How Simon and Lani te Hennepe built tellurian transport startup TRAVLR out of a elementary PDF document

Simon and Lani te Hennepe’s transport startup TRAVLR operates opposite 6 countries, has over 85 staff, and has lifted $5 million in try capital. But 9 years ago, a startup existed customarily as a singular PDF document.


It started as a elementary thought: Lani, a seasoned Bali traveller, was formulation her and Simon’s initial outing to a island together, and was holding records on opposite bargains for hotel and grill prices.

“I remember her revelation me this hotel was $300 bucks a night online, though she knew if we rang afterwards adult and bartered with them, we could get it for $100,” Simon te Hennepe tells StartupSmart.

“We suspicion ‘people should know this’, and it all stemmed from there.”

Those records became a PDF document — a scripture common with tighten friends and kin that fast gained notoriety. Hundreds of people were seeking for it, so a span combined a Facebook page that went from dual supporters to 10,000 in a matter of weeks.

Then it became a website, afterwards a mobile app. By that point, it was no longer curating customarily a te Hennepe’s practice though collating practice from thousands of other travellers, vouchsafing them make their possess Bali Bible and emanate shareable, personal trips.

Now a Bali Bible sits underneath a wider business of TRAVLR, with users means to book whole curated trips by a startup’s website. The startup is profitable, has scarcely 2 million amicable media followers, and is already in a midst of seeking a Series B collateral injection, customarily 6 months after completing a $5 million Series A.

But a te Hennepe’s success compulsory countless tough yards, and even harder decisions.

A trail reduction TRAVL’d

Simon te Hennepe says he began his tour in a startup attention when he was customarily 15, starting a personal training business and even contracting a few personal trainers before diving into a career heading product selling and business growth teams during companies like 1form and Fillr.

“I always knew we wanted to do my possess thing, and we was always forcing my approach adult as an entrepreneur. Even when we was operative in several opposite businesses full-time we still noticed it as a resolution for a halt until we got where we wanted to be,” he says.

The Bali Bible and TRAVLR haven’t been te Hennepe’s customarily try over a years, though he frankly admits they’ve been his many successful. The co-founder formerly determined a series of other ventures, including a web growth association and a sunglasses company, along with some other unsuccessful projects (he fast mentions a amicable media mention height he admits was one of a “lot of things I’ve finished that failed”).

“I’ve been aggressively driven my whole life, and I’ve always wanted to be in this conditions as a founder, formulating something that disrupts an industry,” he says.

“I customarily didn’t consider a PDF request would be a one to do it.”

To be fair, labelling a Bali Bible ‘just a PDF document’ is a poignant undersell. The startup grew fast over a list of recommendations utterly fast and it began to siphon adult many of a te Hennepes’ time.

Entirely bootstrapped from a founders income from their full-time jobs, a Bali Bible started as a hobby and a side project, reflected in a fact they “didn’t make a cent from it for a initial 3 years”, laughs te Hennepe.

“We’d work all day during a jobs and afterwards get home during 5pm and work on a association until midnight, replying to emails from users seeking about where they should go on their trips. We outsourced growth to India, that meant we infrequently had late night calls during dual or 3 o’clock,” he says.

“It was a work of love, though we knew there was intensity to monetise it down a track.”

As they progressed, a income began to hurl in, and a startup became some-more and some-more self-sustaining, and eventually profitable. At a start of 2015, 5 years on from a central ‘launch’ of a Bali Bible, te Hennepe says a business was in an extraordinary place, essential and using smoothly — a ideal impulse to tip all on a head.

Te Hennepe says it sounded like a crazy suspicion during a time, holding all a income they had done (and even some they hadn’t) and pouring it into a new entity TRAVLR — an unknown, though one with a intensity to turn something most bigger than a business they had.

“Lani asked since we’d take something we’d been doing each day for 5 years and we were finally creation a distinction on and risk it all on something new,” te Hennepe says.

“She pronounced to me, ‘you’re an idiot, though I’ll behind you’, and that was a make or mangle impulse for us. It was possibly rest on a laurels and lay on what we had for a subsequent 5 years or whatever, or risk it all and go for a large goal.”

The dual remortgaged their house, employed growth teams opposite a world, and fell behind into operative to midnight each night. The business was “hemorrhaging money”, and te Hennepe laughs that he was “in a bad books” for a year-and-a-half.

“We now demeanour back, and it was such a float and we learnt so much. We were operative full-time and each cent went behind into a business, and it was customarily after a year-and-a-half of doing that did we realize we had done a right decision,” he says.

“We’d be somewhere else wholly if we didn’t go down this path.”

… on how TRAVLR leveraged amicable media

TRAVLR raises $5 million

Towards a finish of final year, TRAVLR sealed a $5 million Series A appropriation turn from an array of New Zealand formed investors, including Humphry Rolleston, Peter Guthrey and Grant Moreton. Te Hennepe says he had been concerned in Series A processes with prior businesses so he had knowledge in a area, though it still compulsory a lot of legwork.

The startup got some-more seductiveness from some-more parties than a founders were expecting — an surprising feeling for te Hennepe who says he’s customarily “begging” people to deposit in his ideas.

“We got to collect and choose, and that’s never happened to me before,” he says.

But a dual wanted some-more than customarily capital, looking for investors who could give them networks and business experience. They landed on a organisation of New Zealand investors that te Hennepe says have over 120 years of transport attention knowledge collectively.

“My perspective was a improved a investors’ experience, a augmenting intensity for use to be a subsequent TripAdvisor,” he says.

Startup founders who concentration some-more on a collateral rather than a investors themselves are going down a wrong path, he says, with knowledge being “worth a weight in gold”. But te Hennepe recognises TRAVLR competence have been in a singular experience, observant not each startup owner can collect and choose.

“It’s tough to contend to people they should collect and select their investors since not many people are in that really advantageous position to be resourceful like we were. That’s where your relations and networks play a large factor,” he says.

The startup has also recently hired dual executives: a arch handling officer in Geoff Stringer, who has knowledge operative during Lonely Planet and Sensis; and a arch technical officer in Stuart Rowe, who also worked during 1Form and Fillr.

Te Hennepe is really vehement about a new hires as TRAVLR moves forward, and says that staffing has always been a formidable charge for a startup though a group he has now is “just amazing”

“Someone told me years ago to find a right person, and fill a purpose around them, build them into a specific role. We’ve left about it in that demeanour and we’ve always found a right people who fit a association and share a vision,” he says.

The association is now looking to destiny expansion, with TRAVLR’s use offerings shortly to be launched in Seychelles, Indonesia, a Cook Islands, and New Zealand.

“It’s been a crazy journey, and we’re already in Series B conversations. We wish to be in 20 countries, and we’ve already got tourism play fighting for us and a technology,” he says.

“I never suspicion we’d be here today.”

… on what it means to be a founder

NOW READ: Why businessman Dale Beaumont travels a universe for 3 months a year while still flourishing his AI startup BRiN during home

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