Looking back on the end of 2013, I was definitely thinking that we would have to raise money for Travelabulous by June of this year. Wow, did I learn a lot between then and now.
We spent the first half of this year driving toward that goal of fundraising by the summer. We spoke to a lot of potential investors during this time in preparation for the actual ask. The best advice we heard was to go as long as we could on our own – to focus on building product and showing traction. We took this advice to heart and have managed to bootstrap ourselves going into 2015.
So, what have we done over this past year:
- Validated that we were going after a real market opportunity – one for which people feel they need a solution.
- Have worked a number of business scenarios to ensure that our business model makes sense long term.
- Built a product that works even if it only encompasses hotel planning – one part of our complete vision. This also created a revenue stream for us.
- Decided that we would get to love with at least 100 users before releasing an “open” version of the product to the market.
- Built a high fidelity mock-up that expressed our complete vision.
- Learned that relying on acquiring users through any method other than them inviting others into the product was not going to be workable.
- Raised almost $100,000 in non-refundable grants to pay for operations.
- Forged key partnerships required to make us successful – without paying out any money.
Did we make the right call by bootstrapping instead of raising in 2014? It seems like it right now. We have been fortunate to get a lot of help at no cost and work with incredibly talented people at “below market” rates.
Our next steps as we enter 2015 are clear. Continue building a product until people tell us they would be very disappointed if they could no longer use it. Raise the funds required to make that happen and find the right people for our product. For these reasons, we decided to go the route of crowdfunding as an immediate next step. We think this will help guide our future fundraising plans.
Crowdfunding might seem like a no-brainer, but this approach hasn’t shown a lot of success for SaaS companies. The money we raise will have a direct impact in taking Travelabulous to the next stage, but our main reasons for doing this are:
- Find a solid user base of our people. People who will spread the word about us and refer others to our site.
- Show the traction that we feel we need to attract the right investors. Investors who understand our “space” and can help us succeed.
We are now working through the the final pieces of our plan. This includes a kick-ass video that we think does a great job of pointing out the problems with travel planning today. We hope to have the campaign in full swing before the end of January.
We are optimistic that people want to join us on in this movement to make travel planning fun. The community is even more important to us than the product.
I will do my best to give a regular update on our campaign, from planning to execution to the impact it had in achieving the goals set out above.
As this will be my last post of 2014, I would be remiss (did I just say that?) without mentioning two things before closing.
After 316 days of travel-inspired photographs, today is the final day on Instagram for Travelabulous. We are going to focus on things that show traction in 2015 and Instagram has not been doing this for us.
I would like to thank the hundreds of people who helped Travelabulous in so many ways in 2014. I would love to be able to thank everyone individually. Instead of doing that, I am going to assume that the best thanks I could give everyone would be to take that advice and support and use it to move the company forward. Let me go do that now.
‘til 2015… Kirk, out.