We all know that there are many online holiday booking services on offer. All offering a wide range of rentals to book that perfect vacation. But how many of those show availability and pricing real time? And how many hundreds do you have to sift through to find the options that work for your pocket and your availability? Matt Fox of Snaptrip saw this gap in the market and ran with the opportunity.

 

Can you describe in a nutshell what your business offering is?

Snaptrip is the world’s only dedicated last minute self-catered holiday platform. At the moment we are specialising in just UK cottages as stage one and we have aggregated and presented the largest collection of UK properties with total accurate availability and pricing with the best discounts available. The website is for users who want to go on a last minute break in the UK and find the biggest collection available at the best prices. That’s essentially what Snaptrip does. We have been going for 8 months now and the vision is to progress into other areas of the world such as Europe and North America.

So as far as I understand it’s not really a collection of hotels?

No it’s a self-catering rental website, like HomeAway or Holiday Lettings. Obviously in the hotel sector there are so many brands that focus on last minute getaways, like Last Minute, Hotel Tonight… things like that. But there is nobody that offers the same dedicated last minute focus in the self-catered sector. That’s what Snaptrip aims to optimise.

Those brands that you mentioned – are they your competitors?

Not really. Our content is non exclusive so the people that manage the content can be on multi platforms. The biggest thing we found when researching how people book their self-catered breaks is that out of hundreds of search results maybe only twenty are actually available, yet you have to go through each one to get to that twenty. Snaptrip removes that element of time and hassle and providing that accuracy right at the front, showing correct availability and price.

And your personal background? Have you always wanted to be your own boss?

I have always worked for small companies so I have always been very connected to management teams that coordinate strategy and run businesses. I started my career off in PR and marketing in the property sector and got to learn different elements. I then started working for a company with a very entrepreneurial management team. They specialised in selling international properties, however the CEO wanted to get into holiday property rentals because he could see that was gaining momentum. I came on as a co-founder and helped him launch. We ran it for a few years before selling. That’s where the idea for Snaptrip came about. That gave me the confidence to think that I could make that leap from sitting behind a CEO on a management board to actually being a CEO, raising money and launching my own business and getting my own team.

Snaptrip Website

So you saw the potential market demand after working for something similar in the same sector?

Yes. The concept of Snaptrip came through the supply side. Holiday rental property in the UK will probably be rented out for only 50 percent of the time, at best. So that’s 50 percent of its inventory empty. With us, property owners can offer discounts – there’s no other platform for owners or managers to offer discounts. That, when partnered with the value proposition of last minute properties (that wasn’t available at the time), made sense to latch onto this and go for it.

I can see you are very passionate about this business. Have you always wanted to be en entrepreneur?

Not really actually! The business that I was part of before did quite well but there was certainly a lot that I learnt through that process. I wanted the opportunity to put in place a structure from day one that took those learnings and put it into another opportunity and to see that if by correcting a few of those strategic errors that we all made – could we create something that is cooler and better and has more traction? Those are the kind of things that I have focussed on for Snaptrip.

So it’s really about building a structure that you gain a sense of achievement throughout the process. About the journey basically…

It is because of what you learn as an entrepreneur building your business – it’s about getting the right platforms from day one. Someone once said to me, which I have always taken on board, “It’s not rocket science, it’s just science!” It’s based on a methodology that if you’ve read the books and spoken to the people you just learn. It’s all about validating things in your own head. There is no point in wasting time if you are onto something that is not going to work.

So when I came up with Snaptrip it was about validate – validate and then test, then progress. The interesting part of it is that I don’t believe I’m a born entrepreneur as such, it was more that I saw this was a good idea and I really wanted to go with it with a humble approach of who can I learn from, who can I speak to and how can I do it in the best way possible. Hence my taking on some seriously clever guys with loads of sector experience because it’s a competitive sector. Just thinking that you’ve got the new best idea is not enough.

And your personal history? Where there any entrepreneurs in your family that encouraged you?

Not really. My parents were from a different generation where it was about get a job, get a pension and move up the ladder. They are risk averse. When I started down this path, although they weren’t against it, they were tense. My mother is more relaxed over my career now. I think they are amazed that I have chosen this path and they are excited to see Snaptrip progress. They love that I have done two funding rounds and am now getting proper investment, including my godfather who is an entrepreneur.

