As the saying goes, without pain there is no gain.
Marjorie Mroz and Alton Franco learned that firsthand when a serious injury forced them to stop work on their startup app. Mroz and Franco were watching a particularly funny episode of the show Silicon Valley when Mroz tripped over the side of the bed and landed on her shoulder.
The resulting injury had her confined to a recliner for four months while she recuperated. The timing wasn’t ideal, considering the pair were ramping up to launch their mobile concierge service, iBounc. But in the end, the delay turned out to be a good thing.
“To be honest with you, if [the injury] wouldn’t have happened, and we would’ve finished building our product, we would have failed,” said Franco.
According to Franco, the couple just didn’t understand the in’s and out’s of the industry. “We did not know the proper way to go get funding. We did not have the proper pitch deck prepared. We didn’t have the proper story together. Investors would’ve gotten confused. The wouldn’t have understood us,” he said.
A Move And A Pivot
Timely surgery was hard to come by at the family home in Hawai’i and in order for Mroz to get her shoulder fixed she would have to wait six-to-eight weeks. So the family decided to move to Mroz’s home state of Texas. There she was able to receive the care she needed.
Until then, the team had been having trouble rounding up funding. So, finding herself with extra time on her hands, Mroz started to do research and discovered Crack The Funding Code. They’re a group who help entrepreneurs refine their ideas in order to get funding.
“We interviewed with them and they loved our product,” said Franco. “So we signed up with the company and they have been our mentors and since then we’ve pivoted.”
That’s when iBounc transformed into TAG Your Guide.
The original vision for iBounc was a full-service mobile concierge that would allow travellers to book tours, activities, guides, and other unique experiences. But after speaking with the folks at Crack The Funding Code, Mroz and Franco decided to refine their vision to concentrate on the tour guides themselves, rather than the whole tourism industry.
According to Franco and Mroz’s research, only five percent of the world’s 400,000 tour guides have any kind of online presence. And most of those guides wait 60 days to receive any form of payment for services rendered. That’s largely because guides must depend on hotel concierges for referrals.
“There’s problems in the industry. And as a tour provider and a tour guide and being in the industry, we’ve experienced many problems,” says Franco. But he says what really makes it difficult for tour providers is the delayed payments. “It costs us time, customers and money,” he says.
Previously, most guides had to rely on sites like Expedia or Via Tour says Franco. “So, if I get booked from a concierge, I send my tour guide out. Then what happens is I have to send them a bill. I send them a bill and then they pay me 25 percent less and that’s 30 to 60 days later. So I’m waiting and in the meantime I’m paying my employees out of pocket.”
TAG Your Guide is designed to be the Uber of the tour industry. It offers tour providers an online platform to list tours, making it easy for them to get bookings with faster payments and without needing a referral from a hotel concierge.
A Move That Made Sense
The transition from Hawai’i to Texas made sense in other ways. While it offered Mroz the chance to get her shoulder tended to, it also centralized the pair at an integral point in their company’s history.
“We had to move to Texas to be central, to be able to afford to fly to the East Coast and West Coast, wherever it may be, to talk with investors and still live a normal life,” said Franco.
And because the team is raising money on their own, Mroz says the Lone Star State just made sense. “Since we’re bootstrapping, we thought of Texas because we need to put some boots on!”
Save And Repurpose
A pivot like this can often mean abandoning work that’s already been done. Sometimes months or years of work are poured into a project just to be thrown aside when a pivot becomes necessary. That can mean anything from branding to app designs go unused.
Fortunately for TAG Your Guide, Franco says all the work that Gigster did building their original platform can still be used. In a way, TAG refined what they’d planned by expanding on the idea. By concentrating on only the tour guides, rather than selling whole tour packages, the team is able to reach more customers by keeping things simple.
“It’s amazing because the product that we’re building is perfect,” said Franco. “Instead of having the huge platform that we were getting ready to build and launch, we’re able to still build the same product, but hold back most of it except for the live-booking platform for tour guides.” With the rest of their original ideas they can implement them later, scaling as they grow.
“We don’t have to rebuild because it’s already been built. That’s such a good thing with Gigster,” said Franco.
If you want help building your app, contact Gigster.