A business that started as a PDF list of things to do in Bali shared among friends has raised $5 million to fund further expansion.
Now The Bali Bible – a website which attracts 2m visits a month – is the cornerstone of Travlr, providing a profitable template that will be replicated in numerous other destinations via an aggressive rollout strategy starting with Seychelles, Indonesia, Cook Islands and New Zealand.
“Bali Bible started business about eight and half years ago. It was essentially a PDF page shared with friends and family,” CEO Simon te Hennepe, who co-founded Bali Bible with wife Lani, said in an interview with TravelTrends.biz.
“Then we started a Facebook page – it went from two likes to 1000 overnight. Two weeks later we were at 10,000 – it was ridiculous. After that we realised we were onto something and we’re now doing 2m visits a month.”
The te Hennepe’s sourced their funding from New Zealand investors Humphry Rolleston, Peter Guthrey and Grant Moreton at a valuation for the business of $15 million.
“We’re a pretty ambitious group of people and value good advice. Our investors have experience money can’t buy.”
Here’s an overview of the company and where it’s heading:
- A differentiating point of the business, as exemplified by the Bali Bible, is that people can become members then create and share their own recommendations.
- The are 65,000 regular users of Bali Bible: ie people who have created their own accounts and share recommendations and itineraries loaded with pix and videos with friends.
- Lists can be either public or private.
- If public, it can be shared through either Bali Bible or Facebook.
- On BB, list creators can build a profile and be followed by those who like their content.
- Limited AI on the site pushes recommendations to those they think might like them.
- BB now has 290,000 pages of content.
- Revenue is currently generated two ways:
- Advertising, flat fees, through pay-for-position
- Commissions on bookings generated via supplier links of between 6% to 12%.
- Trvlr will soon launch an accommodation booking engine, initially pulling inventory from the Amadeus GDS.
- Priceline Group product – Booking.com and Agoda – will be integrated down the track while it is speaking with Airbnb.
- Travlr is working with governments to fund the development of new destination specific sites.
- Mr te Hennepe says a contract has been signed with Seychelles, while he’s bullish on working with the Indonesian govt.
- Staff numbers are now at 64 but aiming for 70 by the end of December, 2017.
- Management is based in Melbourne HQ but most staff work in Bali.
- Travlr also has staff in Ukraine, India and Jakarta.
- Social media is the cornerstone of Travlr’s marketing.
- BB claims 2m social media followers – 280,000 on Facebook and 800,000 via Instagram. Mr te Hennepe didn’t say where the rest came from.
- Facebook was crucial in the early days “but that has sort of evolved to Instagram, where we were one of the early adopters.”
- He says 1.6m individuals on Instagram have share #thebalibible and #balibible hashtags compared with 1.3m shares of #tripadvisor.
- The Bali Bible will be maintained but all new sites will become a sub-domain of travlr, for example indonesia.travlr.com.