The second episode of the Startup in Spotlight series is here. Read the first one. It’s about how one Augmented Reality (AR) startup gathered a hundred thousand app installs in just a few months.
In this episode, we will be featuring Glamping Hub, a luxury camping destination platform, that has raised over $1 million in seed funding.
We rarely hear stories of friendships that turned into successful business ventures. The story of Ruben Martinez and his travel startup is one of them. Martinez is the co-founder of Glamping Hub, a luxury camping destination platform, an avid traveler, and a dedicated friend. His dedication can be seen by the fact that he and his friend started a travel destination platform that kept them together and also helped others in getting the best glamping deals and accommodations around the globe.
How it all began?
Martinez met David Troya, co-founder, and CEO of Glamping Hub while studying abroad in Seville, Spain. The duo wanted to do something that kept their friendship alive and also explore their passion for traveling while benefiting the society.
So, they came up with the idea of Glamping Hub, a travel startup platform that provides travelers with glamping destinations that felt “out of reach” to an average city Joe.
Martinez says, “The inspiration for Glamping Hub came from the term ‘to-gather’, to congregate with a group of loved ones for that purpose alone.”
They explored various options to create a business with a meaning and to bring people together.
In the beginning, they launched it with the support from a group of angel investors. The investors were found through Glamping Hub’s network. Both the founders, Troya and Martinez, spent their savings and pitched anyone and everyone in hopes of an angel nice enough to help get Glamping Hub off the ground. With this initial round of funding and personal savings, they were able to hire the first few employees and publish a version of the website that would help produce some revenue and more importantly a proof of concept that could be taken to the next group of investors. Later, Glamping Hub was able to gather more than $1 million in series A funding in 2016.
The Working Model
As Glamping Hub is a travel startup that lists glamping destinations. It gets information from most places available online. Martinez says that online information for outdoor, unique accommodations is already scattered throughout the internet. The missing point: There was no “home” for glamping listings, especially in the USA.
So, Troya and Martinez came up with the platform in order to organize all this scattered information onto a single platform. During their initial research, they noticed that there was an uptick in key terms and interests in unique places to stay in nature.
They thought they had found a marketing gap that could be filled easily. So, Glamping Hub was initially made as the listing home for tree houses, yurts, tipis, airstreams, campervans, tiny houses, cabins, bell tents, cabooses, and even igloos.
Failure was Inevitable
Just like any startup, Glamping Hub travel startup also failed with its initial idea. The idea was to add African Safaris and expand into United Kingdom’s marketplace, but it failed because of two reasons. First, the site was getting more than 75% traffic from the USA. Second, it was too difficult for users to book a safari adventure on a booking platform for a different continent.
In the UK, Glamping is more defined, and the marketplace is already saturated with various companies. The term “glamping” is newer in the USA and has given Glamping Hub more control of the marketplace for that location.
Achievements So Far
One of the biggest achievements of Glamping Hub is its organic growth and the ability to expand into different markets fairly quickly. Last year at this time of the year, Glamping Hub had 8,000 listings, now these listings have increased to over 32,000.
Another achievement for Glamping Hub is that it is now able to provide users with more options and more inventory for those looking to stay in an outdoor structure of any kind, essentially offering a one-stop shop for various types of glamping accessories and destinations available on our platform.
Persistence is the Recipe for Success
Glamping Hub travel startup’s recipe for success is to have a clear definition of its goals. When starting any type of business, no one is exempt from pivots, shifts, and changes. While trends shift and goals evolve, the company needs to stay focused.
For the founders, Martinez and Troya, the most fruitful strategies of Glamping Hub were to expand in the USA marketplace specifically, enhance SEO marketing to rank on more keywords and spend minimum paid marketing budget.
Martinez says, “As the USA was new to ‘glamping,’ we were able to grow quickly and gain control of the USA marketplace.”
Taking on Challenges
Martinez says, “Glamping Hub must strive to stay unique among many other online travel startups and vacation rental booking platforms.”
The industry is changing rapidly and Glamping Hub must be considerate of these changes and trends to keep on providing the right types of accommodations.
“We must continue to understand the evolving wants and needs of guests within each marketplace and that every consumer’s requirements will be different. As we increase the volume of listings on Glamping Hub, all listings must uphold the same value for each individual in each market while staying relevant to the concept of glamping globally,” he added.
Solving One Challenge at a Time
Though Glamping Hub is a data-driven platform and ranking well on marketing channels. But what makes it even more unique is that the hosts of guests coming through Glamping hub “make it their own” by adding unique activities for their guests, such as wine tasting, rafting, climbing, and more.
Another challenge Glamping Hub faces is to establish an “across the board” rating system. Each glamping site is completely different from the next — making it hard to gauge the scale of quality, comfort, and uniqueness, which are all subjective.
Whereas with hotels and the industry standard of one to five-star ratings, which allow guests to anticipate what will be provided at a 4-star hotel vs. a 2-star hotel, it is a challenge to create a uniform rating system for the glamping industry, due to the increased level of subjectivity.
Advice for Startups
For those who wish to launch their own start-up, Martinez suggests preparing as much as possible and investing time in building a strong network. This means getting in front of as many people as you can because new entrepreneurs will go through hundreds of conversations, meetings, and rejections before finding that one person who believes in their idea too.
When embarking on a business venture, people get way too excited about their ideas, as they should be, but must also be open to constructive criticism—a thick skin is necessary.
When pitching to investors, remember that they will make up their mind first. They will be focused on the founding group and especially on those that would be leading the business. Therefore, pitches must be data-driven.
Before pitching to investors, consult friends or family members four to five times to prepare yourself. Anyone who is hiding and waiting for the perfect person to pitch to will miss out on additional opportunities to build a strong network.
Failure is inevitable, so Martinez recommends failing quickly, failing fast, and then perfecting the pitch. One’s ideas today will look completely different five years from now—and that’s okay. The first few years will be hard, with little to no pay-off, and only those who are dedicated, passionate, focused, and disciplined will succeed.
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