Pivoting an existing business idea is never easy for entrepreneurs, as it requires immense conviction to get through. In India, we have seen some successful pivots including Snapdeal (from service-based deals to full-fledged ecommerce marketplace). One of the recent successful pivots in startup arena was by Mygola, which started as a travel planning service with aspiration to be a ‘global travel agent’ to make it easy for customers to plan their holidays, and changed its model to be a one-stop destination for users to plan their travel itineraries. The company secured $1.5 million from Helion Venture Partners, and existing investors Blumberg Capital this month.
How it started?
Mygola was started in 2009, by Anshuman Bapna and Prateek Sharma, both former batchmates at IIT Mumbai. Prior to Mygola, Bapna was working for Google. During early 2009, Bapna used to manage Google’s largest travel relationships globally on the Adsense side. “I started seeing first-hand how large players like Tripadvisor and Expedia were trying to build a walled garden for users when the whole world was moving away from that direction,” says Bapna. While he loved Google, he also felt a purely algorithmic approach to solving travel planning would not cut it. When the duo discussed this, it emerged that one of the approaches that no one had attempted was to use deep technology to give everyone a personal guide who would do all the research and bookings for them.
On successful pivot
After two years of running Mygola as a travel planning service where users would get a personal planner, it completed pivoted away from that model. “Until that point, we had planned over 30,000 trips and helped nearly 2 million travelers plan. We had nearly 5000 ‘guides’ (travel enthusiasts who used our technology platform to research trips and get paid),” says Anshuman, co-founder Mygola. However, later on they realized that their best customers were turning out to be professionals who ran small businesses and traveled often like photographers journalists, etc. “Unfortunately, by that time it was also clear that the next thing users wanted from us was to re-book their flight if they missed it. In real sense our users really wanted was a competent travel agent ‘in the cloud’,” adds Anshuman.
The duo debated about this for a long time, and concluded that they were not the right company to deliver on that need. “Mygola DNA is tech, and we were very clear that we’d rather have an almost impossible shot at a billion-dollar opportunity than build a comfortable lifestyle business,” adds Anshuman. So, in June last year, the duo went back to the drawing board and did one-on-one interviews with probably 200+ travelers across the globe. During interaction with travelers, they noticed that the word ‘itineraries’ kept coming up. That’s when Mygola pivoted completely to become the world’s largest collection of itineraries that can be customized infinitely and booked instantly.
On raising investment
Mygola had recently secured $1.5 million in a Series A from Helion Venture Partners and existing investors Blumberg Capital. “We’ve raised a total of $2.6 million so far, including the latest round and we’re going to be spending this on expansion in the US (hiring for hard-to-find skills in India like design and marketing). Besides this the company would be using it to test various marketing channels for growth, and to deliver the experience across multiple devices.
Future and expansion plan
Bapna believes in the power of small, co-located teams. “We’re looking for great front-end engineers and designers, but would not scale up the team rapidly yet,” adds Bapna. The company is going to focus on figuring out the right product/market fit before it expands too much. Mygola had released an iPad app recently and expects to see actions for Android enabled devices pretty soon.