Entrepreneur Seeks to Transform the Great Outdoors With 'Glamping'
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For some entrepreneurs, turning what's old into something new is the goal. For David Troya, it's about bringing the outside in.
Just ask David Troya. After scoring a coveted spot in Startup Chile, a program run by the Chilean government that provides resources and $40,000 in equity-free capital to 100 startups in each class, University of San Francisco alum is looking to take his travel startup to the next level.
"I went to San Francisco with the desire of being an entrepreneur," says Troya, who founded the online-reservation website Glamping Hub in 2012. "I just wanted to have creative freedom and make my life extraordinary."
The 31-year-old Troya, a native of Spain, along with his 28-year-old co-founder Ruben Martinez, launched Glamping Hub to help intrepid travelers mesh their hardcore camping desires with glamorous accommodations. Think: sea-side safari tents and luxury tree houses instead of flimsy tents and sleeping bags. When users book, Glamping Hub takes a cut of the posted rate-per-night, usually around 10 percent.
Currently, the site has more than 350 "glamping" locations and 150 exclusive contracts. It also logs about 30,000 monthly views in the slower season. Though, Troyo is expecting to exceed 100,000 monthly views during the warmer months. And with an increase in views, he has plans to book $2 million in accommodationsover the next 12 months and $10 million for the 2014 to 2015 period.
What's more, per his entrée into the Startup Chile program, Troya is in the midst of landing $300,000 in a seed round from undisclosed investors and will be using the funds to grow his international team of sixteen. He also hopes to make technological improvements and spend some cash on marketing.
We think the concept is primed for takeoff. So for the month of May, GlampingHub.com is officially YE’s Startup of the Month. With that comes bragging rights for life, along with a copy of Entrepreneur Press’ latest book: Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business and a digital subscription to Entrepreneur magazine.
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We chatted with Troya about starting up, raising funds and staying competitive in the world of glamorous camping.
Q: Why did you decide to launch a startup focused on glamping?
A: While I was getting my master's degree in San Francisco, the concept of glamping came up in one of my MBA classes. It just felt like a concept that would stick, because there are people used to a minimum level of comfort. It has an undeniable value and the potential to be global.
Q: Why did you decide to raise funding?
A: We felt like we were in a fantastic position to be the world leader of this niche market, so we first focused on creating an ecosystem of accommodations that were so unique they got people hooked. We wanted to grow fast, but at the same time we wanted to have an authentic inventory. This takes time, it takes money and a lot of faith. We realized if we want to take this worldwide with such a niche market, we are going to need some funding to help build this inventory and then capitalize on all the interest we have created.
Q: How was the experience raising funding?
A: One of the cool things I think about starting a business is self-development. You learn a lot about yourself, and I think pitching is part of that. You are so exposed. You are basically just putting yourself out there with your baby. At times, you get slapped in the face. I think every angel investor and VC we sat down with has been intrigued. No one has straight up said no, but said to call me when you improve. We started this process in late November, and we managed to get funding in a short time.
Q: How do you differentiate yourself from the other glamping sites? At a glance, they seem similar and offer the same accommodations.
A: Many of our competitors are advertising based -- meaning only businesses that pay can be on the website. We thought about this route but realized it would limit our growth. We wouldn’t be able to feature a lot of properties that were owned by small businesses and didn’t have an advertising budget. Instead, we decided to make it transactional: If I get you customers I get a commission.
Q: Advice for young entrepreneurs?
A: The hardest thing an entrepreneur has to deal with is the emotional rollercoaster that is involved when starting your own business. There are so many reasons to be happy and worried every day, and if are affected by these emotions you can’t really be productive or focused. You have to remain positive and excited about what you are doing.
-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.