Today I wanted to tell you about Funnelscope, a relatively new company that combines social media, hotel reviews, and hotel booking technology. I like to bring to you new and interesting companies and start-ups in the world of hospitality, and the concept behind this company is certainly intriguing.
To get more of an insight into Funnelscope, Hotel Insight spoke to Kul Singh, the founder of Funnelscope.
Hi Simon, thanks for the opportunity to talk about Funnelscope. I’m the founder of Funnelscope and a serial entrepreneur that has built several companies. In 2007 I took a sabbatical to travel around the world for 9 months. Travel has always been one of my passions. When I came back I had an itch to build a new company and wanted to focus on one of my passions: travel. In 2008, the idea for Funnelscope dawned on me as I was searching for a hotel and became frustrated with the amount of time it took for me to search. I would read the online reviews but since they were written by people I didn’t know, I spent hours that led to days trying to figure if these people were like me and shared the same tastes. That’s when I had the “aha” moment that hotel reviews need to be social and personalized. We all trust recommendations from people we know. It makes helps us make a faster decision when a friend recommends it– it alleviates the pressure of making an important decision. Fact is when we book a hotel, especially for a vacation, the decision is like purchasing a mobile phone or car. It can even be tougher because you can’t “return” or test drive a hotel if you don’t like it. Once you are there, you are effectively stuck with that decision. So we all invest that extra time beforehand to get it right given vacation travel can be expensive and we all value our time off. We want to make sure it’s the right decision for us and our families. Making hotel search social allows us to spend less time researching that perfect hotel because of that friend recommendation.
Q Funnelscope is relatively new brand concept. Please explain the purpose of your business and who it’s aimed at.
Funnelscope is the first hotel search engine built on top of social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and new location applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla. Since we didn’t have a legacy product to deal with, we were able to build this inherently as a social product. This allows us to create a new experience around hotel search. Who is it aimed at? Anyone that travels and stays in a hotel. If you use review sites today, I would suggest using Funnelscope because the reviews are all linked to a real person on Facebook or Twitter. You don’t have to worry about fake reviews from a competitor of a hotel or the hotel itself. These are real people like us. It should be noted that you do not have to be on a social network to get value from Funnelscope. But if you are, then you will receive the greatest value because you can see personal recommendations from people you actually know.
Q There are some key review websites already in the market place, predominantly TripAdvisor. You can even now connect via Facebook, prioritising reviews most suited to your network. How does this differ from your website?
Let me start by saying I have deep respect for Steve Kaufer ‘s vision in starting Trip Advisor. He created a valuable product that made finding a hotel easier. But Trip Advisor has the problem that any established company has- it can’t start from scratch to account for how different the world is today. I would bet that if Trip Advisor was founded today, it would not look like Trip Advisor but more like Funnelscope.
As I said above, we have designed Funnelscope intertwined within social networks. It’s not just a separate website that has a social feature– all we are is social. For example, users never have to visit funnelscope.com to provide a review or search. They can tweet a review to us at @funnelscope and we will index it to their twitter account. They can checkin to a hotel on an application like Foursquare and get the option to review. So the checkin prompts the review. Or a user can write a hotel review on their own blog and then tweet or direct message us a link to the review with the name and location of the hotel. We will then index that link and blog review to their social network such that when their Twitter network is looking for a hotel they would see the review. As a note, if a reviewer logs in using Twitter on our website, we also provide the option to log in with their Facebook account. This couples their Twitter and Facebook accounts so a review shared on Twitter is accessible by their Facebook friends when they search and vice versa. Most of the experience on Funnelscope can occur where you already are…on social networks. You don’t have to visit another website in order to review a hotel. We intertwine the experience into what you already do each day. Trip Advisor would have a hard time doing this as they would have to move away from the mentality of being a website to a web service. Funnelscope is looking to build the ultimate hotel review and search web service, which we believe makes reviewing and searching easier for users. And we are attracting reviewers that don’t typically have time or may forget to review on a site like Trip Advisor. Again, this is because we are intertwined in their every day social experience.
Just one more point to add here. Another thing that Funnelscope does is we aggregate reviews already being made on the social networks. We have special technology that recognizes which hotel the review is about and then indexes the review to the proper hotel and links it to a user’s social graph. Users are already providing detailed hotel reviews in Facebook status updates and on hotel fan pages. But those reviews are not aggregated in one place when people are searching. This creates a timing issue since users often share their reviews when friends aren’t looking. And when friends are looking that review is no longer available in their newsfeed. So this valuable information is lost. Funnelscope solves that timing problem. We save that review so users can find it when they are indeed looking for a hotel. Over the last 18 months we have captured millions of social ratings and reviews for hotels. There are instances where we have thousands of social ratings and reviews for a hotel where the other review sites have none.
Q Where do you see Funnelscope this time next year?
F rom my perspective hotel search has seen no innovation since Trip Advisor. That is over ten years ago! There are so many areas where hotel search can be improved and I am excited to see Funnelscope challenge the status quo. Our belief is that hotel search does not have to be tedious. It can a fun, social experience. So today we have innovated the actual review process but we are still early on our vision with the search experience. In the next few months that will change. Hotel search will be a more social, fun experience. Just like providing a review, it will be integrated with user’s everyday social experience. And we believe that we can not only add immense value to the people who search for and review hotels, but also to the hotels themselves. We believe we can give them a high return on investment by working with a company like us. Since we are a web service, we want to add value to their own websites and Facebook fan pages. How can we together drive up conversions and give people a better experience. They already know it’s critical to give people a great experience when they stay at their hotels. But the hotel experience begins with search. Making hotel search fun and social would reflect positively on the hotels themselves. So we are aligned and I hope and believe hotels will work with Funnelscope to push the envelope. From my conversations already, I believe they will. That’s exciting. This whole opportunity is exciting and my goal a year from now is to change the perception of hotel search. Instead of the frustration, I look forward to seeing smiles. I believe this can be achieved otherwise I wouldn’t have started Funnelscope.
Tweet @funnelscope a review. If it needs to be longer you can write a review on a blog and tweet us that link. Soon we will let you email us a review similar to how Posterous allows users to email blog posts. Or users can checkin to one of the location based applications. And of course, users can visit our website and provide a review.
Today for hotel search, you need to visit our website or you can tweet us a search request with the exact location and we will tweet you back our search results. On our search results we show real-time trending hotels based on checkins on location applications plus mentions in Twitter and Facebook. This shows you where the buzz is for any location. Below Trending Hotels we show Top Rated Hotels Across Social Networks. The results are ranked based on number of positive connections and recommendations a hotel has versus its rating. This is similar to how LinkedIn or Twitter work. It’s the number of connections that matter and reflect influence on social networks. We use the same approach. You can see reviews from real Facebook and Twitter users. If you login using Facebook or Twitter, then you will see reviews from people in your social networks. Logging in with both services gives you greater access to reviews from your network. We also make available reviews and ratings from friend of friends although you can filter that to just friends.
Here is where I would request your readers to please send us reviews and tell your friends to send us reviews. The more social reviews aggregated in a single place, the better experience we will all have in searching for a hotel. This is one of those things we have seen where online social communities reflect real world communities. The more people contribute, the better it is for everyone and we all win.
Thanks to Kul for sharing with us his brand concept. I have to admit, when I first looked at this company I had my doubts, especially with TripAdvisor and Facebook’s link up, enabling you to log into TripAdvisor with your Facebook network credentials. But Kul has taken this much further and it could be a real hit. Currently, the website is in Beta mode and only works for US hotels, but take a look. Hotel Insight will keep a close eye on Funnelscope and bring you the latest developments in the story.