STARTUP STAGE: Wertu uses artificial intelligence to improve sports travel itineraries

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Wertu

Wertu

Wertu, founded in October 2023, helps travelers plan their ideal sports-focused itinerary with personalized elements by using artificial intelligence.

What is your 30-second pitch to investors?

Planning a sports trip with family or friends is tedious work – travelers need to consider several people’s levels in the sport, food and hotel preferences, time limitations, something to do for the little ones and more. To do that, they can either book with an agency but then be limited to their limited offerings or build the trip themselves but spend hours trying to iron out every detail. Wertu uses AI to help travelers build their own personalized dream trip in minutes and without the headache. Based on a group’s trip preferences, level in the sport and budget, Wertu finds the ideal destination, hotel, ride and anything else they need for their trip (equipment rentals, instructors, etc.).

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

Our ability to find sports travelers the most value-per-money trip out there sets us apart. This is due to our unique knowledge of each destination’s pros and cons and our artificial intelligence-based algorithm that handpicks the best combination of destination-hotel-flight-etc., for each traveler based on his trip preferences, level in sport, budget and more.

Give us your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the company.

Strengths

  • By letting travelers keep the destination undecided when searching for a trip on Wertu, we’re able to match them with the best value-per-money trips they can lay their hands on.
  • Using our unique data that combines destination-level data, alongside hotels, flights and other service suppliers, we save travelers the trip’s research time, allowing them to plan and book their entire trip in minutes instead of hours.

Weaknesses

  • Trust is essential when deciding which travel supplier to buy your next vacation from. Being a new startup means we need to build it from scratch.
  • Being small in the travel industry means low bargaining power with suppliers, which will lower our fees at first.

Opportunities

  • The adventure travel is a $6 billion industry in 2022 that’s expected to grow up to $81 billion by 2032, making it the fastest-growing category in the travel industry and opening enormous opportunities to all the players in it.
  • As a side effect of ChatGPT and AI entrance into our lives, people are much more open to letting machines do tasks saved for humans until now, like planning a trip. This enables a category waiting to be created for years; a trip-planning category, of which Wertu is a part.

Threats

  • Travel is an industry with big players who are ahead of us in some aspects of the business, like hotel inventory and user base.
  • Pandemics like [COVID-19] and potentially others significantly affect the travel industry, as we’ve seen, something that can affect us as well. 

What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry perspective?

Traveler’s perspective – planning a sports trip is hours’ worth of headache, and in the end, you’re far from finding the best deal as you’re human and can only check a limited number of destinations. Wertu solves these two problems, helping sports travelers find and book the best deal for them in minutes.

Industry’s perspective – adventure travelers have been neglected for years in the constantly evolving trip-planning capabilities the travel industry is offering – like activities marketplaces that allow users to find and book activities for their trip online, online airport taxi bookings to have a driver waiting for you when you land, and more. 

Adventure travelers have fundamentally unique needs for their trips, requiring different service suppliers, data and more to help them plan and book their trip more easily.

So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?

We’re using social to get customers, it has worked amazingly for us.

Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.

Market size is relatively easy as travel is an established industry, and the data on how many travelers and money spent by each type of vacation (like adventure travel) is out there.

To validate the need we talked with tens of travelers before starting to develop the product. Afterward, we launched a very lean product and got feedback from real travelers for the need and our direction for a solution.

How and when will you make money?

We’re currently acting as an affiliate. Similar to Kayak or SkyScanner, we’re finding a trip for our users and sending them to third-party websites like Expedia, Kiwi, etc. to make the reservation. In this model, we’re taking a cut of what the websites we’re sending to are making.

Soon we’re going to launch a “Book on Wertu” feature that will allow users, aside from booking their trip on third-party websites, to add to their cart anything they need for their sports trip – hotels, flights, equipment rentals, instructors, etc., and pay on Wertu. This will shift our business model toward an online travel agency one, like Booking.com or Expedia in which we’re taking a cut of the service supplier’s price.

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?

Matan, the CEO, comes with over eight years of marketing experience. In his last role, he led the digital marketing activity of ironSource and then Unity Grow (after Unity acquired ironSource).

Nir, the chief technology officer, brings over eight years of engineering experience. In his last role, he managed an engineering team in Fiverr and led the development of the Fiverr business app.

How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your business?

We’re currently three people, so we haven’t yet.

What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

Establishing partnerships with the right suppliers.

Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact – so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?

Since we’re targeting a niche market, we’re not head-to-head with the big travel players, allowing us to grow within a not-so-competitive market. Also, more broadly, we think it’s good timing for the launch of travel startups. Travelers’ buying behavior is changing, which hasn’t happened in years in the travel industry.

A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?

Achieving strong unit economics and ready to grow.

What is your end-game (going public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)?

Our end game is making travel planning fun and easy for as many people as possible. We’re good with doing that with a small or big team or within a private or public company; whatever will make sense to achieve that.

Phocuswright Innovation Platform

Phocuswright Innovation is a platform that fosters a vibrant and interconnected community of innovators, startups, investors and thought leaders contributing to the overall development of an innovation ecosystem in travel. Using this one link, startups can learn about all of the innovation-related events and programs from Phocuswright and PhocusWire.

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