101 happy trips with Samurai Kei Shibata starting from…Singapore!
Last time I have a chat with Kei Shibata san about his startups in Japan and also some of his investments around Asia. At that time he shared his view: Japanese VC Kei Shibata: I can always see whether they really want me or just my money! Now Kei san is already based in Singapore and managing his venture fund Venture Republic and also running another startup targeting travelers traveling around the world with a focus on Asia.
Trip101 is a travel experience platform sharing stories from real travelers. Due to their website: “Trip101 is a one-stop guide for travel enthusiasts around the world. Supported by an ever-growing community of travel writers, we provide inspiration and useful information to help facilitate travel in a fun and meaningful manner! They have some interesting posts with titles such as: “10 Private Islands That You Can Rent Through Airbnb”, “30 Romantic Things To Do In Toronto You Never Knew Existed”, “Why Does Nagasaki Feel So Dutch? 8 Intriguing Facts You Should Know”
It’s more like an online guide books where travelers share their experience while they are traveling. A kind of “How to” blog: where to go, things to do, what to shop…Trip101 also has a program Travel Influencers Asia connecting travel bloggers and the travel destinations/organizations which have farm trip programs. Let’s take a chat tour with the samurai wearing both founder and investor hats!
How did you come up with the idea of Trip101?
The original idea came from our business in Japan. Our business has seen a tremendous growth in our media/content platform at Travel.jp over the last 5 years. We wanted to bring this business model to the global market. What is unique about Trip101 is its aim: to fill the gap between UGC (User Generated Content) and professional travel guides in the content space by leveraging the power of travel writers/influencers in the competitive travel media market.
Normally it’s not easy to make money from content. And you have already succeeded with booking site like Travel.jp why now come back to the content? What is the site’s business model?
Booking sites/ metasearch sites, in its nature, sell flights and hotels as “commodities”. Users just pick the best fit product from the list and the relationship ends there.
We see the pain points of travelers in their “customer journey” on a booking site/metasearch. Once there, there is a lack of opportunity to upsell or cross-sell the commoditized travel product. For example, how do you make people buy a premier double room instead of the cheap discounted single room stay at an economy hotel? Using content gives us an advantage. We can tell stories – and that is the beginning of the customer journey. This then leads to people purchasing a better travel experience rather than a commoditized product. Meanwhile, new user acquisition among travel brands is getting harder and more expensive. Involving content marketing as the part of acquisition method could address this problem and differentiate our brand from competitors.
Who are the main targets of the site?
Kei Shibata on Haloween Day
We aim to provide useful information to a wide range of travelers, such as backpackers, solo travelers and family travelers. For example, we provide information on accommodation for all budgets. This means publishing articles about hostels, luxury resorts and vacation rentals – giving readers a choice to pick an article that best fits their budget/travel style.
Where are the target markets?
Looks like traffic to the site mostly come from US/UK then SG/MY/PH. Will you extend to any local language in Asia soon?
We are considering the next move by researching and discussing with industry experts and potential partners.
Last six months the Trip101 site monthly traffic has increased from 100k to 366k then back a little bit to a stable 250k, eg increase more than double at 150% growth rate. Would you mind to reveal the site growth hack? Is it about content and SEO?
Our traffic has been growing steadily since inception (recent fall could be due to the seasonality factors.) Our strategy has always been to create content that is relevant and useful to our audience. We are active in our marketing efforts on every major platform such as search engines and social media.
Marketing Analysis: from my observation, the site is well-structured for both readers & SEO, from content strategy and link structures. Also due to some tools: a large amount of Trip101 traffic comes from Google. On social media channels, Trip101 has FB/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest. But looks like the most effective channel for the travel experience site is it’s Facebook page. It a nutshell, search engine organic traffic is the main driver with support from social media. Actually doing SEO for an English travel site is really hard because tons of similar content already available out there. So they’re doing a good job providing the real value for travelers with original content.
Do you see any travel trend while doing Trip101?
We are seeing more in-destination searches from mobile usage, especially from destinations in Japan.
We came to this conclusion because a lot of our articles on Japan were accessed in Japan. This can only be attributed to travelers looking for activities and guides while travelling/on the road.
Doing both roles as an investor to AllStay, BeMyGuest, Telunjuk and as an entrepreneur with Trip101 and Travel.jp, which role do you prefer and why?
I like being an entrepreneur. I enjoy wearing the “investor” hat occasionally. Perhaps my “investor” hat is not as same as those of a venture capitalist, rather it’s more like the “mentor” hat. I’ve been in the industry for over 16 years now. Thus, I am required to share the knowledge with startups and vice versa.
Can you share some progress of your portfolio companies since you invested in them? And where will be your next investment?
Telunjuk has become the largest shopping metasearch site in Indonesia in terms of traffic as it successfully closed Series A round of investment. Allstay has successfully built the foundation as a first local mobile app hotel metasearch in South Korea. Trip101 has established a unique media platform driven by hundreds of travel enthusiasts, and has launched the first marketplace in South East Asia called “Travel Influencers Asia” which connects travel influencers to travel brands.
The travel industry is very large with a wide scope. To meet the needs of its consumers and stay competitive, we continue to invest in different geographic markets particularly in Asia as well as new and upcoming verticals.
What’s your focus in 2018?
We will be looking more closely on how to monetize our business efficiently in 2018 while generating better and more compelling content for the audience to make them feel like travelling more.
Sales Analysis: The site has a hotel search box powered by Booking.com, and link to a specific hotel on Booking from it’s hotel review articles, which is normal. Then it’s also providing some travel activities to book. So it’s connecting the planning phase to the booking phase and also the on-trip phase of a traveller.
What’s your motto for startup & life? And what’re your most favorite books?
My motto: “There is an immeasurable distance between late and too late“. – by Og Mandino
The book: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. This book tells me everything from the goal of entrepreneurship, the values for customers to the importance of team building that should be all built around the “happiness.”