December 9, 2022

Trip Advisor: The twists and turns of a famous start-up

Did you know that  was originally conceived as “”

Another great listen to the true story of a start-up, this time from Steve Kauter on the “How I built this” podcast.

The twists and turns of now famously successful businesses are instructive to those of us wrestling with the early-stage challenges of product market fit. Steve tells how they conceived and launched the service as a B2B service – to sell their reviews as “content” to other platforms. Their first client was XXXX who gave them 50% of advertising revenue where their content was shown.  They thought they’d cracked it. After 9 months: a glorious $500 cheque. Oops.

Two years in, most of the investors’ money had gone. A great idea might have died right there.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and their pivot to a revenue model from putting a link to purchase on the Tripadvisor site itself was a game changer. They just took a leap of faith that as the honest broker they could generate traffic and clicks (getting paid for that). It worked.

Even simple matters (well, of course not so simple) of naming show that those early decisions could be crucial and the team I likely to be stuck in their own bubble not being able to see the wood for the trees. At the last minute, they decided that “Tripresearch” sounded too dull and worthy, too much like a visit to the library. Even though it was very descriptive.

Steve describes the days and weeks of the team agonizing about how to get this “thing” to work. The core idea was a no-brainer. Ie reviews to help others make travel choices, but the business model was far more tricky. I can imagine the debates. We have them, so I know the dangers of going around in circles.

We started Sensecheck to help. A way in B2B to reach out to fresh eyes is to just double-check that what you are doing has validity. A safety net that may just confirm your judgement or perhaps point you at a problem you hadn’t spotted yet. 

So if you are wrestling with your marketing, your innovation, or your own start-up. Give it a go.

Roger Jackson

CEO of ShopperIntelligence

Founder of SenseCheck

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