Broadcast: Bungolow.com is a member-only travel club offering huge discounts at top-shelf Latin American hotels and resorts. This is CoFounded by Scott Bird and Scott Thompson with its headquarters in Santiago, Chile and has come out from Start-up Chile, an incubator aided by the Chilean government.
Tête-à-tête with Scott Thompson, the Co-Founder of Bungolow.com.
What is your idea and vision?
The idea behind Bungolow is that travelers and hotels can benefit when a website values quality of selection over quantity of selection when it comes to the hotel booking experience. Bungolow.com is a free, members-only website featuring private sales for high-end Latin American hotel bookings. Our vision is to become the go-to destination for booking Latin American hotel rooms.
What is your start-up story? How did you start? Where did you get funding from?
My Co-Founder, Scott Bird, and I met as teammates on the baseball team in high school in Rockville, Maryland. For years we would brainstorm business ideas together but did not take the leap into entrepreneurship until last year. It was our acceptance into a program called Start-Up Chile that pushed us to leave our comfortable 9-to-5 careers and start Bungolow. With funding from Start-Up Chile, we founded Bungolow in July 2011 and launched the beta version of the website in English in November. In January 2012, we launched the Spanish version of the site to cater to Latin American travelers.
Which is your target market? How have you developed your product? How do you engage your customers?
Our target market is travelers of all types. Bungolow attracts the young professional looking for a weekend getaway, the backpacker seeking a few nights in luxury in between campgrounds, the married couple that has saved for their 2-week Latin American vacation, and all travelers in between. In building the product, we strove to make it incredibly easy for our members to invite their friends. As a result, referrals by members is our most important means of building our membership base.
Bungolow is free to join. We earn a commission for each night booked on our website, and that’s it. There are no extra or hidden fees for hotels to participate.
How do you define the importance of team in a Startup?
Our team is vitally important for executing our vision and satisfying our customers. One of the ways we add value is providing a personal touch that other companies simply cannot offer.
As co-founders, Scott and I deal with various aspects of the business, including user acquisition, hotel partnerships, product management and accounting. Francesca handles our marketing, public relations and community engagement. Claudia helps communicate Bungolow’s travel expertise through writing. Our developer, KG, is responsible for maintaining and improving the website.
What are the lessons you have learned while starting up and you want to share?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your company while you’re starting up. In very few cases, being ‘stealth’ is necessary, but in most cases, you are much better off by talking about what you are doing. People generally will not steal your ideas, and if they do, you are the one with the passion to out-execute them. Ideas are nothing without execution. Talking about your business can open new doors. Not to mention, it helps you to continually practice and refine your pitch.
Be lean. Before you spend a lot of resources building out your product, validate your offering with potential customers by speaking to them and confirming that they would actually buy your product. Continue to adapt your product until you find a good fit with the market.
Fun @ Bungolow:
Our most common entrepreneurial joke is about pivoting. Every day there’s a new idea about what Bungolow should pivot into – a hot dog company, Cash for Gold business, and a taco stand seem to be this week’s favorites. Strategy meetings are often conducted over a game of ping-pong. None of us should quit Bungolow to try out for the World Ping Pong tour.
Our team gets out of the office a lot to check out hotel partners and destinations. We like to try new things in the destinations we visit. Sometimes it doesn’t go quite right. Like at this horseback riding trip in Chile where Francesca looked like a pro-rider, but Scott B.’s horse decided he’d prefer to take a siesta. We love to BBQ.
What’s new from Bungolow?
Bungolow launches its hot hotel deals in Spanish as a part of a great multi-lingual campaign to reach out to a larger Latin American crowd.
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