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Founder Ghaith Akkad Wants To Plan Your Next Vacay With Tripzzle

Founder Ghaith Akkad Wants To Plan Your Next Vacay With Tripzzle
Image credit: twitter.com/tripzzle
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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

"I personally never believed in the job life," says Tripzzle co-founder Ghaith Akkad. "I believe that God created us all as entrepreneurs but due to some various situations we just tend to settle down for a job." The Syrian 'trep was inspired to start Tripzzle after struggling to find a nice vacation spot with friends. "We tried some known travel booking engines which typically assume that travelers know where they wish to go, that was not really practical." Akkad moved to the UAE just five years ago, eventually starting Picasso Interactive Limited, the web design firm that is behind Tripzzle. He studied Computer Science and Software Engineering back in his native Syria.

At first Tripzzle sounds like just another booking website, but turns out it's more than just that: It "provides travelers with highly accurate travel destination and hotel recommendations based on their passions and interests when they seek ideas about where to go and where to stay." In a saturated market, providing recommendations based on consumer tastes is a huge bonus, which could foster them long-term success. How does it work? Akkad and his team designed and structured a ranking algorithm that he claims "is both intuitive and scientific to pinpoint various tourism destinations around the world that match travelers predefined criteria."

Sounds like a very technical project, but I also wanted to explore the business side of things. What was setting up Tripzzle like? Akkad said it was "challenging but fun", admitting that they nearly abandoned the whole thing halfway through. Akkad and his team "combined various databases like hotels, cities, passions and interests, weather information, average room prices, and so on. Then we needed to come up with a smart algorithm to rank more than 160,000 hotels based on a complex criteria, and return no more than a 100% almost handpicked hotels- all that should be super easy to use, and super instant." That said, it looks like that they've created a visually simplistic (yet rich) online database. Here's your daily dose of motivation, young 'treps!

Tripzzle seems like a capital-intensive setup (and it is). Akkad says that they haven't been involved with any angel investors as yet, so how'd they do it? Bootstrapping. Tripzzle's team is comprised of five people active in marketing and tech spaces, and they did everything themselves. "We have all the knowledge and experience to build such a product from scratch." That said, the folks at Tripzzle aren't ruling out getting support from an investor if it "gains enough traction." Understandable given the costs needed to maintain Tripzzle, including "databases, advertising, servers, and maintenance." According to Akkad, they're on track for ROI. "We're still evaluating the idea actually; the numbers so far are great in terms of interested people and conversion rates at 12% to 15%, where looking up hotel details for booking is considered a successful conversion."

Co-founder Ghaith Akkad
Launched earlier this year in August, digital marketing and promo was apparently significant in luring in visitors and user base. "Visitors originally came from YCombinator News (HackerNews), Reddit, and social media- mostly Twitter," adds Akkad, later elaborating how other websites, including the popular LifeHack.org as well as "Ghaith Akkad. "I believe that God created us all as entrepreneurs but due to some various situations we just tend to settle down for a job." The Syrian 'trep was inspired to start Tripzzle after struggling to find a nice vacation spot with friends. "We tried some known travel booking engines which typically assume and Software Engineering back in his native Syria.

 

At first Tripzzle sounds like just another booking website, but turns out it's more than just that: It "provides travelers with highly accurate travel destination and hotel recommendations based on their passions and interests when they seek ideas about where to go and where to stay." In a saturated market, providing recommendations based on consumer tastes is a huge bonus, which could foster them long-term success. How does it work? Akkad and his team designed and structured a ranking algorithm that he claims "is both intuitive and scientific to pinpoint various tourism that travelers know where they wish to go, that was not really practical." Akkad moved to the UAE just five years ago, eventually starting Picasso Interactive Limited, the web design firm that is behind Tripzzle. He studied Computer Science startup portals spread the word as well. Makes sense. After all, in the digital age, why not fortify your social media and overall web presence?

Marketing strategy is critical when trying to penetrate a saturated market, so how is this startup approaching the game? Tripzzle is using social media to generate interest and user base by "mainly targeting travelers looking for inspiration, which is considerably an easy target, but very expensive to attract hence the competition. Social media -especially Twitter- was a great help in directly reaching out to people seeking travel ideas and hotel recommendations," said Akkad, crediting Twitter for providing 20% of Tripzzle's overall traffic. They're not stopping at Twitter though; they're working on a Facebook strategy and taking advantage of some of the tools it provides that can help generate users, like benefitting "from the power of their Graph API and friend connections which in turn means more personal recommendations." The team is hard at work and recently "introduced a map to visualize hotel destinations. We're also silently updating the logic behind our ranking mechanism. More exciting features are in the plan," says Akkad confirming that they're currently working on both mobile and tablet apps that should be available soon.

What advice he would give to aspiring 'treps? "Learn, execute, fail, repeat." Maybe all this effort will earn him a holiday in Barcelona next summer, his favorite vacation spot.