The online travel market is a competitive industry, with a large number of large, established players in the space. However, despite the competition there have been a number of startups in the area who are trying to take a different approach to the market. One of those startups is TripHub (www.triphub.com), a Seattle-based, venture backed firm targeting the group travel market. We spoke with Josh Herst, Founder and CEO of TripHub, about the firm and where it fits into the travel industry.
Northwest Innovation: What's TripHub, and how do you fit into the online travel space?
Josh Herst: TripHub is the best place to plan, coordinate, and share any gathering that involves travel. Anyone who has ever organized a family reunion, get-away with friends, or any other group trip or event is familiar with the challenges (headaches!) involved in keeping track of who's coming, making group decisions, and coordinating plans. TripHub provides a central place to discuss plans, share trip details and collaborate on decisions. Our integrated suite of services empowers customers and leverages familiar services like e-mail and blogs to make trip planning easy and fun.
TripHub's position within the online travel market is distinguished in several ways. To begin, we do not define groups based on the number of travelers. If there's more than one form of payment, or if it's outside of a nuclear family, it's a group. Second, we are focused on existing social networks - your friends, your family, your club, your team, etc. TripHub is not about browsing other people's trips or finding random people to travel with. And third, TripHub is not a travel agency. Rather than sell travel products and services directly, we are helping our customers to find the right products and services for them and leveraging our unique customer insight to create highly targeted merchandising opportunities for travel providers.
Northwest Innovation: Why did you decide to found TripHub, and can you tell us a little bit about your background and experience at Expedia?
Josh Herst: I joined the Expedia team in 1995 and helped to launch the service in 1996. In my three year tenure there, I led product planning, demand generation, and business development. When I left Microsoft, I joined a venture firm to learn more about the start-up process and what it takes to build a company. A couple of years ago, I decided it was time to jump back in to an operating role. As I was exploring opportunities I noted the lack of innovation coming out of the established online travel companies. As I began specifically researching the group travel market it quickly became clear to me that I wasn't the only one who had experienced the pain of planning group trips, that existing market leaders were not focused on the problem, and that the opportunity was large. I also felt that the market timing was right - group travel is the next frontier in online travel - and that newly available Web services and platforms would enable us to get the business off the ground with limited capital.
Northwest Innovation: This is a really competitive space--what's TripHub's competitive advantage?
Josh Herst: The online travel market is undoubtedly crowded and getting more so. While online travel agencies and meta-search sites have optimized the process of shopping for and buying plane tickets and reserving hotels, and numerous user generated "guide books" have launched to help people share their travel experiences and learn from others, TripHub is taking a leadership position in addressing the complex coordination requirements of group travel. Our holistic approach to the planning process is unique. We deliver value from the point of inspiration, when the idea of a trip is first discussed, through post-trip memory sharing. As I mentioned earlier, we're also re-defining the term "group travel" to include smaller gatherings and groups traveling on disparate itineraries. (The industry has historically, generally defined "groups" as 10 or more people traveling on the same itinerary.) Another advantage is that we are supplier independent. We recognize that customers want to shop across multiple travel providers and we offer access to many shopping options on TripHub. Finally, we have a great team with extensive online and offline travel experience.
Northwest Innovation: Can you talk a little bit about your investors and venture capital backing?
Josh Herst: We received funding from Madrona Venture Group and private investors.
Northwest Innovation: How is adoption of the service going, and who are you finding is using the service most?
Josh Herst: Our growth has been very strong. TripHub's customers represent a diverse audience planning everything from multi-generational family vacations and reunions, to golf, ski and spa getaways with friends, to celebrations (milestone birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, bachelor/ette parties), to soccer tournaments and other trips with their clubs and teams. Groups using TripHub range in size from a handful of travelers to over 100 although the majority include fewer than 10 travelers. It's also fun to see where our customers are traveling. TripHub groups go everywhere! While the majority of customers are traveling domestically, almost a third are traveling abroad with quite a few heading off the beaten path to Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Northwest Innovation: Thanks!