Our co-founders, Vaida and Simona, have spent valuable time on Madeira island, participating in the Madeira Startup Retreat program. This intense six-week onsite acceleration program for travel and tourism companies has brought 11 promising worldwide startups. Honestly, when we were shortlisted, we didn’t know what to expect, but fewer expectations get higher satisfaction. The program was amazing and we couldn't have asked for anything more.
The acceleration program was designed to deep dive into fundamental areas of every company: strategy, value creation, growth, and team. Experienced entrepreneurs and professors flew into Madeira to share their knowledge and discuss our business cases. We also received feedback from local businesses and government bodies. In addition, much learning came from our discussions with fellow entrepreneurs.
Time to reflect - here are our key takeaways from the program:
User User User - it is all about them! This is essential - conversations with the users clarify the nuances of the problem you are solving, and their suggestions help to solve it better, i.e., how they would like it to be done. Founders should deeply care about the problem however they must be open to various ways of solving it.
Design an experience When designing a digital product, the team needs to think about all aspects of user interaction: what needs to happen in real life for the product to be required, how are they going to find you, how will they want to use you, what kind of interaction with the real world will your product provide. At GlobeTrott Travel, we want to connect all the industry players, so that the travellers could spend more time exploring the destination and less time browsing on their phones, searching for information.
CAC & LTV Customer lifetime value (LTV) determines how much money you can spend to acquire a user. There is a ton of great products that people never get to know about because their unit economics (low LTV = low CAC) does not allow them to reach scale. Our mentor Gil Bedford framed the importance of understanding and adjusting this measure throughout the product growth lifecycle.
Low-tech solutions to validate ideas Ideas should be validated before resources (time & $$$) are invested. The simplest way to do so is with a fake door landing page that allows measuring users' “intent to buy”. For more info on validating ideas, “The RIGHT it” is a great book.
Be clear and intentional about what you are testing A new product has a huge amount of assumptions that it needs to validate, so these need to be broken down into small achievable tests. Rui Gouveia from BuildUpLabs proposes sharing a framework that merges unique value proposition (UVP) and customer segments. For us, digging deeper into the segments highlighted that they value different aspects of the product. Here is the link to a more detailed description of the framework
6. Move fast At the early stage, very little damage can be done to the brand, especially in the direct-to-consumer market. So do not be afraid and concerned to try new things. Your objective should be to understand what works and what does not work.
7. The whole team must be aligned on the vision For us, this was an area where improvements were needed. Our personalization technology development has been our priority for the last year to evaluate if it can be done. However, our commercialization plan relies on countries being open to tourists, so while we waited for the COVID dust to settle, we chose not to communicate about this topic actively.
8. Overcommunication is better than under-communication We added a few additional meetings to ensure that every team member is on the same page and that bottlenecks are quickly escalated and addressed.
9. Superpowers - identify and delegate tasks according to your team's strengths. It was great to see that we are a well-balanced team. It also opened the conversation to learn what skills team members have not had a chance to show yet and would like to develop.
10. Sharing knowledge with fellow founders Some of the most valuable conversations we had were with fellow founders. They are going through the same situation and have the most up-to-date information on what worked and didn’t work for them. This has allowed us to adjust our validation tests and get more accurate feedback. Here are a few resources that we have shared with each other:
List of 800 Top Investors in Europe developed by i5invest
Founders questionnaire from First Round Review created by Gloria Lin
Slicing Pie equity calculator
11. Executing at 150% all of the time is impossible Taking time to relax, recharge, and explore enables you to think more creatively and evaluate the situation from several different viewpoints. All of this results in you making better decisions and having more energy to execute them.
12. Work-life balance - a mix between tight schedules and workshops should be accompanied by leisure and exploring new places and experiences - could bring new ideas and perspectives to your project.
This was a roller coaster ride. However, we have returned home recharged and more determined than ever. Thanks to Startup Madeira, Nova School of Business and Economics, and Turismo de Portugal for supporting the innovation ecosystem for travel and tourism startups worldwide.
Vaida and Simona learned, received valuable feedback, met great other startups, local hosts, mentors, and investors, created long-lasting friendships, and analyzed and pivoted” our product. Now it’s time to continue changing the way people travel.
Here are the other superstars who are bringing innovations to tourism, it was a pleasure learning with you.
Escappy - surprise trips to beautiful destinations
GoPostly - connects tourists with shops and couriers
Hotel Manager - related interface for hotels and their guests
iFriend - a platform to find a local guides
Kleesto - booking management software for travel professionals
NomadHer - a platform for solo female travellers
OTA SYNC - automation for your hotel & vacation rental business
Stay Altered - a community for independent hoteliers
The Impact Collective - a network of impact professionals working remotely.