YogaTrail

Tripadvisor for Yoga
Batch: 2014 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful

YogaTrail

Tripadvisor for Yoga
Batch: 2014 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful

Company

YogaTrail aims to be the "Tripadvisor for Yoga" - we're a global yoga directory with 50k+ yoga providers around the world at the moment (the site has been live since last summer), aiming for 1 million.

Our current business model is "freemium', where yoga pros can pay to get extra visibility on the site, in our newly launched mobile app, and in newsletters. Revenue has been doubling monthly since the new year, and we expect to be profitable at the end of April.

The team is working out of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We don't see any
reason to change that, and the runway we have here is 10x what it
would be in the US.

Founders

Alex Jaton and Alex Klein started a company to sell electronic versions of out of print books (outofprintfinder.com, no longer there). We dropped the idea in favour of YogaTrail.

Alex Klein raised $3.5M from VCs to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor in a small lab outside of Boston.

Alex Jaton, despite her non-native English background, became a highly successful and sought-after Editor at some of the most prestigious publishing companies in the UK and the USA, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the projects she commissioned.

Sven spontaneously moved to Asia, then ended up traveling between Germany and Thailand to built 2 companies in both locations from scratch. Today his team boasts over 20 employees in 2 countries, creating digital projects for major global brands.

I invented an alternative plasma confinement concept in 1999 and then found a way to build and test it in a world where "alternative fusion concepts" have virtually no chance of getting any government funding. As part of the hack, I had to earn a PhD in physics, get "in" with senior scientists at MIT and other labs and institutions, and then circumvent traditional channels to find private funding sources to invest in very speculative technology. The whole thing took about 10 years, which is a very short time, considering the scope of the hack. Sounds crazy, but it's what happened.

Alex and Alex have been married for 6 years, and known each other for 8. They met Sven in 2011, shortly before founding YogaTrail together. The Alexes met Sven when they pitched YogaTrail to a group of digital entrepreneurs in Chiang Mai Thailand (Sven was part of the group).

Progress

The site launched in June 2013, our mobile app launched last week.

We've been working on YogaTrail full time for over two years, and the site has about 16,000 development hours in it.

Idea

We discovered yoga in India in 2008, and we've done a lot of traveling since then... so we ended up sampling a huge assortment of yoga. The diversity of yoga is astounding, with countless different styles and all sorts of teachers and venues. Experiencing all this variety was great, but we also learned that there was a big problem to be solved:

It's very difficult to find the “right” kind of yoga using the web – while hotels have TripAdvisor and Restaurants have Yelp, there's no authority site for yoga. We're well on our way to become that site, and we know people need what we've built because they tell us so, and every day we get hundreds of people creating their profile.

Currently, people find yoga via Google search or word of mouth. The first option is dysfunctional, and the search results not only lack independent reviews but are hard to sift through. The word of mouth thing is suboptimal, especially for travelers.

Not yet live: we plan to add “schedules” to the site, so yogis can see at a glance where and when the classes of their favourite teachers will be. This will solve a major pain for millions of yogis who currently have to go to multiple websites to do this.

There are many competitor sites out there (about 50), but they all fail because they're generally built very badly, they're not populated, or they restrict themselves to small regions. The biggest competitor is "yogafinder.com”, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Our biggest fears are actually caused by places like yoga.com, who are not competing with us at all at the moment, but who have the money and the resources to quickly build a directory and throw lots of money at marketing.

Many things, but first and foremost: the yoga community is a unique crowd, partly because of their diversity (ranging from hippies seeking enlightenment in remote Ashrams to high powered executives that use yoga to de-stress during lunch), and partly because of its general distrust of business and corporations.

The yoga market is peculiar because it’s grown to become a $20B/year industry in a world where words like “money” and “profit” can be dirty words, due to the spiritual and holistic lifestyle aspects that are associated with yoga. We've been very careful to appeal to the entire spectrum of yogis, and YogaTrail has been very well received to date.

Secondly: yoga professionals are organised into a vast network of independent operators (the teachers) who are loosely attached to studios (local) and yoga retreats (exotic and far away). Our site and database structure is built around that idea, and we have viral invite loops that exploit this social landscape.

Thirdly: community-based directories are a lot of work.

Freemium: yoga pro's can create free profiles and publish a limited number of events. Upgrading to a paid plan gets them more visibility, unlimited events, and some other perks. We estimate

We have two viral growth loops that are providing viral growth factor of 60% (10 users bring in 6 others, on average). They need some optimizing... We're also very successful on social media (FB 100k fans, Twitter 30k, Pinterest 20k), and we've built

Others

I’ve discovered that building a website like YogaTrail is in many ways more difficult than building a nuclear fusion reactor. Just the technical aspects are much more involved than I had imagined at the outset (with all the different browsers, mobiles, etc) – but the real challenge lies with the users:

In science/engineering, things are very straight-forward: apply an electric or magnetic field, and electrons move in a predictable fashion. But humans are totally mysterious beings… where the colour of a button can have all sorts of effects.

Trying to figure out what people around the world want, what they will pay for, and generally what they’re thinking when they use a website is very challenging and often surprising, although taking a scientific approach (testing and measuring) has been very helpful.

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