Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hanging up my BOOTs

Dear Readers - It is time for me to hang up my BOOTs.

My first posts were published in June 2006.  Six years later I have more than a 1,000 stories that have been viewed  400,000+ times.  I have met hundreds of people, formed scores of business contacts and dozens of close friends directly as a result of this site.  I made Bloggers "blogs of note list". I have travelled to conferences across the Americas and Asia Pac talking about ideas and company gossip. And I have bored my wife with endless stories of how to travel, what to pack, what to wear and how horrible business travel can be. The writing of the BOOT was the single best thing  I ever undertook for professional development.

But it is time to pause. I won't say shut down as you never know what will come next.  However for now, the BOOTs need to be hung up and the posts to stop.  You can still follow me on Twitter (@hughestim).  Also feel free to stay in touch by email at timsboot [at] gmail.com.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my rantings.  In particular I want to thank those that have contributed through tips and comments.  Finally I want to thank Madame BOOT and the anklets.  One day (just maybe), I will remerge in social media under the guise of the (old) COOT (consumer of online travel).  Until that time - happy travels.

Thanks to daryl_mitchell for the image via flickr

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Travel Massive June 12 / FED night June 19

Two interesting and engaging events coming up in the next few weeks in Sydney.

On June 12 at Bar 333 in George St Sydney there will be TravelMassive Sydney. Details here. More background on TravelMassive here.

On June 19 I will be moderating/chairing and Fourth Estate Domain (FED) night.  Two very interesting speakers at this event. John Butterworth, CEO of AIMIA and Paul Fisher, CEO of IAB. Lots to talk about around online advertising and media in Australia and elsewhere.  Shelbourne Hotel cnr Sussex and Market street from 6pm.  Details here.

Both will be great events.  See you there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tour of the 787 Dreamliner with Qantas and Jetstar

Photo montage/essay below of my tour of the Dreamliner 787 visiting Sydney. Thanks to Qantas and Jetstar for the invite

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TravelMassive - great meetup group for travel industry people

If you are interested in regular meet ups with travel people - then I recommend you check out TravelMassive.  This is a group that organises informal networking sessions across the world to talk travel, travel tech, marketing, supply and more.  I have attended half a dozen in Sydney.  Each one is different and interesting based on the mix of people attending.  The next one in Sydney is today (May 23).  Then LondonGold Coast/Brisbane and Melbourne on Friday 25, New York on May 29. Between now and the end of June meetings are also planned for Toronto, Colorado, Milan, Vienna and Bibao.  Full details here

For more background I asked Travel Massive Co-founder Alicia Smith a few background questions on the organisation.  Here is the exchange

1. when did travel massive start

Travel Massive (formerly Travel Tribe) was started in 2009 in Sydney, Australia by Ian Cumming (getflight.com) and Alicia Smith (WorldNomads.com), two newly-minted Sydneysiders looking to connect with other people in the local travel industry.

2. what's the aim

The purpose of Travel Massive is to connect people in the travel industry locally, bringing together travel brands, startups, bloggers and socially engaged travelers. From attending the Travel Massive over the past two and a half years, the one thing I have realised is that we have truly created a pocket of people, who, in an otherwise bustling, too-busy-for-thou city, opens its arms to anyone who cares to sit and have a beer, swap travel experiences and share their ideas about the travel industry.

Since we have events globally, and we know that people who attend the meetups are often on the road (for both business and pleasure), the idea is that they can drop in to a Travel Massive event in another city they may happen to visit. This serves as an instant network, a like-minded crowd, where otherwise they may be on their own. 

3. how many cities

We are currently up and running in 20 cities, with a few more on the horizon. New cities tend to spring up from word of mouth, people who have visited a Travel Massive event in another city and come back to their own to start one. In the case of France, the Paris  travel industry started a Travel Massive, as they couldn't let Marseilles have all the fun. 

4. great anecdote about a meeting

When we first heard that two travel companies were working together, that a partnership had been formed, after meeting at a Travel Massive event - that's when we realized we had something special on our hands. Since then we have had numerous cases of travel bloggers, companies and start-ups and individuals collaborating in all of our global meet-ups. We like to think that we've created a network that is bigger than each city, but links the travel industry across the world (or at least in 20 cities). Which may just be why there's a bit of a competition going on among members, to see who has visited Travel Massive events in the most cities - I think Gregg Tilston (https://twitter.com/greggtilston) on Flight Centre holds the current record of 5 cities.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stuck on a plane with a violin, trombone, trumpet, recorder and a bunch of hippies - what could possibly go wrong

A Canadian Airlines plane is delayed on the the Lemon Bucket Orchestra pulls out their instruments and goes all folk crazy in the da house. Love this. Watch the video and enjoy

Hat Tip the Consumerist

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The BOOT live at the Fourth Estate (FED) night on online travel, daily deals, social media, search and more

On May 2 I was part of an interview/Q&A session at the Fourth Estate (FED) series of Sydney interviews of digital people.  Video for the event is now live here.  Check out the Video to see me talking about online travel, daily deals, search, social media, Apple, start ups in Australia and much more.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The BOOT live in Sydney May 2 as part of FED networking event

