Chicago Tech Startup: Travel720

April 12, 2012 | By | 1 Comment

Travel720 is a social funding site devoted to helping users raise the money necessary to travel. Travel720 accounts include a personalized “trip page” that informs potential funders of the itinerary and mission of the account user’s trip. Recently, Travel720’s founder and CEO Jennifer R. Thomas answered our questions about her company:

TINC: You are in private beta now, when will you launch?

We released a soft launch in February with a fully functional site that is being tested by early users.  Travelers can request an invite to our beta site by submitting their email on our homepage. Our official launch is expected in June, 2012.

TINC: Why would people be motivated to pay for someone else’s travel? What do donors get in return?

We’re building a community for travelers with a message that they are earning their trip.  The traveler creates a personalized trip page, expressing their commitment to their desired experience.  Now that the traveler has an easy way to notify people and receive money, we help them with resources and tips to give them confidence and good reasons to receive support.  For example: Sharing their savings plan to achieve the travel goal, asking their parents if they will match what they raise, and redirecting upcoming gifts (birthday, graduation, holiday) contributing to an experience versus a gift card or a tacky sweater.

Part of our appeal is that we allow supporters to give something that will impact someone’s life beyond a single gift. In return for the support, the traveler is able to share their desire and passion leading up to the trip as well as photos and stories upon their return.  How many gift cards have you given where you were able to track your ROI?

We see a large portion of the support coming from those close to the traveler, especially parents that value our message of earning the trip.

TINC: How is the process for signing up for a destination page different for an individual versus a group or organization?

At this time the trip page is designed for an individual.  We plan on offering additional features specifically addressing group and organization needs in the near future.  However, this certainly doesn’t stop a group or organization from using our service now, tailoring the page to their needs.

We also work with travel groups and organizations as an additional resource to help their participants afford their trip.  They’re given a co-branded landing page and custom URL they can share on their site.

2 Chicago examples of how we work with organizations: Greenheart Travel and ACM

TINC: Explain what a “trip page” is – what information does this entail?

We want the traveler to have a space where they can share their upcoming trip and engage with family & friends. They create their personalized trip page, including a custom URL, and provide their destination details: description, travel dates and listed activities. There’s also an interactive map and a section for visitors to chat with the traveler.

TINC: If you only raise a percentage of the money, can you get the funds? Or, is it like Kickstarter, where it’s all or nothing?

Travelers may be able to receive full support through scholarships or a relative, but when they can’t, it can come down to only a portion of the funds they need to travel. Our goal is to help them earn their trip, so the money they raise is in addition to what they’re saving through traditional methods such as their job and through adjusting their budget. They have full access to the money they raised and can withdraw it at anytime to pay for their trip expenses.

TINC: How is financial progress communicated to donors and recipients?

It’s important for everyone to feel involved in the trip.  Recipients receive an email after funds are received.  Donors also receive an email confirming their transactions and are welcome to visit the traveler’s trip page throughout the funding period to check on the progress and chat with the traveler.

TINC: What are the costs, fees or percentages taken when using Travel720?

Most online services providing a fundraising platform will charge the account holder a percentage fee ranging from 6% to as high as 10% on the money they receive, which includes an approximate 3% credit card processing fee. We feel this model penalizes the traveler who is trying to save for an admirable cause. We’ve designed a fee model that allows the traveler to create their trip page for free. We’re introducing the service at a one-time $10 fee per trip when the traveler is ready to share their trip and receive funds.  The credit card processing fees are passed on to the donor so the recipient isn’t burdened with additional fees taking away from their funding goal.

TINC: What is the recommended time frame for trying to fund raise for a trip on Travel720?

Anyone can use our service for trip they’re planning in 2 months to 2 years. Travel720 is friends with travel programs and organizations where students and young travelers are typically planning their trips for up to a year – creating a great opportunity to budget, save & raise.

The following information about Travel720 comes from the Chicago Startup Catalog:

Funding Level: Pre-A Series (no external funding);
Industry Type: OTHER
Employment Size:  1-5
Founders:  Jennifer R. Thomas, Founder & CEO
Founding Date: The idea was conceived in 2006 and officially founded in October (2011).

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Comments (1)

  1. Intersting. I knew a few students who tend to need funds to travel and learn about new places and their are only so many study abroad or work abroad scholarships. It’s a good comparison to kickstarter.

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