Building a travel startup is hard (yes, really!). Building a travel business is easier, but Tnooz TLabs is about startups with ambition to scale, not about creating companies that can provide an income for a team of people, but have no wider grand ambition.
Challenges are created because the scale is global, the leaders are siloed and the supply is fragmented.
However passions run high, people love to travel, so there are sufficient qualified people out there saying â€œI could fix that â€“ just give me some funding and six monthsâ€ â€“ so there is a constant influx of new travel startups (replacing those who have given up and gone back to being employees).
Most of the time these startups battle against the problem rather than their competitors. The problem is large enough â€“ first to solve it wins.
Many of these startups are created by new entrants to the travel industry. The industry, as it stands today, fails these new eager and often rose-tinted spectacle-wearing entrepreneurs.
They need help and they are not getting it.
I am not talking about deals (that is a serious decision that has to be taken on its own merits). Instead I am talking about how people with experience can pass on their knowledge to these new entrepreneurs.
I learned my trade by being a contract project manager for various hotel chains, airlines and leading European tour operators.
I used to be given a budget, an internal team and normally a complex project (at sketchy business requirement stage) and I would have to deliver it. I either delivered or I was out. I ended up getting quite good at it. It was survival of the fittest.
Travel entrepreneurs in their twenties donâ€™t have that base experience. Instead, they have MBAs, they have legal or perhaps design or advertising backgrounds.
These are the entrepreneurs we should be supporting. They are the future, these are the people with the vision and commitment to make a difference.
Letting them try, fail for six months, and then wither away is not how to create new travel industry leaders.
Historically of course this problem didnâ€™t exist. The leaders of today started out as junior staff at larger companies. These companies had leadership schemes and those with the talent had guidance through their early careers.
Tomorrows leaders donâ€™t have that luxury as they are fragmented over multiple startups in many different geographies.
How I try to solve the problem today
Personally I have learnt a lot from people I interact with. Many are younger than me, some are older, but my process is a little too ad-hoc.
I tend to email people I respect hoping that some nugget of great insight will come my way. Often it does and all the effort is rewarded. Often I get nothing and I am considered a nuisance. Pity.
Likewise people email me for help and advice. I tend to be far too dismissive of these emails (they clog up my inbox and I have no real idea what to do). Instead I tend to think about the problem for two minutes and rattle off an email with my quick answer.
We need more mentors. Yes!
But this may not scale, sadly, and scale is important. There are hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs who need help and mentorship.
But when asked who would you like as an industry mentor, everyone is going to mention the same 10 names. Er, no, that isnâ€™t a viable solution.
â€œWhat one thingâ€
As mentioned, when I am currently asked for advice, I tend to answer with a quick thought: â€œin your shoes I would do ABCâ€. Writing a one or two liner is a much nicer way to handle the email than not replying. It doesnâ€™t take very long either.
I used to think that this doesnâ€™t have any value to the recipient. HOWEVER imagine that you had 10 peopleâ€™s â€œwhat one thing would you doâ€ answer. Wow. Powerful. Especially if these were people you respected but could never really fully engage with directly.
Imagine a web service where you could go through the companies you care about and document the â€œwhat one thing would you do in their shoesâ€ â€“ and they can see that.
Likewise you can see, on your company, â€œwhat one thingâ€ other people thought you should be doing. A bit like AngelList but for ideas and suggestions, not for funding.
Make this a private, invitation only, platform.
I would personally love this â€“ I wouldnâ€™t have to send email to people hoping for a useful insight in return. I could see what people think I should be doing. I would have a means to update other companies about our latest news (that they would not otherwise get via reading our newsletters etc)
The travel industry in 20 years time will be a much better place if we can keep these new travel startup entrepreneurs in the game.
Maybe my idea would help.