What it cost me to build an idea

Building Toristy Part 1

What do you do when you get a punch in the face?

In May 2019 we had already run a successful pilot with a Business Finland grant to understand if there was the potential to run a marketplace of tours and activities in the travel industry.

Due to the success of this project I decided to pursue it full time, what follows is how it all started and what it cost for anyone interested.

It was a big step for me moving from my analytics and digital marketing roots as CEO of one of the most successful analytics agencies in Finland/Nordics at the time but it felt right.

The travel industry was booming. The project took advantage of the skills I had and it was exciting to be back in a start-up environment.

The idea was to build a global software as a service that could aggregate tours and activities people do on holiday and sell them in the destination.

What do you do when you get there?

This was our selling point and it’s true that over 70% of activities are bought in the destination.

The funding required to build this was significant.

What we did initially was approach a bunch of VCs (with no real research or reasoning as to how or why they made investments).

I found out two years later from Mikko Suonenlahti at Ice Breaker that no VC will fund an idea.

They don’t want to pay for the idea, they want to pay for helping you build your business after you have got a market fit.

Funding the idea is for Angel investors, Banks with required securities or government grants.

There is a difference between a VC (who generally invest other people’s money) to an Angel investor (who are rich individuals investing in you).

To this day that’s the best advice I’ve received from a VC.

I wish I’d known this in 2019. It would have saved me a lot of time.

But I was naive back then and believed what VCs said on their websites. C’est la vie.

We estimated about €500K minimum would be needed over a couple of years. We approached the bank which funded us with the first €100K and then by using that funding as leverage we secured another Business Finland loan for €230K - I also personally invested 50K at this time to guarantee the Business Finland loan.

We got our first money from Business Finland in February 2020 and as we’d been building with the first capital we had received we were ready with the beta version of our travel SaaS product in March 2020.

The Worst Possible Timing

Yes, the small matter of the Pandemic in 2020.

What do you do when you get punched in the face?

Well, there was more than just one punch in the face for me over the years with this business.

I’ve been on the floor more times than Tyson Fury. The question is can you get up again and deal with it?

I'll explain more next time.

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