Grad student, Hudl developer team up to launch group travel app
Travefy aims to become a full-service tool to help groups organize travel.
Pulling together a hotel reservation, affordable flight and list of activities for a vacation can be daunting. Getting a whole group to agree on travel plans is an entirely different beast.
David Chait, a Columbia University graduate student in New York, faced that problem when coordinating a trip for a friend's bachelor party.
"We were literally 78 emails in and had no idea when and where people wanted to go," he said. "When one friend finally picked a date, it worked for almost everyone; except for the guy getting married."
That hair-pulling experience sparked Travefy, a tool that Chait (near right) thinks could be the end-all solution for simplifying group travel. He launched the site into public beta in January after teaming up with Lincoln, Neb.-based developer Chris Davis (far right), who's the startup's co-founder and CTO. The two met last year through a mutual friend.
Instead of the classic email chain where a message goes out to 15 recipients, spawns into countless sub-conversations, and ends up as a big cluster of unhelpful information, Travefy provides an online tool to manage the process.
Chait and Davis' system starts with a single "host" who inputs possible dates and potential destinations. Next, the host invites friends – via Facebook or email – to vote on their preferred dates and destinations. Travefy tells the host and friends who has voted and what they voted for, and sends out an email declaring the winner.
Once everyone agrees on the trip, Travefy uses Expedia data to provide users hotel rates based on their selected travel plan.
Here's a Travefy demonstration:
"We really want to become that full service tool that helps groups to effectively and simply organize their travel," Chait said
Davis, whose last day as Hudl's development team lead is Friday, is one of three Lincoln-based team members – two others are moonlighting for the startup. After Chait graduates in May, he'll move to Lincoln.
Chait's pending move helped attract Travefy's angel investors, Jim and Karen Linder of Linseed Capital, who've put $45,000 in the startup. The Linders are also confident in the idea.
"When someone approaches you with an idea for a travel business, skepticism is your first response," Jim Linder said. "But I think they've identified a unique market in organizing group travel that's valuable both for individuals and business."
Travefy also secured a grant of up to $50,000 through the Nebraska Prototype Fund.
As of today, the startup has two revenue sources. On the consumer front, it gets a cut of any hotel booked through travefy.com because of its partnership with the Expedia Affiliate Program. On the enterprise side, Travefy offers a white label version for a licensing fee.
Going forward, the team is focusing on building out its product's next phase: an expense-management platform that includes a mobile app. The new service will employ a Kickstarter-like approach, Chait said, where the trip doesn't get funded unless everyone chips in to meet the goal.