Nena Chaletzos is founder and CEO of Luxtripper, a travel technology company that uses its unique global patent pending ‘Where To Go When©’ search technology to quickly match travellers with 4 and 5 star holiday packages that suit their individual interests. Nena is a first time CEO and it’s her mission to save time for millions of passionate travellers searching for relevant travel options. Here she tells us about her start-up journey so far…
How was Luxtripper born?
Online holiday search was something I always found difficult and time-consuming and I wondered why it had to be that way. Each year 6 million days are wasted searching for and booking holidays online because on average, each traveller will spend approximately 30 hours browsing 38 different travel related sites before booking a holiday.
I thought this process should be much simpler, quicker and easier and identified that we could harness technology to help save millions of people time. In 2013 I started working on Luxtripper and its global patent pending, first-of-its-kind ‘Where to Go When©’ search technology to help create order in a very disorganised sector.
Tell us about your career before setting up your own business?
Before Luxtripper, I spent 16 years working in strategy and leadership to director level in industry sectors such as retail, technology, luxury and banking. This experience gave me the opportunity to develop key skills including negotiation, cost management, tactical execution, leadership and public speaking, as well as honing a business style that is incredibly flexible.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
If you take the time to nurture talent in each member of your team, you will create a highly engaged workforce that takes pride in what they do. Top talent is hard to come by, so when you see potential, it’s really worth supporting and developing that person.
What was the first thing you did, when you decided to set up Luxtripper?
The first thing I did when I wanted to turn my dream into a reality was register the name of the business, get a trademark and domain. As an online business, registering the domain really was my ultimate priority. I knew that once it had been done, I could really start to build everything else upon that.
What funding approach did you take for your business?
First of all, I went out to friends and family but I really focused on seeing them as any other investor i.e. selling them a vision, showing what had been achieved to date with my relatively small founding investment, which in turn demonstrated the potential with further funding.
At this stage it was really important to have clear in our minds the pitch in terms of showing a problem consumers faced, then our solution for that problem, and therefore the huge market opportunity. Approaching friends and family really helped prepare us for our next funding route with angel investors and crowdfunding site Crowdcube, which is one of the biggest platforms in the UK as we had already put together a robust business plan, due diligence information and answered a number of questions that potential investors may have.
Have you had a coach or mentor through this process?
Yes, I think it’s really important to surround yourself with experienced people as you can always keep learning. Personally, I have had a number of mentors and advisors who have exited companies as well as current investors who continually provide advice.
We have just started working with some really interesting advisors including: Richard Webb who co-founded Start Mesh to mentor and develop disruptive and innovative data, resource, media, and commerce enabling platforms; and Matt you’ll, also of Start Mesh and previously Chief Technologist at Betfair where he led the business from start-up to successful listing on the LSE for 1.5 billion GBP. We have also taken on a CFO, Hedley Mayor, who has spent the last 20 years working with fast growing, entrepreneurial companies.
These advisors and our new hire have huge amounts of experience and expertise, and can also help connect us to interesting investors and top talent.
What advice would you give to someone whose business is in a phase of growth?
I would recommend that they think consciously about balancing the passion for what they are doing with being objective. It’s probably one of the most challenging areas I’ve found but it’s important to show your passion for what you do but also try and emotionally detach yourself from the business so that you don’t limit yourself by your emotional connection.
Why is the tech sector an interesting industry to work in?
The tech sector and the speed of its development offers so much opportunity to make a change globally. Even a basic comparison that it took 75 years for telephones to achieve 50 million users, while Angry Birds reached that goal just 35 days shows the speed of this development.
Technology underpins so much of our daily lives that you realize that you can make a big difference to the way people live. I’m astounded when I see that my two-year old niece knows how to use an iPad, find games and music videos on, and at the other end of the spectrum my father, who is 70, learnt how to use a computer and the internet a few years ago and is hugely competent now. I love that technology has no boundaries, and doesn’t see age nor gender.
How important is social media to your business?
It’s absolutely integral and social media has become such a part of people’s lives. Travel is experiential, it’s all about your senses and social media channels appeal to the visual. We get the majority of our customers through social media and really value the opportunity they give us to come into their lives and communicate with them.
If you connect with your customers in a thoughtful way that adds value, you can have a lifelong relationship with them and they will become your advocates.
What advice would you share with other women thinking about starting their own business?
I’d definitely recommend a very well thought through business plan and vision then with those it’s important to find a team that share your values to help you bring your vision to life. Also, think about keeping your start up lean, it can be easy to get carried away with fancy offices but best to leave those to when you are making your millions!
What is next for Luxtripper?
It’s an exciting time for Luxtripper as we are focused on developing disruptive technology that provides personalised user experience. Currently we are building a unique market-leading hotel categorisation technology which will take online personalization to another level.
This technology, we have called Hector, involves machine learning so that it can predict relevant hotel options for users based on the types of experiences that users are looking for. In addition, we are adding to our portfolio of luxury accommodation and destinations, as well as launching full online automation through a lean operation method. Luxtripper will soon become the biggest online luxury travel metasite in the world.