Is FriendSourced Travel The Next Big Thing?

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Imagine the ability to tap into everything your friends know about travel. Every destination they’ve been, every activity they’ve done, every hotel they’ve stayed in, every trip they’ve taken. If you could bottle that up and use it for your next trip, wouldn’t that be valuable to you? That’s the power of FriendSourced Travel.

What Is FriendSourced Travel?

FriendSourced Travel describes the process of tabulating input from your Facebook friends for the sole purpose of making a more informed and personalized travel decision. Facebook friend covers friends/family/acquaintances that are your ‘friends’ on Facebook.

FriendSourced travel falls under the banner of social travel.

Simple Example

If you were trying to decide where to go for your honeymoon, you’d FriendSource this to all your married FaceBook friends. You could suggest a few destinations and gauge their input or leave the destination list entirely up to them.

It’s a conscious decision to include a cross section of your friends in the travel decision making process and not just a few random phone calls or emails asking where you should go.

Why Would You FriendSource your Travel?

FriendSourcing your Travel captures conscious and subconscious nuggets of information we all collect from one another, through initial and ongoing interactions, for the purpose of making more informed travel decisions.

When I recommend a trip or a destination or activity to you, I automatically use what I know in the decision making process. That’s the beauty of FriendSourced Travel.

Even in very loose interactions, people get to know you. By meeting you at a party, I’d get to know a little about you (first impressions, what do you do, interests, where you work, who else you know here, where you went to school, whether you’re smart or not, how much I like you …). Maybe we see each other at church or over dinner, we talk some more. Fast forward a few months and we become Facebook Friends. By this point, we know quite a bit about one another don’t we? Maybe you find out I’ve been to Fiji and London and Hong Kong. I find out you’ve been to Italy and Morocco.

With FriendSourcing, we can tap into each others travel knowledge to make our next trip better.

FriendSourcing Travel Done Right

FriendSourcing Travel can’t be done through wall posts and comments. There needs to be a Facebook application built around the components of FriendSourcing Travel.

That allows for suggestions on where to go/what to do/where to stay.

To allow for a healthy discourse (read arguments) so people can share their experiences and influence one another. Think a few one liners and not lengthy soliloquy’s like this blog post.

Last but not least, to allow for people to rank the collective suggestions and vote on them like you would a Digg post.

There needs to be a mechanism to give more weight to some friends than others — so friends who’ve been to that destination before (because their profile says so) get more weight in the decision making process. I can assign a 3.0X multiple to my friend John who lives on a plane. I could assign more weight to a destination my wife “votes” up. Even the ability to remove friends from the decision making process all together.

The application should allow me to segment my friends by geography, status, age, etc. I should be able to ask just my married friends about where to go for my honeymoon, or only my single friends on where I should go for my bachelor party. I should be able to ask my friends in New York for what Indian Restaurant I should go to next time I’m there. I should be able to leverage the “Facebook Lists” functionality.

The use of ‘game mechanics’ to drive friends to share their views and a reward system (points, karma, goodwill..).

The application needs to assign all my friends a ‘score’ based on where they’ve been. This can be derived literally from the  ‘Where I’ve Been‘ Facebook Application but not everybody has that installed so we’d have to look at interests, tags, destinations and more nuances sources like “Our Fiji Honeymoon Pictures” or “Fiji Videos”.

I’m just scratching the surface on functionality.

Where Can I FriendSource my Travel?

There are a few companies that are starting to do this but none that warrant me listing them here. I’ll post a list in October 2010. Sorry!

What to FriendSource

Any trip qualifies. Even business trips (imagine a LinkedIn FriendSourcded Travel application).

When to FriendSource your Travel

When you have enough of a “network” of friends, when you have some connection to your friends, when (on the whole) you trust your friends, when you’re open to the idea of outside influence in your travel decision making process.

When NOT to FriendSource your Travel

This approach is based on the premise that your online friends (Facebook friends for example) have some connection to you. If you accept every Facebook Friend Request regardless of whether you know them or not, this doesn’t apply to you. I would argue you’re getting closer to CrowdSourcing your Travel there.

