Most of us have special requests when we travel, but don’t really expect our lodging providers to be interested in these much less take them into account. Nevertheless, celebrities, heads of state and royalty can depend on their lodging providers to cater to their every whim. If Alexander Torrenegra, serial web entrepreneur and founder of new venture LetMeGo.com, has his way, you may soon get the same kind of service.
With LetMeGo.com, travelers upload their travel arrangements along with dates, places and any special requirements (see screen shot at bottom). Want chocolates in your room? Fluffy slippers? Just ask. Then all types of lodging providers (vacation homes, Bed & Breakfasts, hotels, etc.) can bid on their itinerary. Users can see the pricing and other data sent by each bidder, and every bidder can see other bids. But none of this information is made public; it’s between the user and the lodging providers.
Torrenegra (pictured) recognized there were inefficiencies in the lodging industry while working as a consultant for lodging web site Rentalo.com back in 2000. The problem he saw was that much of the digital infrastructure was riding atop early work in travel reservation systems such as Sabre. He decided to circumvent these systems and their associated fees by establishing a direct connection between travelers and all types of lodging providers (e.g., Bed & Breakfasts, hotels, vacation rentals, etc.).
After spending the last two years refining the technology that handles bids, signing up lodgings and making sure the infrastructure (e.g., customer service agents) is in place to attend to customer needs, Torrenegra’s number one focus continues to be that of creating a differentiated customer experience. If he’s able to execute on this, he’s confident that lodging establishments (especially, niche or smaller lodgings looking to differentiate themselves) will continue to bid on customer itineraries and pass along a small commission to the company.
When I was a Venture Capitalist in Latin America, I was struck by the lack of ambition of a lot of startups as well as questions about their ability to execute. With LetMeGo.com, I see a highly ambitious objective (the vacation rental market alone is estimated to be a $24B opportunity in the US) as well as a team with the chops to execute. My biggest concern for the company is that fact they may be biting off more than they can chew, but that qualm quickly goes away as I chat with Torrenegra.
Torrenegra moved to the US several years ago from Bogota, Colombia. A number of years ago, after observing how difficult it was for his wife to promote her voiceover services, he created Voice123.com and has since positioned it as the leading site for promoting voiceover talent.
He still has strong ties to Bogota, where principal development for Voice123.com took place and where LetMeGo.com was gestated during the past two years.
The LetMeGo.com team has already has a good number of hotel and lodgings signed up. In my mind, the biggest hurdle is getting enough users to actually insert their itineraries and, in general, changing customer and supplier behavior (talk about ambitious). But the young company already has an aggressive affiliate program ready to launch as well as plans to translate the site to Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin or Cantonese.