Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Heddi Cundle regarding her start-up “myTab.co”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “myTab.co” is all about?
myTab.co is a travel gift card, where you can save travel cash and shout ‘put it on myTab’ so friends & family contribute towards your trip (wedding/honeymoon registry, birthday, study abroad, philanthropy trips, friends getaways, reunions etc). Then simply redeem the funds towards travel, all within our website.
And since we’re running a gift card platform, we can negotiate with travel suppliers who want to target our cash-rich ready-to-travel audience. We call this ‘Match myCash’ and a massive win/win for both customer and travel industry.
It’s a whole new way to fund, plan and book travel without spending weeks, frustratingly hunting for the best deal and when you’ve booked, never really knowing if you got the best bang for your buck. You’ve now got funds available so your focus shifts from this ridiculously irritating ‘compare all sites’ search to a happier, empowered experience.
2. When has “myTab.co” been founded? And what stage is “myTab.co” currently at?
We were founded August 2010 and are in beta as of October 2011, with users actively gifting, saving & booking travel while we scale and accumulate data in this early stage. We’re not aiming to scale at a huge rate of knots – we’re scaling incredibly well at a good rate on a bootstrapping budget and exceptionally proud of our intentionally-controlled achievement.
3. What is “myTab.co” business model and how does it work?
Our business model is based on:
Travel sales commission from our affiliate partners.
Selling customized and unique statistical data on our users (planning, collaborating, saving, gifting, booking, purpose behind travel) trends.
Match myCash ‘advertising’ email space promotion to users and higher sales commissions from purchases.
Goloso mobile application which will be launched within the next 9 months.
Affiliate revenues from future travel partners including at-vacation attractions, concert tickets etc.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Our team met absolutely randomly in the best possible sense. Heddi founded myTab, recruited Sam Rehman as an ecommerce tech advisor.
Virender Ahluwalia bumped into Heddi at a Tie conference and now oversees all financials as CFO.
Alvin Wang & Heddi connected mistakenly through LinkedIn & Alvin now advises on tech & travel.
Nathan Beckord met Heddi through a wrong phone number dial call and is now an incredible business advisor.
Ken Swanton met Heddi through sheer coincidence at PartnerUp.com and Ken is advisor in travel (Ken’s one of the 3 pioneers in online/offline travel).
Tom Foremski is a long time colleague of Heddi’s and as an incredibly well respected & influential financial journalist, Tom is a vital media influencer & advisor.
David & Jason met Heddi via a colleague through Startuply.com and have created tech back end systems that have never been achieved before.
Mandy Norman was introduced to Heddi through the SF Art Institute as she was literally graduating. Heddi snapped up Mandy instantly and Mandy creates incredibly unique web graphics for myTab.
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?
Because no one has ever addressed the biggest problem in travel: price fluctuations causing customers to go insane, frustratingly trying to find the best deal and after booking, never knowing if they did. And they didn’t because the prices are too erratic, flash deals drive us nuts and with all the planning, booking & recommendation sites out there – no one’s ever bothered to face this huge price problem head on….until we came along.
See what we’re doing is focusing on the emotion behind the trip, not the destination. We’re using the same thinking that a gift card provides us – free money to spend yet the value that someone who cares about us gave us the cash. With this in mind, when you save travel cash and/or have cash gifted, at the time of booking on myTab, your funds feel like monopoly money so you aren’t focusing on $$. It’s such a happier, stress free experience.
And with our gift card platform, you also know we’ll get you exclusive deals that a: make you empowered & in control knowing you got the absolute best deal on the planet and b: the travel industry targets a demographic with travel cash at a slow or long lead time so this greatly smooths their margins and financial business stability. It’s just never been done before and it’s changing the face of travel. It’s sheer genius yet so incredibly simple.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “myTab.co” achieved so far?
We have thousands of users and now reaching towards 100k uniques a month – which is incredible for a bootstrapped start up with no funding and no advertising. We’re getting most of our traffic from viral traction and users asking friends/family to contribute towards their fund.
We just reached our 1st anniversary since Alpha launch and very proud of our unique approach to travel. We’re now introducing hotels-only booking, a new loyalty program partnering with the brilliant PunchTab.com and have a few more things up our sleeve.
We also have a fantastic Facebook Web App (http://apps.facebook.com/mytabco) that lets you check in your trips (to/from date, destination, purpose) and see which Facebook friends are in the same city so you can connect and create spontaneous travel memories.
