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EXECUTION [Progress] Starting another SaaS (travel industry this time)

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by devbe83, May 9, 2019.

  1. devbe83
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    devbe83 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Hey everyone!

    After selling off my previous SaaS, I thought I'd keep things relaxed for a year or so, to be able to think about things, get the creative juices flowing, and so on. "Keep things relaxed" lasted for 6 months, time to try something new!

    While building out that previous SaaS (a developer product) and talking with other developers, I discovered a niche. By accident, mostly, but I was surprised at the time there was no existing solution for what I was searching. I posted about it on social media, hoping it would spark someone else to start building. Three years after providing that spark, it looks like nothing happened. I'm in need of the same service again, and there's nothing out there.

    That could mean two things! Jump into that niche, or steer clear because there is absolutely no demand for it.

    Unlike my previous venture (which turned out great), this time I decided to do some research first. Is there demand? Can I tick the CENTS bullets all the way?

    The service I'm looking for is in the travel industry, related to flight booking. Yes, vague, I know, but I'm in the process of thinking what the exact pitch is going to be so bear with me in this thread. There are travel agencies that can do what I'm after, but they charge a lot of money and handle things manually. I want automated, fast, and less expensive.

    The fact that there are travel agencies providing this, proves there is at least some market. And they ask good money, so I can definitely ask for money too.

    As an added test, I spoke to some people in my network who I think could need such service as well, and asked them if that was indeed the case and if they would pay for it. Big yes from all 5 people I talked with. Not statistically significant, but again some proof there is a Need.

    I've had this idea for three years now, there seems to be a need, so let's see hat we can come up with. The thread is prefixed with [Execution], by all means I want to go towards a launch at some point. But first, let's see if the other CENTS bases can be covered.
     
    MetalGear, Andy Black, astr0 and 5 others like this.
  2. devbe83
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    devbe83 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    So we covered Need. Will it scale? Definitely. I've identified a market, and also found a way to market this service to them once it's built. Will this service need my Time? Yes. To get it built. But once running, Time will not be tied to $$$, so even while I'm not working on this service income will be generated.

    NTS will work, I'm confident in that. But what about CE?

    Turns out Control and Entry are more interesting. Let's lift a tip of the veil. A big aspect of this service will be flight (and later on, train) bookings. Over the past weeks I've been researching what is possible there, and I'll provide a bit of an overview here in case anyone ever needs something similar. I've looked on the forum here but there is not a lot so here's a 101 into online travel.

    To be able to sell airline tickets and/or rail online, you will need:
    1. Access to a (searchable) inventory. Find flight from A to B, with carrier Z.
    2. Access to a pricing API - what does that specific fare cost?
    3. Access to a booking API - can I secure that fare until my customer pays me?
    4. Access to a ticketing API - thank you for your business, here's a ticket.
    There are some ways of getting access to any or all 4. I'll give you a list, even!

    For full control, but higher cost of entry you will need to go to a GDS - Global Distribution Service. There's Amadeus in Europe, Sabre in the US, Travelport, and some more. They all offer all 4 of the above, and give full control over what you can do in terms of searching, booking and ticketing. And that control will not be subject to a lot of changes, as pretty much every travel agent has to go through them in some way. They have their revenue, and more is better.

    Great! Except... These GDS are quite expensive. There are sales people involved before even being able to start a proof of concept. And they also make Entry a bit harder, as for some operations you will need to register as an official travel agent and a couple of other things. This definitely ticks Control and Entry - most control you will have unless you start your own airline, and barrier of entry is high enough to discourage many.

    Thing is, I want to start building, see if the idea is feasible, ... I do want to invest in the entry, but not the numbers and effort they require. Yet, at least. If the idea grows this is probably the better way to go.

    The alternative to using a GDS is using an OTA - Online Travel Agency. These parties are travel agents themselves, integrate with one or several GDS, and resell their access via various means. Since I want to build something that requires full control of the flow, I'll need access to an API out there that gives me all 4 of the points mentioned before.

    Some parties I have found through various search queries:
    • AirHob - they have a developer API for all of the above. Except, after two weeks and two reminders their support hasn't responded to some basic questions I had yet. If I want to provide value to my customers, I'll need a vendor that does the same.
    • Kiwi.com - they have an API and can cover all 4 points. But after searching for booking experiences with them, I found a lot of negative comments. Mileage could vary, but let's not spend time integrating to discovered I can't provide value because they don't.
    • Travelopro - not even sure what they provide, and haven't heard back from them yet either.
    • Travelomatic - same story.
    Anyone see the theme here? By making Entry easier, Control seems to shift down - if I can't get a response, how can I keep at least some control?