If you don’t have a large enough pool of Friends, don’t bother. If it’s just you and 3 Facebook friends, this isn’t going to work. You need at least 50 friends or more and ideally more. On the whole, certainly after 6 months to a year, you’re going to have enough friends to qualify for FriendSourcing your Travel.

Rebuttals

Can’t you just search travel review sites and do a little homework? Sure you can but FriendSourcing can extend that research even further. It’s not an either or, you can do both. Even if you compare FriendSourcing to individual research, done right, FriendSourcing yields a better result.

What if I’m friends with someone who’s travel opinion I don’t want? The application should allow to ‘ignore’ a persons recommendation in the final tally.

Can I use this with Twitter or Ning or other networks? Possibly. Preferably social networks that mimic the social dynamics of Facebook.  Networks where anybody can friend or follow you do not apply.

Tell me what you think!

Share some comments and follow me on Twitter (@travelalchemist) for updates.

The first company that does this will offer a leap forward in social travel in a way we have yet to see.

YCombinator Demo Day Observations

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I had a chance to attend YCombinator’s (“YC”) Demo Day — where the latest batch of 36 YC startups present for 2 1/2 minutes to a broad spectrum of investors.

  • It was nice to see so many of the startups had secured 1 or more key clients. This is where the YC brand and the YC team can set crucial introductions.
  • If memory serves me right, only 1 of the companies had 1 founder. Everybody had 2 or more. When I ran my own online travel agency, I was the only CXO for a very long time and that was a mistake. We have a company we’re looking to invest in and a key roadblock is it’s a 1 man show and that’s concerning when we’re putting in $500k.
  • Is it a feature or a company? I took to the companies that solved a problem that made me want to signup and pay for them on the spot. AdGrokHireHivePagerDutyBrushes. Others had nice offerings and solved simple pain points but not deep enough pain points for me to actually pay for the service even after discounting the fact that they’re early stage companies. I won’t pick on them them here but I wish them well.
  • Notable absent any B2B or B2C Facebook related companies. I would have thought at least 1 or 2 of the 36 would have something on the FB platform. It’s hardly one you can ignore and certainly not without it’s risk.
  • It was nice to see women founders. This wouldn’t have come to mind had I not thought about it after reading blog comments on a TechCrunch post asking “how many of the YC companies had women co-founders?” — there were a few.
  • Interesting how many of the founders had Harvard, Columbia,  MIT, Stanford degrees. Equally notable that a few had ‘dropped out’  to pursue their dreams. ‘Dropping out’ just means ‘taking a year of’ and resuming if the startup fails but at least they did it. It’s not easy to quite the PhD program at MIT to pursue a startup.
  • Notable how many startups had experience at larger & more established companies. Being part of the industry you are now trying to disrupt is something we look for when investing.
  • “If you remember one thing about my company, it’s _______” was a stable part of the presentation.
  • The founders did a good job of working the room after the presentations were over. Kudos to getting out there and striking up a conversation with investors — who aren’t the easiest bunch to deal with since guess what, we get pitched all the time and have our guards up.
  • It was quite a varied bunch of investors. Individual investors, angel groups, university related angel groups, early stage funds, super angels, VC’s, celebrity investors and media/press. Made for an interesting cast of characters in the room.
  • Notable how many of the startups were profitable. They offered a product or service somebody paid for; usually a few hundred people (sometimes a few thousand) paid for. Which in turn raised their valuation and likelihood of getting funded. Gone are the day of slaving away for months and months without a profit.
  • It was a good mix of B2C, B2B and mobile applications. No one sector dominated which kept the presentations interesting.
  • I attended the 3rd and final batch of presentations and undoubtedly the companies used the first two batches to polish themselves up.

Applications this time include: disposable social networks, site metrics, restaurant tablets, travel search, mobile TV apps, child tracking, email context, mobile app promotion, job interview software, tablet games, file syncing, non-virtual goods, social motivation, apartment search, SEO tools, grocery price search, sports chat, tablet paint software, project management, service provider hubs, memorial sites, eyetracking, glanceable displays, SEM software, Twitter follower management, tablet productivity software, enterprise Q&A, outsourced sysadmin, a new inbox, a financial dashboard for businesses, geolocal chat, server notifications, and debt management.