Startup pitch: Trill wants to make travel content within UGC bookable

Consumers turn to multiple sources when researching and booking a trip or, the elements that make up a trip. Often a post on Facebook or an image on Instagram gets people dreaming of travel or wanting to make something they see part of an already planned trip.

Enter Trill which is enabling experiences to be booked from user-generated content such as Instagram. It’s an interesting take and one that is already being explored by larger players such as Amadeus which has developed a similar service using video.

Here’s a clip with co-founder Eric Shepard.

What problem does your business solve?

User-generated content is not structured or monetized properly in the travel booking and planning stage. Travelers are spending five times more on Instagram than any other trip planning site. 70% of all Instagram content is travel related and it acts as a vacation menu that’s not friendly to planning or booking.

Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid

Eric Shepard, CEO/co-founder has worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years within music and technology. He played an integral role in growing El Media Group to acquisition. Eric has been full-time on Trill since March 2017, his focus is on product, operations, finance and business development.

Michael Shepard, CRO/co-founder has worked for hotels in NYC for more than 15 years across sales and operations at Starwood Hotels/ Marriott, Thompson Hotel Group & Soho House. Michael graduated from the Cornell Hotel School. Michael is currently working part time on Trill while he is still at Marriott. At Trill, Michael focuses on sales, partnerships and marketing.

Trill has one full time lead developer and has multiple consultants and advisors within different industries.

Funding arrangements?

Trill is self funded and looking to raise it’s first angel round now.

Revenue model

Trill has multiple revenue streams. Firstly, commission on hotel and activity bookings which ranges from eight to 10%. Secondly, lead generation fees from travel agents and other travel partners. Thirdly, once it starts generating traffic, it will focus on sponsored content as well as selling data.

Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?

For our content creators, we are solving a few major pain points for them. First, no one is monetizing their social content for travel yet. We are giving them the opportunity for another revenue stream off content they are already creating.

Secondly, we are giving them tools to prove their worth. Right now, they can only show brands their number of followers, likes and engagement. With Trill’s technology, they can now show that they generated X amount of revenue to a particular hotel.

External validation?

We launched our private beta in Q1 2018 to 400 tastemakers and travel partners for testing. We have more than 15,000 pieces of bookable content with a cumulative reach of more than seven million Instagram followers. We have generated more than 10,000 in bookings without any marketing dollars.

We have partnerships with established businesses such as Comencia (Expedia Partner), GetYourGuide, Tablet Hotels, IfOnly and many others. CEO and co-founder Eric Shepard was named Phocuswright 2017 35 under 35 young leaders for most influential people in travel technology. He also was selected to speak at Le Miami Conference 2017 as 5 Big Travel Ideas, Vayner Media’s Agent 2021 travel panel and selected to Travel Tech Con’s Pitch Competition on June 7, 2018.

Tnooz view:

Influencers are called influencers for a reason. Consumers like to follow them for their creative content, un-corporate presentation style and often individual and authentic voice. They may even drive a product or service purchase decision which is why many destinations, hotels and other travel companies look to work with them.

So, what if you can click to buy that product or service of an Instagram post. The concept is not totally alien as Amadeus, as mentioned above, has been enabling click throughs to travel companies from influencers’ videos via its Video Solutions service since last year.

Trill is taking a similar tack with Instagram. It says 70% of all content on the image sharing site is travel related and that consumers spend five times longer on it than any travel planning site.

The startup, which is currently looking for angel investors, has set out three revenue models – commissions from hotels and activity providers, lead generation from travel agents and other travel suppliers and once it gains traction, sponsored content and selling data.

It seems like an interesting way to generate revenue from content that is already being created and is often very popular.

It’s also a way for influencers to demonstrate the value they provide via something more tangible than just fans and followers.

And, last but not least, it’s a fresh and interesting way perhaps for travel companies to push online conversion rates up a few percentage points.

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