State of the ‘Tuner 2015

Most TV stations here in the US will be broadcasting the Presidential State of the Union Address tonight, but we’d like to offer a much briefer alternative. Ladies & Gentlemen, I submit to you our State of the ‘Tuner Address, with last year’s highlights and what we’ll bring in 2015.

Check out a preview of our sleek new TripTuner 2.0 design.  It’s fully optimized for mobile and tablet, for instant travel inspiration on the go – whether you’re in line at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office or stuck in a boring meeting.  Same addictive sliders, plus a rich tapestry of photos that wrap across your screen to help you find the right place for your next escape.

Click for a preview of TripTuner 2.0!

Whether or not you’ll be listening to O, you should know about our “MO” – the MOmentum gained from 3x growth last year.  We’re using it as a springboard to innovate even more than we did in 2014.  Some high points:

• CNN picks TripTuner #1 of “12 websites that’ll make you a smarter traveller.”

DressTuner 2.0 goes live on Zappos (yeah, we do that too!)

Bahamas’ Wedding Tuner debuts at the posh Per Se restaurant in NYC.

Visit Florida’s Beach Finder launches featuring Google Street …er, Beach View

• Brazil’s TAM Viagens arrives as our first airline partner, with “Inspire Me.” Belleza!

Soccer Tuner helps agnostic World Cup fans pick which team to back. Gooooool!!!

• Kempinski Hotels announces their “Tune in to Summer” promotion.

• Utah launches our latest project with Brand USA: Alpine or Red Rocks, anyone?

• France’s Havas Voyages unveils a rebranded “Inspirez-Moi” in our 3rd year together.

• October 15, 2014 marked our 3rd anniversary.

We’ve got much more in store and we’ll continue to listen to you, our loyal fans on how we may improve.  So enjoy TripTuner 2.0 on your phone, keep the suggestions coming and thanks for all your support. We wish you all the best for a fantastic 2015! #StayTTuned

Celebrating Three Years of TripTuner

Three years ago tonight, my lead developer Pablo and I were pecking out messages on Skype, knocking out a seemingly never-ending checklist of tasks.  It was a Friday night and we’d been working nonstop all day until around 8pm, when we flipped the virtual switch and pushed a web app called TripTuner live.

There was no launch party.  No throng of users enticed with sneak previews, or bloggers given special codes in a cleverly crafted pre-launch marketing plan.  We didn’t have time to build hype.  We wanted what we built to BE hype.  So our launch went completely unnoticed.  But man was it a great feeling to see an idea come to life.

Three years later, with equally little fanfare we – and by “we” I mean a virtual team spread across three continents — celebrate the sucessful culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.  A rollercoaster of ups and downs, sometimes on an hourly basis.  Quick reactions, changing priorities and rapid iterations are the norm, but the vision of discovering ideal options — for nearly anything — remains unchanged.  We’re executing on that vision and are well on our way with a growing, profitable company.  And a kick-ass product.

TripTuner began as a great way to find personalized destination ideas.  But we had no idea if it would work.  There wasn’t a test that could prove whether or not it was viable.  We had to build it to see if users thought it was as cool as we did.  Of course, everyone we showed it to said they liked it.  But everyone will tell you that.  There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to put it out there.  Fortunately, users responded with enthusiasm.  “It’s like it knows me”, tweeted one.  “So freaking obsessed” twote another.

Now, in addition to TripTuner.com, we create custom “discovery engines” for a growing array of partner sites that help users find their ideal destination, beach, island wedding, hotel…or dress.  As a result, we’ve focused more on our partner’s needs than our own over the past few years.  But we’ll be updating TripTuner.com soon to give you, our fans, an even better way to discover great places to go.

I thank you deeply for your support during these first three years and look forward to many more years with you as we move into the next chapter.  #StayTuned  – Tedd

So Much Things to Say (about why we’ve been quiet)

It’s been WAAAY too long since we’ve posted here – but all for good reasons.  We’ve been busy working behind the scenes, and for better or for worse we’re generally more focused on DOING than TALKING about it (which isn’t the best PR strategy I must admit – but I’m getting better :).

Bob Marley photo thx to The Independent UK / Getty Images

 

Becky and I have both been travelling on and off over the past several weeks.  Just this month I went to London for World Travel Market and met with my partner par excellence Pierre Alzon in Paris.  After just a few days at HQ in Washington, DC I flew off to Scottsdale, Arizona for the Phocuswright Conference where we introduced TripTuner to the heavy hitters of the online travel industry.  Add in some travel to see family and a few days of skiing in Vail, Colorado over Thanksgiving here in the US and it makes for a busy month.

Since our last post we’ve also received a ton of new fans from some great press in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Kim Komando Show (which is huge…who knew?), an Italian blog and even from a Danish magazine.  ALSO we’ve also put a few new wrinkles into the TripTuner based on feedback from our users: larger photos, a regional filter so you can find new destinations within a certain region (our default setting: ANYWHERE, of course) and a cool map view that will adjust to your regional settings as well.

