06 Nov

Mapov.com is a new way to search for hotels using a map.

Today we had an insightful interview with Mr. ‘Richard Jackson‘; Founder of the UK (Cornwall)-based start-up “Mapov.com”.

Mapov.com is a new way to search for hotels using a map.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Jackson’ regarding his Company “Mapov.com”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Mapov.com” is all about?

Mapov.com is a new way to search for hotels using a map.

We display the hotel details, photos and TripAdvisor reviews for over 220,000 hotels, all on top of a map.

Alongside this we display the very best prices from some of the leading global hotel providers, in a way that is visually clean and crisp.

This approach makes it very easy for people to find hotels in the place they want, and importantly, at a price they can afford.

2. When has “Mapov.com” been founded? And what stage is “Mapov.com” currently at?

Richard Jackson founded Mapov.com in May 2011 and has since been working intensively with a small team of developers reimagining what we believe to be the future of hotel search engines.

In May 2012 the site went live, and has since been drawing wide and positive interest.

We are currently preparing to launch a tablet version.

3. What is “Mapov.com”’s business model and how does it work?

We work on a commission-sharing basis with our list of hotel providers.

When a user finds a hotel they like on Mapov.com and clicks to make a booking we automatically send them through to the cheapest hotel provider (e.g. Booking.com).

We then receive a percentage of the commission that the hotel pays to the hotel provider for each booking.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

Our team met randomly through word of mouth recommendations or existing friendships. 

Richard met Dave through one of the Dads at his kids’ school. Dave is responsible for the front end development of the site.

Richard and Justin met through a mutual friend. Justin is responsible for the back end development of the site.

Richard met Jonny through a local church. Jonny heads up the PR and Social Marketing.

Richard met Mike when he was 6 months old, they are cousins! Mike is responsible for all our brilliant design.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

Traditionally hotel providers only display hotels in a one-dimensional list.

This is good for comparing prices, but bad for the equally important consideration of the hotel’s location.

How far is it from the beach? Is it near the train station? Will I be able to walk to the office?

This is why we believe that Mapov’s implementation of the map integrated with a hotel’s other attributes (reviews, photos etc.) is its masterstroke.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Mapov.com” achieved so far?

Mapov is still in beta phase, where our focus is on learning from our users and improving the site speed, user experience and conversion rate.

This will then give us a platform to grow profitability through paid search engine marketing.

As a self-funded business we have to get the site performing well, especially on older browsers, before we can focus on the expensive marketing growth.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Mapov.com”’s competitive advantage over them?

The market is very competitive. Google’s Hotel Finder is a competitor, as are the many hotel meta-search sites such as Trivago and HotelsCombined. However the difficult task of confidently and quickly finding the best travel product has not been solved.

We think the market is still open to a new player that can elegantly integrate the many variables that go into making the right choice.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

One of our biggest obstacles so far has been continuing to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity, whilst ensuring the site remains intuitive and easy to use.

An example of this has been our new date picker.

At Mapov we have always found the traditional ways of picking dates clumsy and confusing, and so we have really wanted to create something different, that is both easy to use and attractive to look at.

But in creating something different we have had to work extra hard to make sure it is useable to someone who has never seen it before, and that takes time, effort and lots of user testing.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

There is no cost for using Mapov.com, nor any advertising, so it is not always clear how we as a company make money.

We show the users the lowest prices available for each hotel, and direct users to that hotel provider, with nothing added to the price.

Our users sometimes think they should book direct but there is no price difference in doing so. So how do we make money? By sharing the commission earned by our hotel providers.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

We are quietly confident that we have the potential to become one of the leading hotel search engines in the world.

Our dynamic approach is unique, our experience is wide, and our team is dedicated to the vision.

In a very competitive market this attention to detail and focus will allow us to catch up and overtake our competitors through a better product and user experience.

11. If “Mapov.com” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

When we created Mapov we built it in such a way that it could be scaled up and reapplied to a whole range of different services or products.

