Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. van Bokhoven regarding his start-up “Flight-Delayed.co.uk”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” is all about?
If you encounter delay, cancellation or overbooking, www.flight-delayed.co.uk has the solution. Flight-Delayed makes sure customers receive the compensation they are entitled to. This is based on European law that regulates the amount of compensation passengers are entitled to. The only thing you have to do is fill out the three step form and find out what compensation ( 250 up to 600 EUR) you could get. Start submitting your flight number and date of flight in the ‘claim calculator’ and within seconds the database will say if you will be compensated. Flight-Delayed uses this information (flight number- and date) to verify your flight using historical flight- and weather data; this way the passenger knows if the claim is valid. When a passenger is not entitled to compensation it is most likely due to a force majeure: ‘exceptional’ technical problems, volcanic eruption or a bird strike.
As soon as you submitted your claim you will get a log in account. Trough the built in ‘track&trace’ you are able to follow the procedure step by step and day by aday.
With us you only pay a small expense if a claim is successful you decide yourself what the service is worth to you. Our goal is to inform as much people as possible and we want to keep it as easy accessible as possible.
2. When has “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” been founded? And what stage is “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” currently at?
Flight-Delayed started off as Green Claim and is founded by three former Amsterdam students, Mario Wester (26 ), Bart de Jonge (24), and Tom van Bokhoven (28) in September 2010. Since that moment we went through the procedures about 2.000 times. This was the only way to understand and automate the process. We finished the current system may 2012. Currently, we have websites for flight delays in eight European countries. Like www.vlucht-vertraagd.nl in The Netherlands and www.flug-verspaetet.de in Germany.
Q2 2013 we want to be live in all European member states. Next to this we are developing some other systems to help customers with other problems.
3. What is “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” business model and how does it work?
We have quite a different business model. In advance you just have to pay a small expense;
- pro account: 16,50 EUR if you want only the support and the letters and the send them yourself
– premium account: 24,50 EUR if you want us manage the whole process for you
Is a claim for e.a. 600 EUR successful just pay what you want. You decide yourself what the service is worth to you.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
We met at the Amsterdam Center of entrepreneurship. Mario Wester is CTO, Bart de Jonge is CFO, and Tom is the CEO. Mario is responsible for all technical matters, website development and the automation of the process. Bart is the financial guy and is in charge of the process and clients. Tom keeps overview, does marketing and creates new business opportunities.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
The right on compensation is almost unknown to everyone and for most the alternative option is trying to get the money themselves. With Flight-Delayed it will takes minutes, try yourself and it will takes hours and a lot of patience. Of course there are competitors but building our system took us about a year and was only possible by going through the process a few thousand times. Result is quite an advanced system with a high automation level which makes us able to help customers in all European countries. This keeps te pricing low. For example; with the existing competitors you will easily pay 25% success fees.
We are the only company helping customers in 8 countries from which we gather a lot of information which enables us assist customers better and better every day.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” achieved so far?
We were live in the Netherlands beginning 2011 and are live in 8 countries already. The first year we claimed one million euro at about 111 airlines. This year we hope process 10.000 claims with an average value of 443 EUR. The possibility to help passengers not only in the Netherlands but also abroad is our biggest achievement. We worked so hard achieving this that this makes us the most proud.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Flight-Delayed.co.uk”’s competitive advantage over them?
In every country we got a substitute of competitor like flight mole in the UK but also in Austria and Germany we got competitors. We are young, flexible and got all the talent in house. If we want to change something it is possible to tackle this immediately. We are able to innovate every day.
We’re relaxed but professional and punctual that makes it possible for individuals and also corporates to work with us.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was and is fighting the airlines. Building the system in several languages but in a uniform way for all passengers was extremely difficult. You have to work with 111 airlines, cooperate with enforcement bodies in all the different countries, monitor 16.000 airports on flight data and weather data and keep track of juridical statements and changes.
We had so many obstacles and made so many faults but this is only way to set up a business. If you think you did everything right then you probably did something wrong big time but didn’t see it yet. That’s worse than making mistakes. Mistakes on social media, 10.000 flyers with a major spelling mistake we did it all.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
In general people don’t know the regulation at all. Just a few percent of all air passengers is aware of their rights. The things that outsiders/passengers don’t understand is the fact that their flight is delayed for hours, cancelled or they are denied boarding and airlines treat them badly. Once they ask for a legal compensation the airlines will ignore them again. This is confusing to almost every customer.
Some say; getting money from airlines is regulated by law how difficult can it be to get money from airlines. This supposed to be easy but unfortunately practice shows something different.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
95% of the request for compensation gets denied by the airlines. Air passengers need the help and expertise to succeed and have a better chance against the airlines. Aside from this we offer an easy to use service which saves you lots of time and costs barely anything especially because it earns you hundreds of euro’s.
11. If “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We want European customers to use their customer protection. We can make this a lot easier to offer them online tools. European customers are protected in many ways but are just not aware of this protection. Every year 500 million passengers encounter flight delays and cancellation and 30 million have the right on compensation. Almost none of them get money back. This problem is faced on many fields and sectors. As soon as one us experience such a problem we will try to find a solution. Irritation is a great stimulation for a new business. We have something’s in mind but this will show in Q2 2013.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Flight-Delayed.co.uk” based on?
