Haas Venture Aims To Disrupt Travel Industry by: Nathan Allen on August 15, 2015 | 4,718 Views August 15, 2015 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit The Wetravel dashboard APPROACHING THE MBA AS AN ACCELERATOR The two met on their first day at Haas and quickly established a common bond through their mutual passion for travel. And with tuition fully covered, they approached the experience like a two-year accelerator. Koeppel shared his idea in Sara Beckman’s Problem Finding, Problem Solving course. Prabowo was intrigued. They spent time flexing the muscles of the Berkeley entrepreneurship network, worked in Berkeley’s accelerator, SkyDeck, and became disciples of the lean startup method, preaching the good word of quick products and immense customer feedback. “We would never be where we are right now without the past two years of guidance from all of the entrepreneurs connected with Berkeley,” Koeppel insists. Toby Stuart and Rob Chandra’s entrepreneurship course was particularly helpful for Prabowo and some initial seed funding for WeTravel. Chandra, a senior advisor for one of the top Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Bessemer Venture Partners, can leave budding entrepreneurs in awe. “He was on a first name basis with Steve Jobs,” Prabowo exclaims during our conversation. “He’s very humble and nice. And he trusts us so much, he became one of our initial angel investors—and one of the earliest ones.” New Venture Finance, taught by Adair Morse, has also provided guidance on Koeppel’s early fundraising efforts. “It’s taught us how to ask for money from one person and how to ask differently from another group,” Koeppel explains. “It’s been a real eye-opener for me.” SPURNING HUGE OFFERS FOR A DESIRABLE TEAM Prabowo spent his MBA summer at a “dream internship,” working for EatWith, which he describes as the “Airbnb for restaurants.” In that role, he was fully immersed in the life of an early stage venture in Silicon Valley. “I helped them set up the San Francisco office and helped them get investment from Greylock Partners,” he says. “This opportunity gave me the ability to break into Silicon Valley and that gave me access to many opportunities.” Koeppel reached out to Prabowo to ask if he wanted to join as a co-founder for WeTravel. At that point, WeTravel had raised about $60,000 in investments, mainly from friends, family, school competitions, and scholarships. The two offers in his pocket were to be “director of Southeast Asia for a multi-billion dollar tech companies.” Koeppel wasn’t confident he’d get Prabowo’s services. “I didn’t think he would actually join us, but he did,” Koeppel says. Prabowo’s broad range of professional experiences, from working for a top international consulting firm to government work to creating his own volunteer matching platform to decide to work for WeTravel, serves him well. “It’s not about the brand. It’s not about the product. Of course it’s important, but the most important thing is the team,” he says. “We are like buddies, but we’re also colleagues.” ONE-CLICK TRAVEL OPTIONS Koeppel has drawn upon previous struggles and frustrations to provide the easiest and most user-friendly possible way to organize travel for large groups. “Think of us as an Eventbrite, but specifically for group travel,” says Koeppel. The process is simple. First you type in your destination and dates for the trip. Then you decide if the trip will be public (anyone going to the site can view) or private, where you have a link to send to those you want to view it. After that, it takes a trip overview, description, itinerary, and pricing until you can start inviting people. You can literally plan the trip and invite anyone in less than five minutes for free. Once you invite people via the shared link, they can start signing up by putting down a deposit of your choosing . “Our platform really automizes this whole process—it gives you one-click solutions,” Koeppel explains. “They join immediately, they pay you immediately on the platform.” But what if someone who’s laid a deposit down hasn’t paid in full? “If you think about a big group of MBAs, this will probably be about half the group at first,” says Koeppel. “Normally, this would take going back through Excel sheets and cross-checking who has paid and who hasn’t and then sending emails. Our platform does this all with one click. MBA students are smart people but what they don’t realize is how painful it can be to follow-up on emails, asking for late payments, and that 70 to 80% of the trip planning is organizing all of that.” For international trips, WeTravel will also allow you to skip losing money on wire transfers when booking lodging or anything else ahead of time in another country. “What most people don’t know is normally the way it goes is when you do an international wire-transfer, money will be withheld from their personal bank account,” Koeppel says. “And commercial banks give you really, really bad exchange rates. They usually take 3% to 5% on top of the market rate. We have professional b-to-b brokers that give a much better rate—it’s about half of average credit card companies or commercial banks. We saved a Japan traveler from UCLA last year thousands of dollars, because we transferred the money with our own b-to-b broker to their travel agent in Japan instead of a Bank of America wire-transfer.” The two are incredibly confident their platform is ideal. “If you organize a trip for five or eight people, that’s fine,” Koeppel begins. “But once your trip size reaches 15 people, it gets so much more complicated. And once the trip is more than 20, 25 people, it’s just a no-brainer to use us. It’s free and it just saves you so much time.” FULL SCHOLARSHIPS ESSENTIAL TO VENTURE Six months after launching WeTravel, Koeppel and Prabowo say they have had more than 60 trips organized, with more than $600,000 has “flown through” their platform. Both Koeppel and Prabowo admit having full scholarships were instrumental and according to Koeppel. Launching WeTravel would have been impossible without the scholarships, especially for Koeppel on a non-profit salary. “If I were $220,000 in debt now, I might have to choose a different career path,” he notes. Still, for these two, anything but founding their own venture just wouldn’t do. “It wasn’t attractive for me to work for an app that will cause people to spend more time on their phones. Instead, we want to use technology to bring people together in the real world,” says Koeppel. DON’T MISS: ‘LEAN STARTUP’ REVOLUTION SWEEPS THROUGH BUSINESS SCHOOLS; WHY BUSINESS SCHOOLS ARE STILL MISSING THE MARK ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP Previous PagePage 2 of 2 1 2 Comments or questions about this article? Email us.