, Startups
01 April 2013

Inspiration, Change, and Focus

I was feeling pretty confident in what I had done to date with tripchi, having just finished building a notional prototype of the ultimate visionan inspirational leisure travel website that matched you with your perfect travel destination (eHarmony for travel planning). And had also just come out of the Global Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (GEAP) in Bilbao Spain in May 2012, which helped me further define tripchis product-market fit and give me a great support group going forward, especially considering I was a single founder.
 
But the vision, which was several pivots removed from the tripchi vision of today, wasnt formulated in a way that was actually executable by a single founder with practically zero connections in this new and daunting space of entrepreneurship. In other words, I couldnt do it alone. On top of that, it was very unlikely to work even with help. Without serious backing and an in-house team, as well as the power to build a consumer brand, I felt like there was no way that the tripchi I had originally conceived of could succeed in its original form.
 
With this realization, I was feeling lost at sea, in a lone canoe without a paddle, floating gently away from shore in no particular direction. I knew the direction I wanted to take, but wasnt sure how to get there. On top of that, I was (and still am) in a mature industry (travel), with lots of big players and notable consumer brands. And, my original tripchi idea capitalized on a very early stage in the consumer travel buying cycle, so the idea was really hard to monetize (think about itpeople are not ready to book their trip when they are still gathering ideas, so our only real revenue play was ad-based, which reduced the elegance of the site).
 
What is a girl to do? Get inspired, change as needed, and then focus. 
 

Inspiration

Sometimes this can be accomplished with an out of body experience like DWEN or GEAP. I highly recommend taking a small sabbatical where you meet other people doing interest things, get out of your own head for a while, and then dive back in with a fresh and clear mind. Moreover, you realize you are not alone, and that there are many people and organizations like MassChallenge out there to help you, and who want to help you. I can tell you from experience that this support network is critical for a single founder, and it reiterates that you are not alone. If you are not already on FounderDating, I suggest you join that as wellthis network has allowed me to meet some amazing people in globally, and now I really feel like part of a community after feeling alone for so long.
 

Change

After all, its just an idea, and ideas need to evolve with the feedback youre getting as well as with the changing times. If you realize that what youre doing isnt working after trying pretty hard to fix it, you just have to change it up and try something else.  Start by looking at your product-market fitcan something be tweaked there to make the business model more successful? For example, I realized that the leisure travel market was a tough nut to crack. I liked the idea of giving personalized recommendations of places to visit, but maybe I could have a unique angle? Thats where I came up with the idea of helping business travelers find cool things to do in their leisure time. And it fit great with my brands name, tripchithat perfect yin-yang balance of business and pleasure that we all wish we could accomplish on our business trips. I ran this by people in my network (and business travelers), who are continual sources of inspiration renewal, to briefly validate, and then it was all systems go.
 

Focus 

And, whats moreyou dont have to necessarily sacrifice your end vision to do it; you just need to focus the problem with a better lens. Instead of solving everything for everyone, solve one thing really well for one type of customer. And thats how we came up with the one specific use case of helping business travelers make the best use of their time at the airport. After doing many surveys of business travelers, we discovered that the airport use case was one scenario they all had in commonthat is, down-time that wasnt optimized, coupled with a feeling of frustration and boredom. That was our starting point. An extremely focused approach that could be easily built and validated, so that we could quickly iterate and add features as needed to develop the product path towards the ultimate visionhelping travelers discover interesting things to do around them so they can make the most of their time.
 
This three step formula of inspiration, change, and focus led us to outline a stepwise path to get to the end vision from our now laser-focused starting point, based on specifically executable milestones that could be accomplished with our given resources. 
 
My advice to you is thisrather than looking at the 5-year end-goal, and throwing up your hands in despair, develop a path that builds on what you currently have, identifying key gaps at key timeframes, such that you can break the larger problem down into a serial and parallel path of sub-problems. Its probably the project/product manager in me talking here, but breaking down the vision into discrete chunks allowed me to focus in on one thing at a time and not get frustrated or depressed by the crushing weight of an impossible vision.
 
So thats where I stand now. I have a good product-market fit, am developing a great team, and have a laser-focused product that is currently being developed for a specific use case. I can expand any number of ways from here, but the most important and hardest part is overfiguring out where to start!
 
You can also see portions of this blog featured in Entrepreneur Country.
 
 
Author Bio: 
I have a background in tech, innovation, and product development, especially as applied to web and mobile apps in the entrepreneurship arena, but have recently moved more into marketing and strategy post-MBA, as well entrepreneurship. As a product marketer at EMC, I have gravitated toward digital marketing as well as analytics/data mining, which fits well with my techie geek bent. Outside of work, I enjoy exploring Bostons culinary and jazz scene (often in combination), and travel as much as I can (35 countries and counting).
 
I love creative and challenging projects in the emerging technology product space, and have a passion for travel. I thought, why not combine these interests? This led me to launch my latest startup, tripchi. Having been a business traveler for 8+ years, I know what its like to be living out of airportsyou feel like youre wasting all sorts of time that you dont have, while simultaneously being bored. What if there was a way to help you spend your time in the airport in ways you actually enjoyed?
 
Well, thats what tripchi is for. tripchi is a mobile app that helps you make the most of your time in the airport. We serve up recommendations of things to do while you're waiting for your flight with targeted offers based on your flight information and interests. Whether it's dining, shopping, charging, finding a lounge, meeting up with other travelers, or exploring interesting things the airport has to offer, such as special exhibits, tripchi has you covered. Learn more through our video and visit us at www.tripchi.com.

 

Mission

MassChallenge strengthens the global innovation ecosystem by accelerating high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world.