It’s very easy for a startup to get distracted by shiny things that popup along the way. You need to be disciplined enough to stay focused and see the big picture.”
Basil Elotol is the founder and CEO of Triphop, a leading online travel company, which gives travelers the freedom to reward themselves by providing an unrestricted, immediate, and extremely generous cash rewards program. Triphop has grown to become the most rewarding online travel website in the hotel booking marketplace. With over 15 years in the Travel and Technology industry, Basil has become a leading expert in the space. Prior to founding Triphop, Basil was part of the executive team of a Travel and Roaming Technology startup and played an instrumental role in successfully growing the company to over $200 million in annual revenue.
Where did the idea for Triphop come from?
I am an avid traveler. I’m fortunate that I had the opportunity to travel to over 110 countries. Most of my travel was for business. My cofounders and I used to travel on business trips all the time. I used to spend over 200 nights a year in hotels. Because of this, I ended up on almost every hotel chain’s and online travel agency’s loyalty program. I was always struggling to keep track of my status at different hotels. It was even harder to keep track of how many points I had in each program, which resulted in a lot of expired points. To add insult to injury, I was limited to what I can use my points for and would always find myself in a position were I had to buy even more products and services from my travel providers to fell that my points did not go to waste. I knew that travel rewards are not as rewarding as advertised and someone had to change that. That is how the Triphop idea was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day starts at 5:30 in the morning. The first couple of hours are spent on calls with our technology and projects teams overseas, reviewing development sprints, Question and Answer activities, product roadmap, and concludes with a review of the previous day’s service performance. I then switch to a predefined to-do list, which I typically prepare the night before. The list is ordered by priority. To maximize my productivity, I try to avoid multi-tasking and Emails as much as possible. I always try to follow the 80/20 rule; only 20 percent of what I do contributes to 80 percent of what I accomplish in the day. I always leave an hour to read and catch up on industry news and trends. This has proved to be an extremely beneficial habit throughout my professional career. I also try to save catching up on emails to later in the day if possible since it tend to monopolize how you run your day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We always start by identifying if the idea solves a real problem and determine the magnitude of the problem. This helps us quantify the market opportunity. This is a good starting point before committing resources to an idea. Once we feel that the idea solves a sizable pain for our customers, we go and research the market to understand how other people attempted to solve the problem and how did they do it. Depending on the idea, we might conduct user groups to validate. If the outcome from our research is positive, we move on to product design followed by an MVP. The MVP is designed with a certain set of A/B tests to allow us to better understand customer behavior. Once we feel that the new product has gained traction, that’s when commit the company to it.
We start by putting our self in the customer’s shoes. We look at and dissect a traveler’s trip and try to identify friction.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Voice search is very exciting to me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Focus. As an entrepreneur, you always want to be focused especially in your early days. It’s very easy for a startup to get distracted by shiny things that popup along the way. You need to be disciplined enough to stay focused and see the big picture. At the same time, you need to understand the difference between lack of focus and the need to pivot.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was my first sales job. I was hired by a manager who needed someone to put the blame on for sales numbers he knew he would not achieve. Being new to sales, I failed to realize the reality of the situation. I was super excited and tried to learn as much about sales as I could. It was extremely challenging especially with the lack of cooperation and support I was experiencing. Fortunately, I learned a lot about value selling and the art of negotiating and moved on to a new organization to become the best performing sales person in the company 8 years in a row.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think we would go to market faster with less development and more frequent iterations. I would also hire sooner and invest in more user analytics solutions.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen to your customers and stay on top of your industry. Knowledge is power and it always pays off.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
In order to scale you need to do things that don’t scale. Work closely with your first set of customers, you early adapter, learn everything you can about them and treat them right.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Starting a company alone! It’s extremely difficult, time consuming, and the odds are completely stacked against you. Always look for the right cofounders even if it takes a longer time and you end up with less equity.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Blockchain technology and crypto-currencies. There are so many problems to solve using blockchain technology in addition to all the opportunities crypto-currencies present such as rating tokens.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Just on the business and myself. It is important to put investment into the business but at the same token treat yourself.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Google Analytics, Upwork, and Basecamp
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Lean startup, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Zero to One, The Four Steps to Epiphany
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.