From left, Nancy Cole, JD Lasica and Giacomo Balli of Cruiseable (taken with JD’s iPhone).
Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, angel investors, venture capitalists, cruise industry representatives, travel bloggers and podcasters, tourism boards and organizations, marketing professionals, brand managers, journalists, trend watchers.
Ijust landed in Miami for the biggest cruise conference of the year, Cruise Shipping Miami, now in its 30th year (otherwise I would have been at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin).
The reason? We’re preparing for the launch this summer of Cruiseable, the startup that CTO/mobile app wiz Giacomo Balli and I are co-founding, with massive input from cruise and travel journalist Carrie Finley.
While other startups typically go stealth before launch, we decided to go social instead. (I gave a talk at a startup conference last June about The Social Startup.) The reasons are twofold:
• We’d like to hear from potential business partners, angel investors and team members. We already have three angels on board, including a partner in Google Ventures, so drop me a line if you’d like to see our business deck or to discuss a business collaboration. (Early seats at a great valuation are going fast!)
• We’re not afraid of other startups jumping into the fray. Lord knows, the cruise industry can use more mobile and social innovation from any and all up and comers!
At Cruise Shipping Miami, I’ll be meeting up with well-known cruise bloggers like Ralph Grizzle and Sherry Laskin, podcaster Doug Parker of Cruise Radio fame, travel photographer JD Andrews and reps from several cruise lines and tourism organizations.
I’ll also be speaking briefly on Tuesday at the Social Media Club South Florida, founded by my friend Alex de Carvalho. (If you’re in Miami, come on by, it’ll be an interesting conversation about Facebook ads — and it’s free!)
And next Tuesday, March 18, I’ll be speaking on a panel at Eye for Travel’s Social Media and Mobile Strategies for Travel, alongside speakers from Hotel Tonight, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and USA Today. (Contact me for a 15% discounted ticket.)
Cruiseable: Bringing mobile & social innovation to cruises
I’ve mentioned Cruiseable in passing over the months but haven’t explained what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. So, some quick context:
• Cruiseable will be a visually rich content and community website and tablet app that gives people an all-in-one solution for discovering, planning and booking great cruise vacations.
• Are we a technology startup, a travel company or a travel agency? Yes. Are we an app or a publication? Yes.
• We don’t have a site or blog up yet, but you can sign up to be alerted of when we’re ready to go live. Phase two will include a smartphone app for on-board experiences.
• Is a cruise startup a surprising leap for me? Not at all. My background includes journalism, social media marketing (“growth hacking,” if you prefer the trendy new term), business consulting, design, photography and heading up content teams at several startups. All of that experience comes into play in my role as co-founder.
• We’re in the process of building a cruise community, soliciting cruise and travel ambassadors, working with content contributors, transforming marketing collateral into vetted, reputable experiential travel journalism, creating structured data out of the mess that is today’s cruise vacation ecosystem, and digitizing the heavily analog sales and planning process that currently dominates the cruise sector. (Interested? Let me know!)
We’re already making considerable progress on a number of fronts:
• We have a solid team of advisors from Google Ventures, veterans of Priceline, Trip Advisor and Virgin America.
• Giacomo is developing the app.
• Coders Mill, a Krakow development shop, is creating the back-end database and a modest content management system.
• Carrie is starting to tee up original content.
• Shannon Kircher in Anguilla is bringing a strong curation component into the mix.
• We’ve signed a deal with Get Satisfaction as our community enabler.
• Angel investor Joe Hurd of Katama Group helped with introductions to influencers in the travel sector.
• We received some important early legal direction from Rick Arnold of White Knight Legal in Silicon Valley.
• And the capable Silicon Valley law firm Walker Corporate Law got us registered as a Delaware C Corp last October. Do you like our official name? We’re the Agile Travel Group, Inc..
We’re also on the radar screens of multiple angels and early-stage VC companies now.
I’ll have many more updates for you during our startup journey on the Cruiseable blog as we get that going, along with screenshots of the app. But I thought it was finally the right time to officially announce our plans, given that many people have asked me about why I’m stepping away from my strategic social media consulting businesses Socialmedia.biz and Socialbrite.
Cruiseable is why. And you can’t launch a startup if you’re not committed 110%. Wish us luck! JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.