Your vacation time is sacred. You shouldn’t let anyone get in the way of it being just the way you want it. But why is it that you still leave so much of the decision process up to a few Yahoo Answers and other anonymous recommendations. You don’t know them, and should have no reason to trust them. This is where Curacity comes in. With their expert and personalized recommendations, you will be in a much better position to reach your dream vacation, including, location, hotel, restaurants, and everything in between as they integrate content and booking into a seamless platform.
CEO Michael Keriakos talks about his second startup (his first startup Everyday Health IPOd on the NYSE) and how he plans to take on a new market.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Seed round was led by Greycroft, and Pinnacle Investment with SBNY (formerly Softbank), Third point capital and the founder Mike Keriakos. $2.2M was raised in total.
Tell us about your product or service.
Media brands are in a unique position to inspire and catalyze travel choices. They are the informed tastemakers pushing new trends and ideas to an already established audience. That’s why so many large media companies have moved past monetizing their sites via traditional banner ads and have moved towards ecommerce. Travel booking is the next progression for these sites. Curacity will partner with these media companies and make this add on seamless.
What inspired you to start the company?
I booked a trip in 2007 using the Wallpaper (magazine) city guide to Marrakech. I booked 100% of the trip based on these recommendations and had an amazing time. I thought about it and realized Expedia made $1000 while wallpaper* made roughly $1.50. Bridging that chasm
How is it different?
Mass market online travel agencies are sprawling warehouses of hundreds of thousands of hotel options with endless reviews by faceless names that leave users overwhelmed and confused. Little is being done to accommodate for specific tastes. You can’t sort Expedia by “culinary experience” or “high design,” and you can’t curate reviews by names you trust. But what if you could?
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The $300B global ecommerce travel market is our market.
What’s your business model?
50% commissions and bookings and 50% advertising.
You built your last company Everyday Health in NYC and took it public. What about that experience led you to start this company in NYC? Was anywhere outside of NYC a possibility?
I am a NYC entrepreneur through and through. The ecosystem has matured dramatically since I set out to start Everyday Health in 2002. I know the talent pool very well in NYC so I think it would take more time to find the right people if I built elsewhere. Also I got married in 2013 and my wife operates Designer Revival; a luxury consignment store on the Upper East Side. She just launched Designerrevival.com last week and we had a baby boy; Kai (I was born in Cairo which was the inspiration) in February, so NYC is home for the next 5-7 years. I love Malibu and the beach in general so maybe by the time we ring the bell for Curacity; my wife will have opened an LA store and I can go be “on the beach”.
What was the funding process like?
The gratifying part was my first 2 investors in everyday health led the round through other vehicles that they’re now involved with. I got a colder reception with many of the seed funds that I was meeting for the first time who I think underappreciated experience and were focused too much on how travel has been done which I think is a ridiculous notion given that it’s the largest ecommerce category in the world. There’s plenty of room for innovation.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Being led by an entrepreneur who went from $0 to the floor of the NYSE.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We will launch three sites over the next 24 months like surfacehotels.com with other media partners in food/wine; business and probably one enthusiast sport. I think we’ll then be on our path to $1B in bookings and a $200M+ business.
What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial advice that you have never received?
Every business you start is a very long road; make sure when you get there; you arrive at a big house. Translation – focus on big markets! – Ben Van de Bunt – CEO of Guthy Renker
Is there a difference in building a startup for an IPO versus for an exit?
Where is your favorite place to enjoy the fall weather in the area?
I live in TriBeCa and there is no better time to explore NYC than in the fall. The Hudson River park has come such a long way and is fun for my wife, our 7 month old, and me Kai.