Sitting at an airport in Greece in 35 celsius with no air-conditioning the idea started. Tom waited for about 2 hours and 50 minutes of which I now knows was 10 minutes short for a compensation of 400 euro’s. This experience set him to a little research, combined with an article in the newspaper about all European delays, the idea was born. The total amount that all passengers are entitled to, could be 1,5 billion euro on annual basis so this needed to be tackeled. The concept is shaped and a result of a year and a half learning.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Flight-Delayed and all the other versions came to life May this year after a 1,5 year hard work. Everyone thought this was the scalable business but we experienced it it’s only scalable by hard work and ongoing enthusiasm. Setting up bussiness brings a lot of joy and is what we live for but is never easy. From Janurary till the 15th of May we had two weekends of but. Some weeks we worked till three in the morning, making even 100 hours a week twice. When people say they work 100 hours working weeks we can hardly believe them because we experienced what this means. But doing it all by yourself makes you really appreciate your achievements.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Getting SEO/SEA specialist. We want native French, German, Italian and Spanish specialists but we don’t have the right connections yet. And how will you get to know these people abroad. This is a problem we face. We don’t want to spend tons of money on only the search for people. Our goal is work together with young entrepreneurial people and share knowledge and being exposed on websites likes will hopefully lead us to the right people.
We know what is takes to launch in 8 countries. But there are still about 20 countries left. Keeping track on our planned schedule will be problem, it’s tight. This pressure is best incentive to achieve this goal with our team of 10.
15. What’s the benefit for the user?
Getting a compensation of 250 EUR, 400 EUR or even 600 EUR for a flight delay, cancellation or denied boarding. This is the amount every passenger on for e.a. delayed airplane should get. That’s a benefit right? The other benefit is the saving of time. Instead of hours work and irritation it costs only a few minutes.
16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?
We need interviews like these, the more the better. We hope people get enthusiastic about us and want to help us. Of course Google is important. Working together with tour operators etc is also an opportunity.
Last week we were in Brussels at the European Parliament and in time airlines have to mention the passengers rights on tickets. This would be brilliant both for us as for the customer.
17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?
Mostly people who travel for their holiday (Leisure) with friends and family. People of all ages and both man (47%) and woman (63%) are users of our service. In the future (we are working on this) we want to help international organisatios who suffer from these flight delays. For them flight delays are not only irritating but the lost of time of their employees is a loss. We can ease that pain.
18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?
Everyone who has had a bad experience because of a flight delay or cancellation will tell this to friends on parties or during lunch. Mouth to mouth is the best way to get new users.
People can easily find us on Google which delivers new users every day.
Again: interviews, interviews, interviews are important.
19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?
They are relieved that they are finally taken serious (in contrast to airlines) and that the service is so easy to use. You can imagine that the moment of receiving the money is also a cheerful moment.
We also have dissatisfied customers when the procedures take too long or we failed to help them in time.
20. How are you going to scale?
As said working together with young entrepreneurial people abroad is the way to scale. But even more important is the level of automation. If handling a claim will take longer because of a lack of automation we will not be able to help passengers low cost.
End of the summer we planned an investment round. Till now we funded our selves (cash flow) and we have a loan from the bank last month.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?
Shortening the length of the procedure. We hope airlines will pay out sooner but this still takes up to 6 months in many cases. Using our service this no problem for our users but shouldn’t take this long.
Another missing feature is an App but we are working on this. Within a month our App will be ready for use.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are currently on our internationalization and launched websites for flight delays in eight European countries already. From Spain www.vuelo-con-retraso.es to Belgium www.vol-retarde.be we can help air passengers in case of flight delays and cancellations,. By the end of Q1 2012 we want to be live in all European member states. We know this an ambitious goal but from the past we know this is our way to achieve more than we ever imagined.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Very big. If people think of a delay in a various of ways they must immediately associate this with our service. We want to be the standard. We want to be the ‘easy to use customer protector’. Smart mediation. The ultimate goal is probably unrealistic and non commercial but that the ultimate goal would be not be needed anymore.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Yes as mentioned before we are looking for SEO/SEA specialist in Germany (www.flug-verspaetet.de), Spain (www.vuelo-con-retraso.es), Italy (www.volo-in-ritardo.it) and France (www.vol-retarde.fr) so please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have ideas or want to work together with please contact me because we are always in working together.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes for funding we are looking in the media sector and people in the international business sector. September we are reflecting and are preparing for an investment round.
About partnerships: we are offering Travel agents their own personalized ‘claim portals’ to which they can send their customers. A brilliant way of after sales. You will get your own url: www.travelagent.flight-delayed.co.uk for free if you submit your travel agency before September.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Make many mistakes especially in the startup phase, this is the phase when it will not cost you much. Making no mistakes, don’t see your own mistakes or being afraid for making mistakes is the biggest mistake of all.
We think we didn’t learn from our successes it only made us want to move further and have fun.
27. Any other comments that you would like to add?
Please help us get exposure everywhere, interviews, write on your blog about us, like us on Facebook, use Twitter and follow us, tell about us when you’re at your grandma or on a party with friends and mention www.flight-dealyed.co.uk everywhere. We would be very grateful. Many thanks of us all. Team Flight-Delayed.