest, and get highly focused notifications when relevant products and deals become available.

Finally, we've conceived a new approach to browsing, sorting and filtering search results, that is testing very well with users.

We're gearing up to start rolling out these features steadily over the next few months. We're pretty excited to get it all out there.

BOOT: Favourite non-travel website

Howard: HackerNews

BOOT: Where did your name come from

Howard: It was on a brainstorming list that Fenn came up with. "Adios!" seemed to nicely represent the idea of finding a cheap flight to an exotic destination and spontaneously taking off out of town.

We wanted something that was short, had the .com available, and wasn't overly literal like so many travel product names. Most of the discarded options were things like "Save-o-flight". I'm so glad we didn't go with something like that, and I'm surprised even today how many travel start-ups have these kinds of name


Andrew said...

Interesting interview.

I have admired the Adioso natural language search for some time and wish them luck.

I see natural language search as the next big thing in online travel.

Tim Hughes said...

@Andrew - thanks for the comment. I am convinced that customers are looking for more information, options and inspiration about where to go and what to do. Natural search/open ened questions will be a big part of the solution

neale @ living in thailand said...

I have been a fan of adioso for a long time since it came out, shame Air Asia is not doing Europe no more, the daily email alerts are great.