Entrepreneurship, Travel

Video interview with Stuart MacDonald of Tripharbour.com – Founders and Funders part 2 of 3

This is the second installment in a series of video recaps of the second Founders and Funders event in Toronto. In part one, we talked with one of the organizers. In this second installment, we talk to one of the entrepreneurs who was at the event.

Tripharbor.com logoStuart MacDonald is the founder of Tripharbor.com (Tripharbour.ca for Canadians), a recently launched vertical search engine for cruise ship vacations. Besides just letting you compare details and prices, Tripharbour also features some cool community features that let you read trip and destination reviews and make friends with others who have similar interests.

Stuart knows the online travel industry well, having previously served as SVP Packages and Chief Marketing Officer for travel behemoth Expedia. Cruise vacations is a $24 billion industry in North America, and he’s aiming for a piece of the action.

Blogging, Travel

Blogging for a good cause

My friends Austin Hill and Alex Eberts have launched Gifter.org, an experiment in social giving. Visitors to the site can either make a wish, or sponsor one. To sponsor a wish, you simply donate an amount of your choosing to a charity of your choice — what can be simpler? Each dollar you donate sponsors one wish.

The goal is to raise a million dollars for charity. After trying to figure out the site’s business model (there isn’t one) or the future business model of Austin and Alex’s Project Ojibwe, I realized I was missing the point. Who cares? They’re encouraging people to give to charity, and that’s good enough for me.

Seeds of peaceSo here’s my receipt. $500 for Seeds of Peace. The organization runs a camp in Maine which brings together teenagers from conflict regions and equips them with leadership skills to promote reconciliation and coexistence. After graduating from the camp, alumni continue to contribute towards advancing these goals in their respective communities.

A recent trip to Israel and Egypt reinforced my belief that a lasting, durable peace (however difficult or far off it may seem under the current circumstances) cannot be achieved by politicians alone but also needs to involve grassroots links between everyday citizens of different countries. Think of it as crowdsourcing for a good cause.

Please take a few moments to visit Gifter.org to either sponsor or make a wish. Happy holidays, everyone, and see you in 2007.

Updated: As a Canadian, I can’t benefit from the tax deductibility of this donation, but that’s tempered by the fact that board member David Avital has offered to match any donations received by December 31st of  this year.

CJU 2006, SEM, Travel

We pick you up (sometimes) – CJU 2006

MARY: Thank you for calling Enterprise, the company that picks you up.
ME: Hi Mary. Can you pick me up? I’m at the DoubleTree.
MARY: Ummm, we don’t have anyone available to do that right now.
ME: But you said you could pick me up when you answered the phone.
MARY: Ummm, yeah. We ummm, hold on one moment, sir.
HOLD MESSAGE: (Music) Thank you for your patience. A representative will be with you shortly. (Music) At Enterprise, we pick you up.

The CJU 2006 conference was winding down, and I decided to take advatage of a lunchtime lull before the final CJ Performer event to organize for a rental car to drive us back to LAX. You’d think that at a minimum, the person on the other end of the line would have adapted her greeting to the situation. There’s no easier way to lose (captive) customers than to fail to meet expectations you yourself have set.

While the above real-world example may be the extreme, the web is full of marketing campaigns where everything from the ad copy and creative, to landing pages, to the checkout process have been carefully thought out — but where time-sensitive variables are thrown out the window. Does your site sell a product or service whose quantity is limited? Do you use the pay per click engines’ API’s to pause your campaigns when you run out of the product, or are you spending money to acquire disatisfied customers?

As for the car rental, the Hertz counter in the conference hotel lobby took care of us.