Michael and Richard- founders of Troopr

Richard Ing is CEO and Co-Founder of troopr and a fitness-instructing, corgi-loving traveller. His favourite holiday destination is Japan. Michael Lieu is COO and Co-Founder of troopr and a DJ-ing, snowboarding world adventurer. His favourite holiday destination is Banff, Canada.

troopr is an online booking system designed for travel businesses that solves the problem of accepting and managing group bookings. Our social booking platform empowers customers of these travel businesses to socialise travel packages, gather RSVPs to a trip and ultimately book their holiday packages. By combining user friendliness and powerful group booking functionality, we’re out to save the world one group trip at a time.

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Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

troopr came about as a result of trying to organise a beach trip two years ago with our friends. We found it so painful to decide on dates, gather acceptances and collect payments that we almost gave up on it – but we didn’t because the fun and laughs we shared outweighed the difficulties in arranging the trip. Our mission is to help group organisers overcome this and, at the end of the day, bring friends together.

troopr automates many of the tasks that were formerly painfully laborious in the group booking process. It also makes the end user’s experience much more engaging when they choose to book group trips with troopr-powered businesses.

Some of the key benefits of using troopr include:

  • Easy Social Trip Planning. The group leader is a travel agency’s secret marketing tool so help them spread the word about travel packages – their influence can travel further than any marketing budget ever could. troopr makes it easy for them to invite their friends via Facebook or email and thus increase a travel agency’s bottom line.
  • Increased Revenue. troopr is focused on facilitating customers ability to pay for their trip individually, removing some of the financial burden on the trip organiser. troopr’s built-in prompts remind customers to pay for their trips and reward them when they do make early payments.
  • Opening of New Communication Channels. Travel and tour agencies partnering through troopr now have new communication channels available to them such as email and push notifications, which allow potential up-sells and the sharing of important information as required. In the age of social media, quick and easy communication and customer rapport is king and troopr makes that possible.

Please explain your business model.

troopr is a SaaS business and we provide a white-labelled booking system to travel agencies and tour operators for a fixed monthly fee + commission for bookings made through our platform.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

Our platform has been live since May 2014 and we have transacted hundreds of bookings already. We are currently working on a number of exciting new features based on customer feedback such as an interactive agent/customer ‘wall’ and actively expanding into new travel industry segments. The Christmas holidays may be quiet for some but our team will be very busy hacking away.

How do you make ideas happen?

We’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs along the way and heard plenty of pitches. Everyone is striving to break out of the mould and start the next Facebook. However, the one thing we’ve learnt is the importance of idea validation (thanks Eric Ries). We spent many months conducting primary market research on validating the problem, and more importantly, making sure it was painful enough for someone to throw money at us. We learnt the distinct difference between an end user and a paying customer, and focused our energy on developing a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). In fact, our first deal was closed based on a first MVP and it was purely designed to demonstrate the problem we were solving without the bells and whistles. That MVP was compelling enough to win over our first customer – giving us the opportunity to continue building out the product.

What does your typical day look like?

Our hack sessions are powered by caffeine and our team is driven by development “sprints”. Our regular catch-ups cover what we’ve been doing, what’s next and our current challenges. Richard leads the team and provides our customers regular development updates whilst Michael crunches the numbers and handles the business operations. Phil concentrates on making everything looking great on the front-end whilst Mario dives into coding new features in the back-end. We use Hangouts and Slack extensively to communicate when we’re not hacking away together. In the downtime, we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some of our customer’s tour packages whether that be at the snow (Oz Snow) or some great new Sydney restaurants (Guerrilla Eats).

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Startup funding is a challenge that is regularly mentioned at start-up events, meet-ups and in the news media. We’ve participated in many pitching competitions and it is clear that there are many Australians with great ideas but only a limited number of avenues for funding available. We firmly believe the government can play a bigger role to help startups through providing incentives for investors and companies to take calculated risks and create more opportunities. On the flipside, we’ve learnt a great deal in not only pitching to investors but also developing a bootstrapped business, validating the customer problem quantitatively and laser-focusing our development efforts on the MVP.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

We’ve found that hotel lobbies are a surprisingly great way to hold team and client meetings. Centrally located, no one questions you and is free. You don’t even have to buy a coffee – perfect for any bootstrapping start-up!

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment? 

Fishburners – more than just a startup space, they are championing the startup scene in Australia with the ultimate aim of creating innovative, sustainable businesses.

What about internationally?

Atlassian – from Sydney to the world. Never have we seen a great team of Australian hackers taking over the corporate world.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Businesses can play more of a role in our communities and the ways in which we interact with each other. At troopr, we’ve recognised the importance of keeping friends in touch in a world of increasingly social complexity – as seen by the advent of newer communication apps, tools social networks. Our app taps into everyone’s inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. Spending quality, valuable time with friends on holidays shouldn’t be hard.

Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?

That’s great! We’ve been shouting coffees too in support of the Sydney startup ecosystem. We’re big fans of OzHarvest and their efforts in collecting excess food from restaurants and giving them to vulnerable people across Australia.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

Slack – get rid of your team emails and communicate effortlessly in chat

Asana – get rid of your team emails and track tasks, leads and problems in to-do lists

GoodUI – fix your user interface with actionable recommendations and user case studies

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.

@jackiemsydney for #sydfood

@latikambourke for #auspol (Australian Politics)

@MissSnowItAll for #snow

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We are actively looking for a mentor – someone with travel industry experience would complement our team’s existing sales and technical skills perfectly.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

We’re keen to hear about your number one productivity hacks. From more effective meetings, time management to completing tasks – we’d love to hear what you do to hack your day.

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Coffee, Tea & Me (Redfern) for ridiculously good Campos coffee and delicious bagels. Woodland Kitchen & Bar (Neutral Bay) for high quality food, excellent service and great value.

Learn from over 100 Australians making ideas happen.

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