This App is not just cute but…it addresses a massive Facebook status problem: A: missing friends status updates in the same city as you and B: providing a condensed simple answer so your friends aren’t writing tons of comments & having a huge confusing thread of who’s where, why and how. Our app is beyond simple!
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up “myTab.co” competitive advantage over them?
Competitors: Continental Airlines, STA Travel and Southwest for their gift cards.
All major OTA’s (online travel agents) i.e. Expedia, Priceline etc. Customers are used to creating a ton of work for themselves, using the familiar yet difficult “scramble for 4 weeks and then pay a fortune’ approach in travel and we’re educating them of our new, easy process.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
1: Creating our own gift card platform that had never been done before with Expedia or PayPal. It took time to work the back end system but we did it.
2: Initially scaling and getting media coverage since we’re so unique, major newspapers wouldn’t cover us as they didn’t have a comparison. The same with investors who adore us but just cannot move outside their comfort zone. People love ‘disruption’ yet they all play safe until there are comparables. It’s up to the entrepreneur to break new ground and we’re insanely proud to pioneer in this new way of travel.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
1: They think that it’s easier to spend weeks hunting for a deal that doesn’t exist, trying to save $2 more than another website….vs myTab’s simple solution. People are nuts! Then again, we have customers who adore us and call us the ‘no brainer’ website.
2: Why Heddi didn’t get a tech cofounder! Heddi didn’t want to, Heddi doesn’t think that a guy (ex Google, Facebook etc) is required for an acting co-founder role since our team is incredibly solid. Heddi refuses to conform to the typical ‘sit back and let the guy take over’ role. It’s 2012 and a ‘head guy’ is now not needed. It’s a brilliant time to be a female founder
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Because it’s non negotiable. Heddi’s worked on campaigns for many years in PR & Marketing and her campaigns are still active 10, 14, 16 years later. She has an incredible long range vision and that sometimes takes time for Joe Schmo to catch up but once they do, the foundation for an incredible business takes off.
myTab.co totally makes sense, it’s a multi billion dollar business in the making that will absolutely change ecommerce. Again, it’s not even in the equation whether it’d be questioned as not succeeding.
11. If “myTab.co” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We’re absolutely going to succeed (see 10 above) and will expand to select verticals that have the same emotional, saving & gifting element. We won’t delve into what these are but lets say that we will never be the $20 Starbucks gift card company, nor the $10 birthday ‘friends chip in’ gift card business. Others can scramble to fight each other against high street massive retailers. We’re beating to a whole different drum with our select verticals!
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “myTab.co” based on?
Because one day about 7 years ago, Heddi realized that we’re insane. We spend weeks hunting around for a deal that never existed for what? To save $2 more on a flight? And every time we want to book travel, we repeat the same process expecting a different result. 42% of spend 4 weeks searching travel, 52% of us look at 4+ travel sites on average, 85/90% of us (at the time of about to press ‘book it’) decide ‘ah, let me just check somewhere else); reward miles have restrictions and miles+money costs 1/3 more than cash; last minute trips (including major events like the World Cup) cost a fortune and irritate us.
Put this together = no loyalty in travel. Heddi delved into left brain psychology about the one thing that would NOT focus on price but eliminate this problem for customers & the industry. It was a gift card! Using that same emotion as receiving a gift card, this solves the biggest problem in travel and Heddi created this extremely long visionary thought process that isn’t just another cute way to book travel, not another recommendation site, not yet one more referral program – this is different because we’re focusing on the emotion behind the trip and NOT the destination.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
That people are nuts and need educating. And it’s been a brilliant process because customers do love us and are now educating their friends & family about myTab because it just makes sense. For eg, Heddi saved travel cash for a friend’s wedding in Rhode Island and had family gift her travel cash towards this for her birthday.
It took Heddi seconds to book her trip and she didn’t break the bank. Some of the wedding guests also flying into RI didn’t book through myTab since they thought they could get a better deal with reward points etc. Every single person was stressed from scrambling for a deal elsewhere. It was incredible to watch!
We’ve also learned that we’re onto something incredible and special – something really unique and in an untapped market. That is what makes it so exciting for myTab – we’re breaking serious new ground and revolutionizing travel. The others can keep competing against each other – we’re making beats to the sound of our own drum and we’re truly disruptive & special.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
I doubt we’re going to have problems in 6 months as long as the way we keep going and the opportunities we keep having arise. We’re in a good space right now and unless one of us does something ridiculous, we’re standing in excellent prospects with a fantastic short & long term vision coming true.
