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Discontinuing TripTao April 4, 2014

Posted by CK in Internet, Personal.
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It’s almost funny that in between the post where I announced the availability of triptao, and this one where I announce shutting it down 11 months later, there have been only two more posts. I guess this reflects, with fair accuracy, the crazy ride of these 11 months.

So I “dreamt laughably big and took an absurdly huge risk or two” as the advice went — and it didn’t pay off as I expected. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t have enough excuse to keep pushing it.

To be exact: it didn’t pay off as I expected materially; I feel I’m coming out of this being a much better person, in many respects.

  • I now have a better grasp of my limits — and it appears I can do much more than I thought myself capable of doing. The same, I’m perfectly certain, applies to everyone else. We should be less scared and more receptive to the possibility that we can do anything we think of.
  • I got back in touch with the technical side of things and remembered how much I enjoyed it. These have been very creative days.
  • I’ve learned a great deal of things on multiple levels. Somehow I feel I’m much better equipped for the next tasks, both technical and managerial/business.

I also got some lessons that concern specifically the area of online startups.

  • Unless you are Superman, you can’t do something like this alone. Make sure you have a co-founder.
  • Whatever you do, don’t rely on others for your data. Make sure you have full control on it (even if you don’t explicitly own it).
  • If you’re doing B2C, the added value should be instantly and fully evident to anyone who visits your site. With TripTao, I had to explain. You should not have to explain.
  • Marketing is king. You can’t underestimate its importance, no matter how great a product you have.

Now, coming back to that advice mentioned earlier, it says “take an absurdly huge risk or two“. Who am I to discard such interesting advice?

The journey continues with a new trip. More to follow in the next months.

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Scratching one’s itch: A post long due May 11, 2013

Posted by CK in Personal, Travel.
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In December 2011 I read an article by Umair Haque containing the following excerpt:

Create (something dangerous). Mediocrity isn’t a quest to be pursued — but a derelict deathtrap to be detonated into oblivion. Hence, I’m firmly of the belief that your youth should be spent pursuing your passion — not just slightly, tremulously, haltingly, but unrelentingly, with a vengeance, to the max and then beyond. So dream laughably big — and then take an absurdly huge risk or two. Bet the farm before it’s a ranch, a small town, and an overly comfy place to hang your saddle and your hat. Create something: don’t just be an “employee,” a “manager,” or any other kind of mere mechanic of the present. Be a builder, a creator, an architect of the future. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sonata, a book, a startup, a financial instrument, or a new genre of hairstyles — bring into being something not just fundamentally new, but irrepressibly dangerous to the tired, plodding powers that be. Think about it this way: if your quest is mediocrity, then sure, master the skills of shuffling Powerpoint decks, glad-handing beancounters, and making the numbers; but if your quest, on the other hand, is something resembling excellence, then the meta-skills of toppling the status quo — ambition, intention, rebellion, perseverance, humanity, empathy — are going to count for more, and the sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be.

Whether I’m still in my youth is debatable, but two months later I resigned from my great job at the time to pursue a dream: Solving a small but real-world problem I had faced myself. There were many reasons why I didn’t start earlier, but at that point I just couldn’t ignore this sentence anymore: “So dream laughably big — and then take an absurdly huge risk or two’‘. It sounded like the right thing to do.

A few words about the motivation: It’s Spring of 2010 and soon I will travel to Madrid for a business meeting. It’s my first time there, and the meeting venue is on the city’s border in some business area with nothing to do but meetings. So I want to stay not too far from the meeting, but also not too far from the city center so that I can do some sightseeing if I get the time, or simply have a nice dinner. I will be using public transport, so I need to stay close to a subway stop. The hotel needs to be reasonably good and inexpensive (hey, I was working for a university at the time). And all that is before I start thinking about typical filters such as non-smoking rooms, wifi, breakfasts, etc. You get the drill: Madrid has hundreds of hotels, and even after applying all easy filters, I was left with more than 100 to check. It took the better part of a Sunday. Not pleasant.

The solution took longer than expected, but eventually the foundation is here: triptao.com promises to solve this problem, applying fancy math to hotel availability and geographical data. This is done using the excellent content of Booking.com, of whom TripTao is now an affiliate. Are you visiting London with its 800+ hotels? TripTao will filter them for you and show you a list in the range of 100 hotels. This is not fixed and depends on many factors, but that’s a typical reduction. I argue that if you would go through all 800+ hotels, eventually you would choose, anyway, one of those that TripTao will show you. Not only that: The ranking algorithm is also fairly sophisticated, and doesn’t take commission into account. The first result(s) to show is really those it considers to be the best. Usually, people will find their ideal hotel within the first 10 properties shown.

Now, this is not quite finished yet. Scaling down ambition was necessary to kick-off but the vision is still grand. Now that the first step is done, little by little it will get there. There are a lot of improvements in the pipeline, lots of new features planned, lots of ideas to research and implement. Hopefully triptao.com will eventually become the default go-to hotel search platform for plenty of people, and save a few Sundays for them too.