Startup timeBlend helping travellers find companions
Back in the good ol’ days, travellers would have to flock to outdated forums to find travel companions or resort to flying solo. Launched officially in September last year, timeBlend offers a better solution – helping people find travel buddies, share itineraries and get advice.
Sydney-based entrepreneur Pierrick Ganon came up with the idea for timeBlend during a travel debacle in 2012. He’d planned a road trip across the US, but his friends had to attend to their day jobs, and were ultimately unable to join Ganon. Determined to keep his plans in motion, he scoured the internet for information about how he can get other travellers on board. To his discontent, there was no modern site bringing solo travellers and travel information together under one roof.
This is when he decided to create timeBlend.com – an online community of passionate travellers, leveraging the power of social media and peer-to-peer sharing. After three months of late nights and weekends developing the idea and a first prototype, Ganon quit his day job as a software developer and went home to Reunion Island for five months to focus solely on his startup.
The venture wasn’t entirely bootstrapped. Ganon admits he raised funds through angel investors and family when the product was approaching its launch date.
timeBlend generally targets people in the 20 to 35 age bracket. Ganon describes his target market as “Gen-Yers who are in a position to do a large leg of travel – they’ve probably saved up money from living at home, haven’t settled down yet or have traded the idea of buying a home for seeing the world.They find themselves embarking on solo travel, are outgoing and keen to meet people along the way.”
“There is also an older niche we’re tapping into – 50+ single empty nesters with the money and time to travel the world.”
Ganon’s primary marketing strategy is what he identifies as ‘community marketing’ – that is, “identifying and leveraging timeBlend advocates, encouraging social sharing and reducing communication barriers. We want the brand relationship to go beyond the computer screen and meet our travellers in the flesh.”
Along with that is their content marketing strategy, where timeBlend builds relationships with influential bloggers while creating content for their own blog. They also haven’t shied away from implementing grassroots marketing, such as circulating flyers in hostels and traveller hot spots.
The platform hasn’t been monetised to date, although Ganon says this year, they will be engaging with travel industry professionals about how they can provide tailored travel experiences and services to users. This way, users will be able to receive personalised offers relevant to their itineraries.
“We believe this business model will be a smarter and more efficient way for organising trip itineraries and bookings. Travellers using timeBlend won’t have to go looking for the information they need – it will come to them. In this way, both travellers and business benefit from using timeBlend,” says Ganon.
Ganon says the business is starting to gain traction in the media – they were noticed by the New York Times as well as other travel sites recently.
The biggest lesson Ganon has taken from this journey has been the importance of listening to true believers of the concept.
“Underneath it all, timeBlend.com is social media; and people want community and engagement. We started thinking about how we can nurture and build a community around timeBlend, rather than ‘how many new users can we sign up today?'” he says.
This year, timeBlend will be launched as an app in iTunes and Google Play. Ganon shares that as a software developer, he also wants to launch an API so other developers can leverage the power of timeBlend’s travel graph.
For more information on timeBlend, visit www.timeblend.com.