The biggest thing about deciding to do Snaptrip from a personal perspective was testing myself on the biggest scale possible. You have to go to start-up investors and venture capitalists and put a good account of yourself and your business idea to the point that they want to support you. It was a ballsy decision as I had just had children but I believe in the idea and I think I’ve got the execution strategy right to do it with my sector experience. From that perspective my parents were very supportive of me.

And at what stage is Snaptrip now? Are you confident in terms of the UK scale?

Yes as I said the value proposition of latching onto last minute bookings is just one particular strain of the Snaptrip strategy. From the product development side it’s about how do we optimise with that value proposition? And that focus has been on accuracy. From the marketing and consumer side it’s about how we grow that base and get brand recognition. Quite soon we are going to have the largest inventory of bookable UK properties in the world – that’s bigger than booking.com or airbnb.com. We have done that very quickly, but it’s a competitive market.

You mentioned your business partner earlier. Are there any interesting stories there?

I don’t have a technical background at all. One of my biggest pieces of learning from the previous business is that I needed a CTO co-founder as quickly as possible. Trying to find a decent co- founder or technical co-founder is a big challenge and can take a long time. Thankfully with the help of Forward Partners, our venture capitalist investor who invested when it was just an idea, we had that traction quite quickly and then it was just about going out and trying to find people.

Matt Fox & Dan Harrison

Matt Fox and co-founder Dan Harrison

Dan Harrison was the first person I approached on Linked-In for a coffee. He had left HomeAway a year or so previously – he was there for 8 years running their technical team in the UK. When I told him what I was up to with Snaptrip and the funding, I didn’t really need to sell the concept too much to him, because he knew from day one that there is a place for this in the sector and he came on board 6 weeks later. He’s the cornerstone of the business regarding technical progression, and he’s keeping us at the forefront of this sector as far as I’m concerned. He’s built a fantastic team. Great widgets, great bigger picture advancements of the product. The way they were testing it and validating it – he doesn’t just have technical expertise but also is great with management procedure.

There are 7 of us now with another contractual two doing mostly technical and marketing.

And can you tell us about any challenges you encountered in the process of starting up?

One of the biggest concerns towards the start was around quick scaling but also on a decent commercial structure because as I said we have grown to so many properties by partnering with management agencies who represent hundreds or thousands of properties. Those people were obviously holding the early key to our success. My concern was that affiliate marketing, creating a distribution channel that we are actually operating, is quite standard in our sector – and that comes with standard commission terms and things like that.  I was nervous about how much money we would actually make from each booking. In the end one of Dan’s old contacts created a commission structure for our business which has completely revolutionised how we do things. It has also improved the attraction of the business from an investment perspective as well.

He essentially made Snaptrip a platform that is perfectly balanced between the people that give us the supply and the ones that demand. That has been absolutely probably one of the biggest key impacts on our business. It’s turned the business into something that is incredibly scalable and incredibly attractive.

You mentioned that you want to expand to Europe and North America. Let’s talk about goals and visions. What kind of scale would you like to expand the business to?

I see it as a worldwide brand – no doubt about that. The plan is to solidify in the UK then take all those learnings into mainland Europe and into America, while retaining a focus on lean business. Within a month we are going to have the largest bookable portfolio of UK properties and that’s with under 10 staff so if we want to have the same in Europe or the US, what do we need? It’s a big challenge and I think that we have a great grounding, a great branding, and we have an opportunity to create a worldwide brand for this sector.

And if there was one bit of advice you could pass onto fellow entrepreneurs just starting out?

Execution is everything. You have to have a humble, realistic approach and get your strategy right – read the books and speak to the right people. You are entering a world that is hugely exciting and is a lot of fun, but there is a very big challenge ahead so work out your execution from a fundraising and from a validation perspective. You want to get to that point as quickly as possible, then work on getting investments. These days investors are not so much about, oh you have a product that’s working… it’s about show me the problem, show me your solution, what other solutions are out there, why is yours better, will people use yours over someone else’s and what’s the overall size of this problem. Getting to the point of proving this as fast as possible is far more impressive than “I spent 20 grand building a website and I have a few users etc.” You need to show the bigger picture. Blind faith is not a good idea.

 

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