Now filtered by region for your enjoyment.

Fine-tuned reccs, all across the map.

All of which means we have a ton of work to do amid the end of the year rush, so I thought it would be appropriate to ease things up a bit with a Bob Marley-inspired title to this post.  But then, you already knew that.  Thanks for hangin’ with us, there’s more to come soon (or “soon come” as they say in Jamaica).  Stay tuned!

Rollin’ with The R: Yahoo’s Loss is Our Gain

Saw a TechCrunch post last Tuesday on how Marissa Mayer, the recently-appointed CEO of Yahoo has decided to allow the removal of “The R”- their registered trademark symbol – from their logo.  I guess that’s one way to leave your mark (so to speak) on a company but to be honest I hadn’t really noticed it either way.  It’s one of those ubiquitous symbols that you take for granted and don’t notice until you really look at it.

Now while a large established company like Yahoo can rest assured that it’s trademark is safe, a young startup trying to establish an identity in an industry filled with big players is another matter.  As it turned out, that same day I got a text from my wife about a big package from the US Patent & Trademark Office.  Our trademark had been registered!

Not a huge deal, I know.  Like any young company we’ve got a laser focus on what really matters – growing our bottom line – but it was really great to see.  I guess that in the topsy-turvy world of entrepreneurship it’s one of those rare outcomes where you feel like you had some measure of control over a well-defined process (the antithesis of startup life, really).  At any rate, we’ll take your R, Ms. Mayer.  And we’ll roll with it.

Bienvenue Pierre Alzon à TripTuner!

It’s well after 6pm in DC, which means it’s officially July 14th – Bastille Day – in France and we could not think of a better way for us to celebrate it announce a major coup.  Pierre Alzon, the founding père of internet travel in France has joined TripTuner as Partner and Managing Director for Europe, based in Paris’ vaunted “Silicon Sentier“.

You can find more about Pierre here but suffice it to say that we’re so happy we feel like we could conquer a fortress!  Please join us in welcoming him on board and feel free to leave a message for him in the comments here or on our Facebook page.

Vive la (TripTuner) France!

To continue with our Francophone frenzy we’re announcing the launch of our French site at www.TripTuner.fr.  Like our US site, it’s a beta but you’ll be seeing many new destinations suited to that market plus a long list of new features we’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

French Press

Finally, to round out our of Bastille Day bash we’re gonna give you an opportunity to brush up on your French with this article on Pierre and our recent launch in France.

Merci beaucoup for all the love and support you’ve shown for TripTuner.  We’ve come a long way in our first 7 months and are happy to have you with us as we grow. A bientôt and #staytuned!

Just Back from London

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge at night, viewed from a Thames River boat.

Just back from London and the World Travel Market with our Editor at Large (and New York Times Bestselling Author) Franz Wisner. Had an enjoyable and productive week introducing TripTuner to a select group of old colleagues and prospective partners alike. Year in and out, this event often delivers as much benefit from the chance encounters as with scheduled meetings. Only time will tell, but it seems we made a good impression, receiving many compliments on creating an exciting, engaging new way to help travelers find places in tune with their tastes. While there wasn’t much time for exploring, we did manage to take in a few sights en route to evening events and dinners: going through the Thames river locks; floating beneath a spectacularly lit Tower Bridge; strolling past an illuminated Big Ben and Parliament before viewing the city from the top of Millbank Tower. We checked out the freshly renovated Four Seasons Park Lane as well as the new Aloft hotel–thumbs up on both. After a pleasant dinner at Kentner’s in Soho (tasty French-brasserie fare and Champagne bar in a hip but accessible townhouse atmosphere) we had a chilled vodka martini nightcap at Duke’s Bar— the place where local lore says Ian Fleming conjured 007’s famous “shaken, not stirred” preference. All in all a successful quick trip, and we didn’t really notice the fact that we hadn’t seen the sun for 4 days. But hey, that’s London!

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Asia Travel Advice On-the-Go: A Tale of Two Travelers

Two acquaintances of mine were on the road recently, doing their own separate solo tours of Asia.  One is a female post-graduate student in her mid-20s (we’ll call her Julie) on what Australians might call a “walkabout”, an extended trip of a few months.  The other (let’s call him Brian) is an urban professional in his mid-40s, taking a three-week break between jobs.  Because I’ve traveled extensively in the region, they asked me for help in planning their respective trips.

While both of them shared the same wanderlust, it is interesting to see their divergent approaches on getting travel advice.  Both had the same big-picture questions (is X period of time enough to see certain countries, what’s the best way to get around, etc.)  But when it came to more specific suggestions about hotels or activities, Julie was just fine scouring the web for free info.  I’d offered my help, but she didn’t really see the need.  Maybe it’s just a sign of her generation: “millennials” are well-known for their comfort with technology.  But I’ve even heard older travelers boast of how easily they can dig up good travel info.  Indeed it’s almost a source of pride.