At this stage we are focused on the hotel industry and are committed to being the best and easiest way to find and book a hotel on the Internet, but this is by no means the limit of our vision.

If we told you anymore, we would have to kill you!

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Mapov.com” based on?

Mapov.com was born out of a combination of Richard’s engineering background and his extensive experience as a marketing consultant to some of the top hotel providers we are now working closely with.

As he observed the trends in hotel booking sites and the wider trends in search engines, he became convinced that the map interface was the best way to search for hotels.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

You may think you have a good idea but unless other people do, you don’t.

The user is always right. This has led us to work closely with some of our users, observing how they interact with the site, so we can quickly and intelligently keep improving it.

In addition to live user testing we have also learnt the importance of having good site analytics to help understand the behaviors of our users.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

What to do with all the money! Hmmm, seriously, probably our biggest challenge will be around the internationalization of the site.

Although we have just launched global currency selector, we still will need to translate and localize the site for all major languages, and then work hard to market it well in these languages.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

At Mapov we have re-imagined how people search for hotels with the end user at the forefront of our minds.

This has helped us create a site that is ultra intuitive for our users whilst at the same time offering the very best prices on over 220,000 hotels.

Our crisp and dynamic approach helps users to see where hotels are in relation to the area they want to visit as well as the usual information of photos and reviews.

16. How did customers/users find out about you?

Our primary source of traffic is through search engine marketing on Google.

Although we are competing alongside some really big companies, we are already very pleased with the level of traffic we are getting through this avenue, and are consistently experiencing higher than average click-through-rates.

17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?

We are currently targeting people searching for hotels in some of the top global holiday destinations and resorts.

We will continue to do this, but in addition, we plan to target people searching for shorter stays in domestic destinations, as well as areas where a hotel’s specific location is really important.

18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

There is still a lot of traffic to be got through search engine marketing! Currently we are only marketing in the UK, however due to the success we have experienced here, we are about to begin marketing in additional English speaking countries shortly.

We also have a strong presence on the main social media sites.

19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?

We are receiving lots of very positive feedback about the site.

Here is what Kevin Blair from St Michael’s Hotel & Spa said “It looks very good, especially as you can zoom into specific areas and see where hotels are located and their proximity to the location being visited.

It’s also very easy to use”. Karla Aguilar Perez a travel blogger based in the USA said “The fact that you can see the exact location of hotels on the map. Now THAT is awesome!”

20. How are you going to scale?

We are hosted with a scalable cloud service provider, and our technology is being built with scalability in mind.

Mapov isn’t a people intensive business so we can grow large without major recruitment issues.

We are well supported with technical advisors, and have a broad range of skills in the team already.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

Over the last few months we have worked hard to fine tune the site in response to the user testing we have conducted.

Initially we had a number of issues with our new date picker, but after a few tweaks it feels like we have created something that is not only innovative but also very intuitive.

We have not launched our tablet or mobile versions yet, so this improvement is our most anticipated at present.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

It sounds cliché, but the world really is our oyster, and so we are busy making plans to become a global business.

We have already internationalized the site for English speaking countries with our global currency selector, and we plan to progressively release new versions of the site for all the major languages.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

Honestly we think this thing could be huge.

There are already many billion dollar travel businesses in the market, and the switching costs are low.

If we can make a better hotel search engine that consistently maintains its lead, then we believe we can build a very large and sustainable business.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We are in the very fortunate position of already have such a great team working at Mapov.com.

We have a brilliant mixture of experience, creativity and gifting in our team internally.

At the same time we are able to draw on some very profitable advice externally, from some of the UK’s leading technical advisors.

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

We are very interested in partnerships.

We currently partner with some of the largest online hotel providers, but would like more partnerships to ensure the fullest range of properties on our site, and to give our users confidence they have the best prices available anywhere.

We are currently self-funded, and we are not looking for further funding at present.

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

So often in life it’s not the extravagances that we live to regret but the economies, the missed opportunities because of lack of vision and the risks we fail to take because of a fear.

That’s why at Mapov.com we say dare to dream, take some risks, and make it happen!

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