Aussie-born Travis launched his online platform for travellers, bugbitten.com, in 2003. Now aged 29 and based in Vienna, Austria, he expands and develops his business with his business partner and brother, Shawn, who is based in Cairns, Australia.
bugbitten.com helps travellers keep in touch via photos and blogs and offers a massive database of recommendations, tours, activities and accommodation for travellers to access when researching their next trip.
After developing a close-knit group of friends during my time at university, I was determined to stay in touch. I had just bought my first digital camera and was keen for my mates to see my fun adventures. There weren't any easy-to-use websites available to help share my photos, so I created a site to help travellers keep in touch.
Although I didn't have any skills in web design or the Internet, I managed to teach myself the basics using Google and free HTML/web design tutorials. When I moved to London, I set up a website to post photos and stories of my travels in Canada, Europe and the UK. More and more friends asked me how I had set up the website as they were keen to do the same and it became obvious that there was a potential business opportunity.
I investigated the market, software, domains, server hosting, and all aspects that I thought needed to be researched before I made a decision to pursue this seriously. I discussed the concept with my brother, Shawn. After a few weeks of discussion, we came up with a brand that expressed our concept – to be bitten by the travel bug – hence, bugbitten.com. Thankfully the domain was available and we had taken our first step.
Since those early days we have continually revised our brand and website to ensure that simplicity and useability are core to our site being the leading independent worldwide travel platform that provides travellers and travel businesses with the tools to share and interact with each other. The online world has developed rapidly with the birth of Web 2.0 and we continually review our products and add new tools and services to the site to keep at the leading edge.
We now provide customisable travel journals, online travel guides, working holidaymaker support and online tools for all businesses in the travel industry. bugbitten's Tour Search Engine is arguably one of the most powerful in the world today.
Our USP is that we are a single platform where travellers can search everything to do with travel in one place. We encourage travellers and businesses to deal directly with each other by only allowing businesses who own the products and services to add their listings to our travel guide. Since we don't provide a booking engine, businesses aren't forced to pay hefty commissions and this also ensures the traveller is paying the lowest price.
All search results for accommodation, activities and tours are ranked by the recommendations from past travellers, which we personally moderate to ensure only positive and neutral are displayed. Our innovative recommendation widgets allow businesses to capture and display these on their own website.
FYI USP means unique selling point.
From our parents – we grew up in the Northern Territory and went on regular camping and fishing adventures to remote locations with the Darwin Landrover Club. We toured around Europe in a caravan for a year, and when I was 10 we moved to Cairns, regularly visiting the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree, Lake Tinaroo and Thursday Island.
I'm a naturally curious person and love learning about myself and the world while travelling. Travelling often puts you in unusual situations and I love the feeling of being out of my comfort zone. Things don't always go to plan, though, and I always try to remember when things go bad so I have stories to tell my mates!
Yes. My mum and dad were, and still are, self-employed which definitely contributed to me believing that I could be my own boss. I'm very independent in nature, so I enjoy the challenges and control that owning your own business brings.
Many people believe that online businesses only require building a website, sitting back and watching the money roll in. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it! I agree that the general overheads of an online business are lower than a traditional business; but the costs are certainly not zero! Some of the most important considerations include server types, locations and costs, data backup, sourcing and maintaining programmers and designers, and testing strategies to increase web traffic.
There are two full-time, two contracted and three part-time employees. As the nature of our business is travel, we are all located in different parts of the world – though the two main offices are in Vienna and Cairns. Operating in the online business world allows the team to work globally, and with a laptop, wireless connection and a mobile you can be anywhere but still be in 'the office'.
When it's your own business there are of course many times when you just can't escape the office. However, a motto of mine in life (and one of the main reasons I wanted to be my own boss) is to live and enjoy life to the fullest. With this in mind, I still manage to fit in sport, travel, beers with mates and spending time with my girlfriend.
Having my brother Shawn in the business is a great benefit as we can cover for each other, offer support and generate new ideas. I firmly believe in being passionate about your business, but this has to be balanced otherwise it defeats the purpose of being the boss.
My working conditions and hours are often flexible. If for some reason I have to stay in the office for an extra couple of hours the night before, I'll treat myself to a bit of a sleep-in the day after to help recharge the batteries.
After doing the hard yakka for five years to get the website to where it is today, I'm really looking forward to the next phase where we start to build a fully fledged business with employees, and to really kickstart our marketing, sales and PR campaigns so that we can finally be promoting our fantastic products and services to travellers and businesses alike. The travel industry provides limitless opportunities, as it is a growing cultural desire among almost all nationalities to travel. With the increase in ease and demand for travel, we wish to provide a service which will be an integral part of these adventures, like other convenience services such as mobile phones and email.
Word of mouth always will be the best form of marketing for any business – particularly services like ours that work across large networks of friends and family. We have also tapped into the social networking phenomenon by developing our very own Facebook application which can be installed to any user's Facebook profile page. We have just begun our very first PR campaign (yep first in five years!), so we are hoping to combine the success of this with future advertising and marketing both online and in various offline publications around the world to increase awareness.
We have a hybrid revenue model – paid membership subscriptions, CPC income from Google, sponsorships and fees for services provided to businesses in the travel industry.
Turnover? We are a .com!
Great things are achieved in life, but all achievements begin with a first step. If I look back at where we are today in comparison to five years ago, it's almost unbelievable. However if I break it down, it has all been achieved literally one step at a time. Every little bit helps – even if you only start spending 20 minutes a day for the first month of planning the business that adds up to 9.33 hours.
'Carpe Diem' – live life today like there is no tomorrow. There are too many opportunities out there to enjoy yourself in this life to sit down and let it pass you by.
FYI Carpe Diem means 'seize the day' in Latin.