So what’s the big deal? I too enjoy uncovering valuable nuggets of travel info – whether it’s a more direct flight, the perfect hotel or a unique activity. Some websites will even give you a “medal” if you play along and contribute your own info.  Which in turn makes such sites more attractive to search engines, creating even more opportunities to sort through an ever-increasing amount of info.

But over the years I’ve found that it can eat up a ton of time.  And when I do search, my signal-to-noise ratio is much tighter – I’d like less searching and more finding.  Call me old and crotchety but my brain gets enough info searching and processing every day at work.  It’s like getting your driver’s license.  All you want to do is drive, then years later all you do IS drive.  The novelty wears off.  Same thing with technology.  The excitement of getting 4 million search results in 0.7 seconds wears off after clicking on the 4th or 5th result.  (Like many, I’m still waiting for technology to deliver my increased leisure time).

Perhaps Julie is simply a better multi-tasker, whose younger brain can withstand more info processing like a newer-model computer.  But as a recent Stanford University study shows, over-tasking the brain affects even the hardiest multi-tasking college students.  Try keeping it up in an office environment for 20 years, and you begin to understand why people like Brian want to cut to the chase and get solid, timely advice.  Without a ton of searching.

So when he asked me to help finalize an itinerary for his Asia trip, I tried not to bog him down with a ton of options.  I promised to help him out on the go as needed, but emphasized that above all he needed to GO.  Get out there on the road and enjoy these precious travel moments as much as possible.  Of course his tight time frame can explain why he chose to rely upon my on-the-go help rather than do it on his own.  And what an ironic twist that having a “virtual trip assistant” of sorts inspired Brian to hop on a flight and delight in spontaneity – something usually reserved for college students.

How did this all turn out? Brian had a great time and became a loyal early advocate of Triptuner.  As for Julie, she finally got her fill of DIY travel planning and sought me out for her last stop in Singapore.

We each have preferred ways of getting travel advice.  I just think that there’s got to be a better way of accessing all of this valuable info in a meaningful way, while providing the personal service to help fill in the gaps.  It’s one reason why we’re building Triptuner.

Genesis of a Curious Traveler

This story begins many years ago, with a young boy taking his first transatlantic flight.  At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be on board what is now perhaps the quintessential symbol of global travel – a Boeing 747.  It was my first true taste of travel, the spark that ultimately led to my current livelihood.  I can still recall the feeling of wonderment when I awoke to find that after a full night’s sleep, we were still over water.  As the sun rose, we crossed over a neat patchwork of Holland’s verdant green fields.  I remember thinking “what’s it like down there?” It’s a sense of curiosity that has never left me.  I get it even when I look at maps of random places.  An unquenchable desire to see new places.

Fast forward to the late nineties.  After ditching a corporate cubicle for a year-long trip around the world, I caught the tail end of the dotcom boom.  Amid the lavish launch parties and overnight wealth of the dotcom boom, I was quite content to be writing promotional copy for a brash young startup called Site59.com.  My job? Get people to take a spontaneous weekend trip someplace by crafting evocative, vibrant descriptions.  It was a dream job. Describing destinations in a way that captured the inherent pleasure of travel was the perfect outlet for my travel curiosity.  Our focus on communicating the overall experience was partly by pure necessity: as a young company we didn’t have inventory in places like Orlando and Las Vegas.  We had to sell places like Cleveland and Omaha (no offense).

In two years we managed to sell enough to be acquired by Travelocity.  Suddenly, we’re selling the big destinations and my focus shifted to the business side of things: market share, supplier rate negotiations, volume.  Still, it was an amazing job.  I had a choice territory (Caribbean, and then Europe) and naturally it required extensive travel (hey, somebody had to do it).  But as with any mature business, the focus became more about driving volume and profits in popular destinations.  Not much discovery.

A concept started forming, a way of capturing the sense of discovery in travel.  While this is very much en vogue today (my project is one of a current bevy of “travel inspiration startups”) it was not a top priority for most online travel agencies.  As these ideas germinated, an opportunity arose to work for an online agency called eDreams in Barcelona, a city I’ve always loved.  Through my years there I gained tremendous insight into the European market, while taking advantage of the many nearby destinations: Tuscany, Tunisia, Provence just to name a few.  And while the experience was amazing, the desire to start my own business brought me back to the US and to this project.

This is where we’ll write the next chapter.  That’s right I said “we” – you and I.  You’ll provide the comments and feedback (and perhaps one day become a customer), and I will do the work.  Not a bad deal, huh?  Please join me as we build an exciting new way to discover amazing travel experiences.