STARTUP STAGE: Lovu wants to become the app for romance travel


startup-stage-lovu-logo

Lovu

Lovu
is an app for romance travel booking, with options for users to do it
themselves or to work with a travel advisor. 

Founder
Shri Lildharrie has experience both in hospitality technology and with The
Knot, a global wedding planning company.

What is your 30-second pitch to
investors?

Lovu is a travel app that is all about romance and couples’
trips. From wedding proposals to destination weddings to honeymoons to
anniversaries to vow renewals to babymoons, romantic trips are easy on Lovu,
where consumers get to develop a direct one-to-one relationship with hotels and
travel advisors. We are removing middlemen like online travel companies that
provide no real value and putting consumers in control of their romantic travel
experience.

website

www.lovutravel.com

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your
startup.

Lovu is free to consumers. There is a freemium account that
every property gets and a paid premium account starting with our complimentary
RoomX plan that involves room exchange for subscription and a Gold, Diamond,
and Platinum plan for multi-property brands. Travel advisors have one plan. Lovu
is a mobile SaaS platform.

Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities,
Threats) analysis of the company.

  • Strengths – We are making research, planning, and booking celebratory
    romantic trips straightforward and fun for everyone involved.
  • Weaknesses – Capital. We need money to move fast. For this reason, we
    are raising funds by pre-selling the platform to early adaptors and launching
    an Indiegogo consumer campaign in the coming week. We are providing complimentary
    room nights at prestigious hotels in exchange for your pledge. 
  • Opportunities – There are more mobile-connected devices globally than
    people, and nearly 90% of mobile internet time is spent in apps. The business
    of romance travel is massive. The market for destination weddings and
    honeymoons in the U.S. is over $25 billion. Lovu will serve the global
    marketplace of romance travel. 
  • Threats – We are disrupting a high-value guest segment of the travel
    industry. We are not a commission model. Online travel sites can be a threat if
    they change their business model and stop underserving romantic consumers. Consumer
    behaviors and technology changes can also become a threat. Our users are the
    heart of our business. We will continuously challenge the status quo to make it
    easy for couples to find and book-direct their romantic travel experiences. We
    will consistently modify our technology to stay competitive and relevant to our
    users.

What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate
from both the customer and the industry perspective?

  • For consumers:
    • The time it would take them to research, plan and book
      romantic celebratory trips like honeymoons, destination weddings, proposals,
      vow renewals, etc. 
    • The indirect relationships they would strike with hotels
    • The annoyance of finding the right person at a hotel to give
      them a deal
    • The time it would take them to find an experienced
      destination travel expert to help them
  • For hotels:
    • Their ongoing challenge to winning direct consumer bookings 
    • The constant battle to lowering distribution cost 
    • The challenges achieving high return on advertising spending
    • The ongoing challenges with direct guest engagement
    • The ongoing challenge getting guest to sign up for loyalty
      programs 
    • The challenge getting guest to become social media brand
      ambassadors 
  • For travel advisors:
    • The high cost of marketing 
    • The ongoing issues of client and commission bypass 
    • The high price of high-quality leads/referrals
    • The need for ongoing sales education and training 

So you’ve got the product, now how will you get lots of
customers?

We will be relying primarily on content marketing. Our B2C
content marketing (travel consumers) efforts will include brand marketing, specialized
media, social media, public relations campaigns, expert advice marketing,
influencer marketing, etc. For our B2B content marketing to hotels, resorts,
vacation rentals, etc., we will include social media (LinkedIn), public
relations, industry press, expert advice marketing, etc. Travel advisor
marketing will consist of trade advertising, email marketing, trade
conferences, content marketing and ongoing virtual mastermind classes where we
will continuously educate travel advisors on the business of romance travel.

Tell us what process you’ve gone through to establish a
genuine need for your company and the size of the addressable market.

For the past four years, I have been researching the romance
industry and the direct booking efforts of hotel companies and their ongoing
fight to win the direct consumer business. I have studied romance travel data
from several reputable sources, including industry travel insights from The
Knot Worldwide, the world-leading life-stage media company with a community of
millions of consumers moving through romantic milestones from proposal to the
wedding into a first home to starting a family. I found a massive gap in the
travel industry in my research, and I am filling that need.

The addressable
size of the U.S. market is approximately 126 million consumers who are married,
living together and in a committed romantic relationship. Romance travel is a
huge, underserved travel segment that needs highly personalized, customized
products and price offerings and booking experience that only direct
relationships between travelers and hoteliers or travelers and experienced
travel advisors can provide. This segment has not been appropriately addressed
by anybody, least of all by the commoditized online travel agencies, and I have
found the magic formula for how to do it. 

How and when will you make money?

We make money by charging tourism providers and travel
advisors subscription fees and on media opportunities. Our business plan puts
us in positive cash flow by year two based on achieving fundraising goals. 

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the
founding team?

I, Shri Lildharrie, am the founder and I am a travel tech,
media pro and entrepreneur with over 20 years of travel industry experience and
an expert in software-as-a-solution (SaaS) business development. I spent nine
years at the world’s leading wedding website, The Knot, driving revenues.
During my tenure at The Knot, I generated over $50 million. Before that, I
owned and operated Karma, a restaurant and event company. I also founded The
Hotelogist Inc., a hospitality tech consulting company. Over the past five
years, I have been helping hotel companies succeed online using a variety of
forward-thinking technologies with NextGuest, now part of Cendyn. They are the
leading hospitality tech and digital marketing company in the world servicing
brands like Hard Rock, Hyatt, IHG, AMResorts, Hilton, Caesars and many others.

Artyom Sklyarov the co-founder is an accomplished digital
creative director, designer and developer with 20 years of interactive media
experience and a portfolio of award-winning projects. He worked directly with
many leading hospitality brands, including Marriott, Hard Rock Hotels, Loews
Hotels and many others.

How have you addressed diversity and inclusion within your
business?

My co-founder and I are both immigrants and I, the CEO, am a
person of color. Our experiences have shown us that you can’t have the best
talent without building a diverse and inclusive team. We are developing a
global marketplace of travel advisors, hotels and couples that span every
identity and background. That said, it’s important to us for our people to
bring their whole selves to work to best serve the diversity of humans in our
network.

What’s been the most difficult part of founding the business
so far?

The most challenging part of founding Lovu is self-funding
in these hard economic times. My income was significantly affected by the
pandemic, so it’s been a financial battle to get started. Gaining angel
investors’ confidence during a pandemic while the travel industry is hurting is
tough. 

Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making
an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?

No one owns romance travel. No one is offering a solution
that’s helping make the romantic travel industry simpler for everyone involved.
This segment of the travel industry is fair game, and all players underserve
it. So we are devoting everything we do to couples; they are the heart and soul
of our business. We are focus on a highly targeted segment of travel consumers,
and we know how to find them and engage them.

Additionally, travel service providers love us because we
add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line they would have
otherwise paid out to third-party booking sites. We are helping them in so many
ways, from reducing the cost of sales to personalized guest engagement. I feel
we have a great formula to be one of the lucky ones.   

A year from now, what state do you think your startup will
be in?

We will have a scalable product, paying clients and
fundraising to continue scaling Lovu.

What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing
and staying private, etc.)

It depends on how we are doing. I am open to an acquisition
with the right company, like The Knot Worldwide or staying private.

PhocusWire’s Startup Stage

Learn more about our profiling of new travel companies and how to apply.



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