Below is a Q&A exchange with Flightfox.com founder Todd Sullivan (pictured here right on Mt Kilimanjaro with co-founder Lauren McLeod ). This is an instalment in my profile series on Australian travel search start-ups.
BOOT: Date founded
Sullivan: January 2012
BOOT: Name of founders
Sullivan: Todd Sullivan, Lauren McLeod
BOOT: Name of backers/investors
Sullivan: Startmate Startup Accelerator
BOOT: How much money have you raised
Sullivan: $25k to fund proof of concept
BOOT: Description of the business
Sullivan: Flightfox is human-powered flight search; we use humans to beat machines. For a finder's fee, flight experts all over the world compete against each other to find you the best flights. Unlike most flight search engines (and travel agents), our experts search all the major airlines, budget airlines, special offers, newsletters, forums, and frequent flyer programmes. They use their many years of flight "hacking" experience to route you through the best cities, get you on the best flights, and save you as much money as possible.
BOOT: What is the revenue model
Sullivan: We take a cut of the finder's fee, but with future investment we'll also generate commissions on flight bookings.
BOOT: Some examples of savings and interesting routings that people have comp up
Sullivan: Our most unusual trip was for a customer travelling with 3 cats. Of course, Expedia and Kayak don't cater to cats, and most travel agents will direct you to the airlines, but on Flightfox, our experts had experience travelling with pets and knew all the tips and tricks. For example, there are strict regulations regarding weather; in winter, many airlines restrict travel for pets. In terms of savings, we've saved people over $5,000 on complicated and premium class trips. Even on short domestic trips, our customers offload the searching to us and have peace of mind that our experts have found you the best price. On our average trip, which visits a few cities internationally, we save customers 27%.
BOOT: Any success metrics you are happy to share (traffic levels, customer numbers, revenue numbers, number of searches)
Sullivan: 5,000+ users and over $30,000 in finder's fees, all in our first 8 weeks since launching our beta product.
BOOT: Something you learnt along the way
Sullivan: Firstly, Startmate is the best decision we ever made. The pace at which we iterate and the access to successful mentors, seems to make start-up success so much more likely. Our other big lessons are all to do with marketplaces. But we're only a few weeks in, so I imagine we've barely scratched the surface.
BOOT: Something you wish you had done differently in launching a business
Sullivan: we'd learned many lessons from a previous travel start-up, so there's nothing significant this time. For example, this time we spent no effort on logos, business cards, company registration, SEO, social media, etc, until we'd proven the concept and had confidence in its sustainability.
BOOT: What's next for the business.
Sullivan: What are you working on that is exciting - we're currently raising a seed round of investment to catapult our growth. We don't necessarily need investment, but we have big plans and want to make the most of the opportunity. Specifically, we have a plan to multiply revenue per customer, but for that we need investment. We have pitch days in Melbourne (27th March), Sydney (30th March), then San Francisco (3rd April) and New York (17th April). Investors are more than welcome to contact us for more info.
BOOT: Favourite non-travel website