Get to know a Toronto startup: Let's Flee
Toronto startup Let's Flee wants to introduce us to the world of "social travel." This new website brings like-minded travelers together in an online marketplace that offers interest-based, group trips to every corner of the globe. Let's Flee will offer custom adventures curated by the things that its users like to do, while also giving them a space to virtually bond with their fellow globetrotters. Always wanted to take a surfing trip to Hawaii with a dozen other beach bums, or a music crawl around Memphis with other closet country fans? You might like Let's Flee.
Launching on July 1, the website is opening up shop with an exclusive offer for sports lovers: a trip to the 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Detroit. As they prepare to get started, co-founder Nizar Budhwani introduced me to the story behind Let's Flee.
What inspired you to start Let's Flee?
In 2011, as a travel consultant, I organized a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. I brought together 40 avid Canucks fans from Vancouver to go to Boston and watch Game 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. The experience, while disappointing for them because of the outcome, was unreal. It was a once in a lifetime experience and they shared it with other avid Canucks Fans. It was that experience that showed me that if you can connect the right people, they will travel together for a purpose.
Who is Let's Flee designed for?
Everybody. We all have our hobbies and interests. For some it's scuba diving, for others it's sports or knitting. Travel takes these interests to another level: imagine scuba Diving in Cancun or watching the Super Bowl in person rather than on TV.
Trust seems like an important aspect of traveling with strangers. How do you aim to create trust in your online community?
People love to travel in groups. For decades large tour companies have been successful in doing niche and specialty tours. But what's missing is that the people that are booking those tours have no idea who they are going with.
Let's Flee changes that. Our Who's Going feature enables users to see who else is going on the trip, be part of discussions with other people interested in joining the same trip or who have already signed up to go, and start building a rapport before traveling together. With our Trip Page everyone on the trip can also share photos, comments and videos before, during and after the trip.
How does your business model work?
We generate revenue on several fronts. First, we create our own custom trips (for example, the trip to the Winter Classic in 2014). Second, we offer tour operators and travel agents the ability to feature their tours on our website and we get a percentage of sales. We also have a subscription model where agents subscribe to user interest groups and can offer these groups special trip packages based on their interests.
What have been the biggest challenges to getting your startup off the ground?
The biggest challenge has been seed funding. As with all startups, especially in technology, the need for good software developers and marketing is key.
Where do you envision Let's Flee one year from now?
Within the next year, we would like to establish ourselves as a brand that people know and trust: When people are thinking of planning a fun trip or want to travel with a purpose, I want them to think of Let's Flee.