If you are in Sydney on May 2, then join me at a  Fourth Estate (FED) networking event at the City Hotel, 347 Kent Street Sydney from 6pm. Journalist Brad Howarth will be interviewing me and leading a Q&A as we talk through online travel, the daily deal sector, social media, search and more.  Here is the official speil

"The Australian retail sector is crashing down around our ears but travel and deals are booming.  Offline and On – Australian's cannot get enough of buying travel and especially travel deals.  Can it last and what can other sectors learn from the explosion in growth in online travel?  Tim Hughes of the BOOT and Getaway Lounge will discuss on May 2"

The event is free to attend.  Register here

The Fed was conceived by Mike Walsh and Sally Mills.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BOOT Moderating panel on Social Media at 2011 WebInTravelConference

Above is video of the BOOT moderating a panel at the 2011 WebInTravel conference on Social Media. Panel members included:
  •  Kristof Roemer, EVP Sales, TrustYou, Germany;
  • Danny Oei Wirianto, CEO, Mindtalk, Indonesia; and
  • Margery Lynn, Dachis Group South-east Asia
WIT has an upcoming event in Thailand on April 27 with 23 very interesting presenters - all Women.  Check out the program here and registrations here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hyatt Concierge Twitter Feed Hacked

Bad day over the weekend for the Hyatt Concierge Twitter feed. They were hacked by some weight loss spammers. Top marks to Hyatt on spotting it quickly and dealing with it appropriately. Two screen shots below. Firstly the hack and then the response. A quick google search for the text of the tweet shows that a lot of people were hacked around the same time (April 14).

The Hack

The Response

Monday, April 16, 2012

Re-reading the Groupon IPO filing - some of my favourite moments

The Groupon IPO has been a "mixed bag" to put it nicely. They floated at $20 and are currently sitting at around the $13 mark (lastest GRPN quote here). The recent earnings re-statement by Groupon prompted me to go back to Groupon's original IPO filing and read through some of the risks highlighted in that document.

This list of risks highlighted by Groupon start on page 11 and go until page 31. Here are some of my favourites. I have highlighted the best bits.
"Our management team has a limited history of working together and may not be able to execute our business plan.

Our management team has worked together for only a limited period of time and has a limited track record of executing our business plan as a team. We have recently filled a number of positions in our senior management and finance and accounting staff. Accordingly, certain key personnel have only recently assumed the duties and responsibilities they are now performing. In addition, certain of our executives have limited experience managing a large global business operation. Accordingly, it is difficult to predict whether our management team, individually and collectively, will be effective in operating our business."

"Our management team has limited experience managing a public company, and regulatory compliance may divert its attention from the day-to-day management of our business.

The individuals who now constitute our management team have limited experience managing a publicly-traded company and limited experience complying with the increasingly complex laws pertaining to public companies. Our management team may not successfully or efficiently manage our transition to being a public company that will be subject to significant regulatory oversight and reporting obligations under the federal securities laws. In particular, these new obligations will require substantial attention from our senior management and could divert their attention away from the day-to-day management of our business, which could materially and adversely impact our business operations."

"We cannot assure you that we will be able to manage the growth of our organization effectively.

We have experienced rapid growth in demand for our services since our inception. Our employee headcount and number of subscribers have increased significantly since our inception, and we expect this growth to continue for the foreseeable future. The growth and expansion of our business and service offerings places significant demands on our management and our operational and financial resources. We are required to manage multiple relations with various merchants, subscribers, technology licensors and other third parties. In the event of further growth of our operations or in the number of our third-party relationships, our information technology systems or our internal controls and procedures may not be adequate to support our operations. To effectively manage our growth, we must continue to implement operational plans and strategies, improve and expand our infrastructure of people and information systems, and train and manage our employee base."
and last but not least
"We will have broad discretion in using our net proceeds from this offering, and the benefits from our use of the proceeds may not meet investors' expectations.

Our management will have broad discretion over the allocation of our net proceeds from this offering as well as over the timing of their use without stockholder approval. We have not yet determined how the net proceeds of this offering to be received by us that will be used, other than for working capital and other general corporate purposes. As a result, investors will be relying upon management's judgment with only limited information about our specific intentions for the use of our net proceeds from this offering. Our failure to apply these proceeds effectively could cause our business to suffer"

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Revenge, attacks and possible gaol time: just another day in the life of a start up

Have you ever used YouSendIt? I use AirDropper but have used YouSendIt in the past. Did you know that one of the founders of YouSendIt has just been convicted of computer fraud for attacking YouSendIt's servers and is facing possible gaol time? You didn't? Well, you have to check out the full story over at Inc magazine titled "A Silicon Valley Tale of Humiliation and Revenge". Finally Game of Thrones comes to life in Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tnooz post: four Australian start-ups revolutionising travel search

We are 15 years into the online travel revolution and travel search is still in its infancy. In a post over at Tnooz I discuss four Australian based start-ups trying to recreate the travel search experience. Check it out

Profiled in the piece are the following start-ups. Click on the links for detailed Q&A profiles

Friday, March 23, 2012

Scoot - new airline, still a lot of SEO work to do

Scoot is the new (mid to) low cost carrier coming out of Singapore. They launched sales yesterday and have just commenced the first push in Australia with a sale for departures in June and October. Unfortunately they have not prepped properly for their launch. Have a look at the below Google search results for keyword Scoot. Lots of code in their ranking and Jetstar news article in number two. Gentle (if not firm) reminder how important it is to get SEO right at any time but particularly before a launch.

