While most travel booking sites ask you to enter a destination, Flocations wants to know your budget–and in return, the simple but attractive Web site offers a map of possibilities for even the most cash-straitened of travelers. While there are other sites that offer reverse-lookup by ticket price for destinations, such as FareCompare, Flocations creates a “fun visual experience” by getting rid of price lists and matrices and instead mapping out potential destinations, says co-founder Florian Cornu. Click on a city and you’ll get a list of fares and airline carriers, as well as hotel suggestions.
“While people might have well known destinations like Phuket and Bali in mind, it would take them time to compare the prices for those, while on Flocations they can compare them in a second, as well as dozens of other places they did not even think of,” says Cornu.
“A lot of times our users are surprised by how many places are around them, new places that they had no idea existed which creates new sales potential for us,” he adds.
The startup recently closed a pre-series fund raising of $600,000, led by TNF Ventures and joined by SingTel Innov8 and angel investor Ben Ball. Flocations plans to use the money to market the Web site, improve its product and release features such as a full-package comparison, which will include both flights and hotel rooms in the traveler’s budget.
Southeast Asia is currently the Singapore-based startup’s target market. It’s a good place for the Web site to test its potential in because the “region offers hundreds of affordable, fantastic destinations,” says Cornu. He notes that there are 56 destinations less than four hours away by flight from Singapore, while travelers based in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok enjoy a similarly rich array of potential weekend getaways. Cornu says that the company also hopes to expand to Europe and North America by 2013, especially since the founding team boosts members from Canada and France.
The team gets flight information directly from airline Web sites and manages it in their own database for fast processing. They also have partnerships with hotel booking providers. While the company won’t disclose exact numbers, Cornu says Flocations has “several thousand” repeat users. The Web site will monetize by offering hotel bookings through the site.
Focusing on the Southeast Asia region also gives Flocations access to fast-growing budget carriers, like Air Asia, Lion Air and Indigo, all of which have been in a frenzy of aircraft-ordering as they expand their fleets and market reach.
The company’s four founders met in April at Startup Weekend in Singapore. During the event, the team set up a working prototype of Flocations. Though they did not win, they were encouraged by positive feedback to keep developing the project. The multi-national quartet consists of developers Shaw Chian and Venkatraman Dhamodaran, from Singapore and India respectively, Canadian Tudor Coman, who is in charge of business development, and Frenchman Cornu, who has a background in finance and “a passion for user experience.”
Flocations’ easy-to-use and visually appealing interface was inspired by Cornu’s desire for an easy and fun way to plan trips.
“Several times, while planning a trip, I was actually spending the night comparing airline Web sites, comparators, Wikipedia, weather information and other media to find out where I could fly to from where I was, how much it was, and if it was a good place for me to go,” he says. “I thought there should be a better way, merging all this information together to make it simpler for travelers who want a getaway.”