Starting an online travel guide


Interview with...

James Street & Neil Waller
Age:
Both 26
CV:
Set up business during university
Business name:
MyDestinationinfo.com
Goods/services:
Global travel guide
Location:
Founded in Marbella, now covers 50+ destinations
Trading for:
Four years

Neil Waller on how they came up with the business idea...

"We were working in London on a university placement and we were using websites to work out where to go and where to party in the evenings. We had holiday homes in Marbella and that summer we were researching what were going to go and do there, but we found there was nothing compared to the websites we were using in London.

"So we thought 'let’s put some information together' and as a university side project we went out in the summer holidays. And that summer we got 33 clients advertising on the website and thought this was something that could be quite successful.

"Loads of people were talking about it and we knew people were using it and finding it a useful resource. That summer we asked the university to defer, had a year to give the business a go, and it all grew from there."

A third partner built the initial website, which obviously looks nothing like it does today, but even on that we got some pretty good advertisers in Marbella, so we knew that if we spent money on development then we could have a really good product to roll out

James Street, MyDestinationinfo.com co-founder

James Street on building the website...

"To start with we had a third partner who built the site for us, because Neil tried himself, failed after a couple of days and thought, well, we need someone who knows what they’re doing. This guy had just done computer science so he knew about websites.

"He built the initial website, which obviously looks nothing like it does today, but even on that we got some pretty good advertisers in Marbella. So we knew that if we spent a bit of money on this and started developing it, then we could have a really good product to roll out.

"And then the idea of franchising came to us after a failed attempt in the Algarve to hire someone to work there and sell for us. It was really difficult to manage her.

"So we thought if we built something in the background, an admin system, so anyone could run or update a site, then we might be onto something."

Neil Waller on how failing to finish their degree was a blessing in disguise...

"There’s a funny story that on my degree I did a module on e-business and failed it. I had to go back and do a resit and passed it by the skin of my teeth. One year later I’m running an e-business!

"As an entrepreneur you don’t need a degree at all, people respect what you’re doing and all of that goes out the window.

"Sometimes, actually, not finishing university helped us a lot, because it meant we didn’t have a safety net, which makes you work like mad to make it successful. Had we finished university and started a business we might have thought ‘It’s OK, if this doesn’t work out, we’ve got a degree and we can try and get a job.’

"Not having finished meant we needed to make this work. It made it very challenging, but I think that was what made it a success."

About The Author

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Sally Grant 
Sally graduated in 2003 with 2:1 in English, followed by five years working for a number of businesses variously as an art buyer, photographer's agent and creative researcher.