We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Barry Hayut”, Founder, CEO of the Atlanta based start-up “XciteGO”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
XciteGO is the NextGEN marketplace Xchange for hotel stays. Our model enables efficient pricing and provides travelers with lower rates and ease of use.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Founded in August 2012, our mobile application for iOS and Android and web platform will be ready to launch and go live by the end of Q3, 2014 with strategic partnerships being formed.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
We collect a flat 10% commission from the hoteliers and a small transaction fee per reservation made from travelers. In addition we get net rates and will markup up to 10%.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Barry Hayut- Founder &CEO
Kathleen St. John- Product and General counsel
Minesh Patel- CTO
Paul Harrison- Business Development
Our team has been working together over three years with other ventures while three of our team members have been together over nine years at another venture.
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?
Our Xchange is helping to solve the inefficiency in the current pricing model in the online hotel booking marketplace.
We are creating a virtual Xchange where travelers and hoteliers transact in the same fashion as they do in the financial markets like NASDAQ to create an efficient marketplace.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We are in the final stages of completing the platform and native mobile applications. We have built relationships with Alliance Reservation Network and some large hotel chains as early adopters. We are continuing to build relationships with partners and to build the user base.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Current competitors will be all the OTA’s like Priceline and Expedia etc.
Our advantage is our Xchange. It creates an efficient pricing model for travelers to get lower rates with great ease and for hoteliers to increase profitability.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We had to innovate around current industry standards and shortcomings. We have already raised $420K and are still in the process of raising capital to go to market.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
The current pricing model is inefficient due to industry pricing practices and lack of true competition and transparency. Additionally, hoteliers are losing the customer loyalty and retention battle to the larger OTAs with significantly greater advertising and marketing budgets.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We are putting the real pricing power in the hands of the end users- both travelers and hoteliers and enable them to interact real-time. This model is a first of its kind and will essentially overturn the marketplace.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We forecast an Xchange for every domain. Once travel is realized, our vision will be to expand into the Health & Wellness industry. Our technology is truly convertible wherever buyers and sellers come together.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
We have experience in financial markets where supply and demand interact in real-time resulting in efficient pricing. The current eCommerce model represent only half the market – the supply-side and it’s greatly fragmented.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
The challenge of building the platform is the easy part, marketing it and building the user base will require our most innovative resources. Yet with the right team, and scraping together our blood, sweat and tears we will see it come to fruition.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Growing the user base and raising capital at fair valuations will remain our challenge. Gaining traction in an already fiercely competitive industry will prove to be our biggest struggle.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Customer/users will see lower rates, greater ease to purchase and a simpler, more robust user experience. Hoteliers/suppliers will see greater profitability and faster, simpler sale of inventory.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Through the power of social marketing, blogs and publications and reaching mass media and national publications we have seen traction increase and some market awareness.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Once live, users will include travelers wanting to book hotel stays in a single locations without ping-ponging back and forth between 38 different sites in the weeks/days leading up to their trip. Hoteliers who want to sell these rooms will also be our users.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We have over 130,000 hotels worldwide and travelers can book them from anywhere. New users are intrigued by our forward-thinking, innovative product and will populate the marketplace with bids for hotels.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Currently we’re at a demo stage with no user reviews, however we’ve received very positive, enthusiastic feedback about the model and user interface from strategic partners.
20. How are you going to scale?
Viral and efficient marketing is key in addition to strategic partnerships to help us scale the user base. We have a few partnerships in place currently and are expanding.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
We don’t have live users presently. For now we are launching online hotel booking only, but we fully expect to translate the business into other segments after launch.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are presently internationalized in terms of our hotel offerings but we will make our platform multi-lingual towards the end of 2015 with a full-scale roll out to follow suit.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We believe that our Xchange model will be the dominant eCommerce format over the next 5-10 years for all domains and reach tens of billion in sales a year.
It will dominate because it is the most pricing efficient and easy to use marketplace.
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 first need a Chief Marketing Officer and a full marketing team as well as additional programmers and business analysts. We can be reached via our homepage, LinkedIn account or any of our social media channels.
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 potential can partners / investors contact you at?
We are looking for funding and partnerships that can help us accelerate user engagements both with travelers and hoteliers. Potential investors should reach us through our homepage, LinkedIn or Angel List profile or any of our social media channels.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
While we are still forging our own path, to be successful you must be innovative building your idea into a marketable product/service. The financing strategy and management of growth is given.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Thank you for considering to feature us in your blog.