Two young entrepreneurs who dropped out of university have become an international success through franchising their online travel website.
myDestinationInfo.com, based in Maida Vale, covers over 85 destinations, combining accurate local information, interactive content and an online booking engine. It is used by over eight million travellers a year.
Neil Waller and James Street were in the third year of a four-year business course at Bath University when they created Marbellainfo.com after finding a lack of information about this holiday destination. They soon discovered that information on even some of the world’s most popular travel destinations was similarly thin.
Neil Waller, co-founder and CEO of MyDestinationInfo.com, said:
“After surfing the web to find out what was going on in London, we began to realise that, even for some of the biggest cities in the world, online information was poor. Both our parents had holiday homes in Spain, so we thought it would be good to develop an information site for Marbella. One summer holiday, we attracted 33 advertisers. On returning, we rang the university and said ‘I don’t think we’re coming back’.”
Neil and James developed a franchising model, making it easy for anyone to run a myDestinationInfo.com site for a particular destination. The number of franchised sites has risen from 12 to 85 since 2008, covering over 35 countries, and company turnover has grown dramatically, from £150,000 to over a million pounds in three years.
Neil continues: “We started the business in June 2006 with £600. I don’t think we originally had specific plans to go global, but equally I don’t think we would have left university thinking it was only going to be Marbella.”
However, going global was inevitable, and in 2010 the company was named Young Exporter of the Year in the London Export Awards organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
Neil explains: “We were working with UKTI through their Passport to Export programme for new exporters for a year before the export awards, having seen a poster at the airport. What’s available to business is great. Following an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) report from UKTI staff in Melbourne, Australia, we made contacts we would never have made on our own. Through OMIS, prospective contacts received an e-mail from the British Consulate, which meant they took notice. It’s an amazing door-opener.”
Neil and his team have a pretty clear idea where they go from here. With sights set on the USA, Asia and Latin America, he plans to include OMIS in his business model and has signed up for UKTI’s Gateway to Global Growth programme for more experienced exporters.
“We’re lined up to do up to ten OMIS reports with assistance from our UKTI London International Trade Adviser, Ian Paterson,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer – it can only open up doors. Through UKTI services you are connected to a network where you meet people you would never have met otherwise.”
Ian Paterson, an ICT sector specialist, said: “myDestinationInfo.com typify the quality and energy in the growing Creative and Media sector in London. They are not content to just export – they want to be, and are, global! We encourage more London businesses to tap into our support network, as they have done.”
Notes to editors
- For more information about mydestinationinfo.com, go tohttp://www.mydestinationinfo.com/
- UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the Government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business.
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