PS - they also need to get their twitter planned sorted out. @scootariline is not them and neither by any stretch is @flyscoot

Australian Search Start ups profiles

The next below four posts are profiles of 4 Australian based start-ups working to revolutionise the way travel search is undertaken. These posts are a prelude to a story I have written on Tnooz that will go live next week.

Getflight profile: exchange with Getflight founder Ian Cumming

Below is a Q&A exchange with Getflight.com.au founder Ian Cumming (pictured here on stage at WebInTravel). This is an instalment in my profile series on Australian travel search start-ups.

BOOT: Date founded

Cumming: January 2011

BOOT: Name of founders

Cumming: Ian Cumming

BOOT: Name of backers/investors

Cumming: Timothy O'Neil-Dunne (t2impact), Gill Hazel (travel industry advisor), Don Takaya (PR and media relations)

BOOT: How much money have you raised

Cumming: None.

BOOT: Description of the business

Cumming: Multi-channel distribution of sale airfares across web, social and email.

BOOT: What is the revenue model

Cumming: On the B2C side - Affiliate advertising (hotels, tours, car hire), and on the B2B side - Licensing of a white-label solution.

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

Cumming: 8,723 alert subscriptions, 52,597 deals found, 268,652 deal alerts sent, 70,972 unique visitors, 47,935 searches to airline websites.

BOOT: Something you learnt along the way

Cumming: Online distribution of airfares is complex and innovation is in a stale-mate with the conversion rate.

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

Cumming: Launched in an emerging market.

BOOT: What's next for the business. What are you working on that is exciting

Cumming: We are focused on developing a licensing model which allows OTAs to re-brand and integrate the GetFlight technology platform to increase distribution of their inventory and increase user engagement.

BOOT: Favourite non-travel website

Cumming:: readwriteweb.com

Flightfox profile: exchange with Flightfox founder Todd Sullivan

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

Sullivan: 99Designs.com

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

Rome2Rio profile: exchange with Rome2Rio founder Michael Cameron

Below is a Q&A exchange with Rome2Rio founder Michael Cameron (pictured left with co-founder Bernie Tschirren). This is an instalment in my profile series on Australian travel search start-ups.

BOOT: Date founded

Cameron: September 2011

BOOT: Name of founders

Cameron: Michael Cameron and Bernie Tschirren

BOOT: Name of backers/investors

Cameron: None to date

BOOT: How much money have you raised

Cameron: Nothing, so far we are bootstrapped.

BOOT: Description of the business

Cameron: Rome2rio is a platform for organizing and searching the world's travel information. We have built a unique repository of train, bus, ferry and air routes across the globe. Users of the site can discover how to get to any city, town, or landmark - rome2rio will show several alternatives routes by air, rail, bus, boat and car.

BOOT: What is the revenue model

Cameron: Our consumer site makes revenue through hotel and rental car commissions. We also receive revenue from airline and transport provider affiliate programs. Going forward, we also aim to make revenue through partnerships licensing rome2rio's search technology and transport repository.

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

Cameron: In January we recorded our 1 millionth query, and broke 120,000 unique users for the month. We marked this milestone with a blog post.

Something you learnt along the way

We've been surprised by the popularity of rome2rio in India; rome2rio has received more Indian visitors than visitors from any other one country. We believe this is due to a number of factors, including a burgeoning middle class and popularity of rail travel in the subcontinent. Also, rome2rio so far has received most of its visitors from English speaking countries, so we have started work on translating the site.

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

Cameron: So far, on the whole, we're happy with the approach we've taken to launching rome2rio. We launched the site early, with a minimum viable product, and used lean start-up principles to iterate and refine the product. As the product has developed and gained traction with users, we've now started to focus on the business model.

BOOT: What's next for the business. What are you working on that is exciting

Cameron: We're continuing to add more transport to the site. We recently added trains in Japan and Sri Lanka. Coverage in Australia has been expanded too. We almost have complete rail coverage, so we'll be focusing on adding more bus and ferry routes this year. We also plan to add support for building complex, multi-hop itineraries; a feature that has been requested by several users.

BOOT: Favourite non-travel website

Cameron: Who can go past the amazing digital resource of Wikipedia?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where to find 130+ travel APIs including Expedia, Kayak and Hotelscombined

A typical email to me from a start up founder will go something like this

"Dear BOOT

Where can I access lots of information on APIs from travel companies. Building out all the data is really expensive. Are there any short cuts? Any indexes to travel APIs?"

Until now I have had replied with muted answers and near consultant babble speech about places to look and people to speak too.

But now I may have a better answer. This morning I came across a directory of 134 Travel APIs care of Programmable Web