    Spoiler alert: I've found another one that is very responsive, but will talk about them in a future post.

    And a tip for people looking for ideas needing execution: create a developer-friendly way to get all these 4 points, have some support folks, and outcompete all of the above OTA's that provide an API.

    So we've had OTA's. Is there anything else out there? Yes there is! Affiliate programs with an API. These are what they are: affiliate programs that provide a search, and give an affiliate link to go book at an airliner/Expedia/... It only ticks box one (search), but for a minimum viable product (MVP) I could live with that. Parties I've found:
    • Travelpayouts - they have an API that uses cached pricing and affiliate links, and a real-time API. I'd need the real-time API but the use case does not fit their requirements. So for my scenario, doesn't even work for an MVP...
    • SkyScanner - except they only share revenue once you hit 1.3k in revenue per month. How about no...
    So what to do? Go with full control and a higher cost of entry? Or a lower cost of entry, less control, but a faster time to market. Questions, questions... But it's getting late here so signing off.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
    warrantor and Thomas Chauvet like this.
  3. devbe83
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    devbe83 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    In the previous post I mentioned GDS and OTA, and the conection between control and cost of entry. Ideally, I'd like to go with a GDS as that provides full control. Entry is higher though, and looking at integrating with them also looks like a longer time-to-market.

    Some more searching landed me with an OTA that has the exact mission I described

    The OTA is AllMyles.com, and they seem to do exactly what I need to build my service. Last week, I've contacted them, and contrary to the other OTA's I've contacted, AllMyles responded within 30 seconds (!) and I ended up Skyping with their founder, who is doing this as his own way to the Fastlane (while working a job at one of the big GDS). We chatted about the service I want to build, and he even gave some thoughts on how to implement certain parts. Very happy about this! I'll start a trial with them soon to check if their travel API does as promised. I have high hopes.

    Before starting to trial, I do want to get developing the surrounding service (flight booking is just one part), so let's make some progress there first. I now do have all building blocks I will be needing, nice!

    Being a developer myself, there is no doubt I can do this. However one of the takeaways from my previous SaaS was to learn to delegate sooner (to be able to focus more on sales and business development), so I ended up looking for people on UpWork. Chatted with one, and figured out right now the idea is too "green" to have someone on board already. Seems like too much overhead to get an MVP created this way. So I'll start working on it myself after all.

    Hoping to make some progress this week.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
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  4. Ocean Man
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    Ocean Man How may I provide value? Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Devbe, this sounds interesting. I’d love to hear more about your idea, maybe we can bounce back and forth. As I’ve also had thoughts of doing things in the travel field specifically with airline tickets. Definitely see things that can improve. Mainly customer service.
     
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  5. devbe83
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    devbe83 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thanks @Ocean Man ! And I totally agree the travel field has many opportunities for making things better. I'm a frequent traveller myself and it's ridiculous some times what hoops to jump through. Usually goes well, but not always.

    Got pinged by someone else here on the forum, to chat about the flight tickets side. He works at a travel agency so that should bring some additional thoughts and insights.

    I'm happy to report I've made some progress on the app side! A web app is in the works, I can register/login/change password etc., and I've built 4 screens that are the start of the process I want to automate. Not yet sharing the idea (still too rough). Hope to share it soon once I have visualized the process a bit better. But ironically, my next week is full of travel with not much chance for making progress on this one... To be continued!
     
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  6. 404profound
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    404profound Gold Contributor I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Don't spend too much time analyzing. It sounds like you have enough evidence that you need to start designing and coding.
     
    devbe83 likes this.
  7. eliquid
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    eliquid ( Jason Brown ) Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    following
     
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  8. Ocean Man
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    Ocean Man How may I provide value? Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Will be following, definitely interested!
     
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  9. devbe83
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    devbe83 Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    I mentioned a bit earlier that someone here on the forum contacted me. That someone was @Axxoul who works in the travel industry. We had a quick call today and chatted a bit about things. He validated the first two posts of this thread: entry into the travel industry is hard and not very transparent. We chatted a bit about the process I'm implementing, and he got excited again about an idea he had in the past. In other words:

    Looking forward to your progress thread soon, @Axxoul ;-)

    Regarding my own progress... Today was the last moment in ~2 weeks where I could spend meaningful time on this idea (business travel upcoming), and I spent it on refactoring some parts of the code I have. This should make it easier to make progress in the future, but there's no visible progress on the service idea for now. Will be quiet for a while.
     
  10. srazaq
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    srazaq New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    As a fellow developer myself, will be following.
     
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  11. RayAndré
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    RayAndré Dare to differ. Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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