Representasia News founder/editor Tim Russell launched his own travel tech startup earlier this year. Here’s the first of regular updates on his startup journey…
Early in 2014 I was invited to join a Bangkok food tour organised by Taste of Thailand, a small food travel startup run by my friend Jacob Holder.
During the walk I noticed one very interesting thing: although the tour leader had given us a brief paper itinerary/map, most of the group members had shoved this in a pocket/bag and were spending most of the tour on their phones – following the route on Google Maps, sharing their experiences on Facebook/Twitter, and posting images on Instagram. Wouldn’t it make sense, I thought, if the itinerary itself was also in mobile format?
At that time I was working for a frustratingly old-school luxury tour operator who were, and still are, issuing their final itineraries in paper and PDF format – good luck to their customers, having to lug around 50 pages of A4 on their trip, or scroll through a PDF on their phones! Given that virtually all their clients travel with a mobile device of some kind, wouldn’t it make sense, I thought, to put their itineraries on those devices?
So one weekend I hunkered down at home and wrote up a spec document for a mobile itinerary app that would allow tour operators both big and small to convert their itineraries into interactive mobile apps, containing not just the itinerary itself but supplementary destination information, a communications/messaging module, surveys/customer feedback, contact directory, document storage, social sharing and much more – and lo, Tineri was born!
I subsequently discovered that a couple of other companies had already had the idea, but as one seemed to be solely Africa-focused, and the other was based on the rather esoteric American “travel advisor” model, it was clear that there was definitely room on the market for Tineri.
I proposed the idea to the tour operator I was working for at the time, only to be told “Our clients wouldn’t be interested in that” – at the same time as the likes of TUI, Exotissimo, MTA Travel and many others were already developing and launching their own mobile itinerary app solutions.
In late 2015 I finally got to a position where I was able to quit that frustrating job and focus on my new hotel & travel tech reseller business Representasia, and decided that now was the time to bring Tineri to life. Lacking the resources to get a prototype built, I taught myself to build one, and within a few days of finishing it off, I’d signed up my first client – the well-known Southeast Asia luxury tour operator/DMC Trails of Indochina.
Soon after that we managed to get some seed capital together to actually get Tineri built, and a few weeks ago I was in Ho Chi Minh City to spend some time with our app development team and to have a first look at the working demo – a genuinely exciting and moving moment as I saw my vision come to life on my phone.
Last month we exhibited Tineri at Echelon Singapore, one of Asia’s leading tech startup events. We’ve already got several clients signed up, and we’re in talks with more potential clients, distribution partners, and investors. We start beta testing in August. We’re very excited about it.