If we run a business based on fear and problems that haven’t happened, we’re not succeeding our ‘here and now’ objectives. We all know by know that being in the NOW is more important than trying to predict futile problems.
15. What’s the benefit for the user?
Just read everything above! myTab is a no-brainer. It’s time & cost effective, our reminder feature helps customers de-stress by assigning out tasks to traveling friends, it’s such an easy way to budget, fund, plan and book travels.
The benefits are so incredibly easy and unique yet the results are so insanely powerful for both the customer and the travel industry. As Ken Swanton says, myTab is smoothing out a massive price wrinkle in travel.
16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?
Most find out through viral sources, some through Facebook & Twitter. A few through G+ and now more through Pinterest. A lot find out through articles since we’re written about regularly. We’re still growing at a small scale so over time, each customer that requests cash gifted will naturally introduce more customers to myTab, organically. That’s the idea!
17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?
Our users are 20-41 year olds from students planning study abroad & education trips to adults planning group getaways with friends. Some are planning new years eve dream trips whilst others are planning trips for 2014 to Africa. It’s a total mix from group, occasion and individual objectives for short and long term, all within the US.
18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?
They come from the above sources again – viral, media coverage, social media and they try is because we’re cool and they’re curious! They either want to create a trip and save cash, or create a group trip, or an educational trip, maybe gift travel cash to a friend. There are many reasons why people come to myTab – alongside that our website design is so gorgeous, simple to use and tons of inspirational fun!
19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?
Total gem, why has this not been thought of before; absolute no brainer; genius; brilliant; so disruptive – all positive compliments and regular compliments. It’s lovely to hear! We’re helping true travel dreams come true – we’re doing something special that the customer has wanted for a LONG time but had no idea it could be provided for them. We’re all about our customers achievements, just using our platform. They’re the ones breaking ground – we’re just giving them the tools!
20. How are you going to scale?
We have a few things up our sleeve and aren’t going to state what these are for now…but they’re absolutely not the typical methods. So keep noted on this and wait & see!
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?
Customer’s dont ask for anything since it’s such a new concept. We don’t want to reduce our feature set but we do need to be very careful in our growth of features, so as not to confuse the customer.
We tell the customers a few weeks in advance of new features we’re creating or tweaks so they can be involved and prepared i.e. new loyalty program, new hotel-only booking feature. Never surprise or confuse your customers! Which is why we’re being transparent a few weeks in advance of notice.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand “myTab.co”’s operations accordingly?
Absolutely – within time we’ll have non US originating travel and localization objectives. We are building to be a household name though for now in the USA. We’re going to be around for a very long time so we aren’t in the habit of rushing quickly just to prove a point of aggressive growth. We’re being clever about our strategy.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Huge – we’ve been told we’ll be a multi-billion dollar company and turn into a banking institute one day, changing the face of ecommerce. This is exactly what Heddi’s aim was from day one and we have no limits. We’re not a get-rich-quick start up nor a company that will just fade away. We’re doing something too unique and exciting!
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?
We aren’t – we’re very happy with what we have and as we scale, we have our statistical director, admin support, social media manager, digital marketing and research managers ready to come on board.
We have a plan for the next 2 years to recruit but for now, we’re not going to waste money showing off how big our team is when we’d rather be using the cash to provide excellent features & service to our customers.
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?
We’re already underway talking with various partners in ecommerce, travel and media but anyone who wants to contact us about collaborations, absolutely email email@example.com
We’d also love to hear from Angels & VC’s, accounting that we will NOT be hiring that ex Google tech co-founder ‘actor’ in return for funding. What we have absolutely works and we’d love to hear from potential investors!! They can contact firstname.lastname@example.org
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
If enough people tell you that your idea is daft, then listen to them. If enough tell you that your idea is incredible – don’t create an ego. Ego = arrogance and attracts the wrong energy. Love your achievement and the success! Don’t blast it out though
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Be absolutely different – don’t create something that is just a spin off from an existing site but a ‘bit better.’ It makes you just compete in a crowded space and there are enough people like that doing this.
We’re rocking the boat constantly with myTab which means we’re doing something really good…we’re helping volunteers get to travel to help the planet, students achieve study abroad programs that will give them a better career (proven fact), wedding couples achieve that incredible honeymoon knowing their loved ones are directly responsible for sending them packing, that American Idol kid who needs to fundraise to get to LA to audition.
We’re not in this for the cutsey attitude – we’re here to change the planet through the purpose behind the trip. And that’s powerful, subconscious stuff!