Using the Internet to book services such as car rentals is now routine for many drivers and travelers. Internet booking capabilities, however, exist almost solely for global operators and franchises. Barriers to entry for SMBs include the high cost of development and the need to cover a minimum territory before entering into a global distribution system (GDS). In 2004, travel industry veteran Stathis Katinas teamed up with software architect Tristan Mcevan to support these small and mid-sized car rental operators, creating a tool to give them a greater online presence.
Car Rental Bookers offers the general public more choices for booking cars by harnessing the power of both local and franchise companies. They also provide software to suppliers and allow those suppliers to maximize car rentals through online booking, as well as distribution software for the bookings. The company’s first site, carrentalbookers.com, served as a pilot for their distribution software, which is now known as CarGDS. The industry’s very first deliveries platform, this unique back-end system increases revenues for suppliers by expanding their market into wider territories.
Katinas is a veteran of the travel industry who began his career managing and owning a family-run holiday complex in his native Rhodes, Greece. He transitioned into the car rental industry in 1996, and from there he moved his attention to online travel. Co-founder Mcevan has spent over 15 years in software development and also gained entrepreneurial experience after founding his first software company in 2002. The two began their venture by reaching out to local car rental companies. They discovered common ground in that all businesses desired an Internet presence but didn’t know how to go about establishing one.
As Katinas’ former car rental business was housed in the same complex as his family’s holiday business, the two co-founders moved into his vacant offices. As a result, CarGDS was first implemented locally in Greece, as well as in Cypress. Car Rental Bookers targets primarily car rental operators: those without an online presence, those with basic sites that do not address inventory, and those whose sites cannot provide easy delivery methods. In addition, the company reaches out to affiliates that would like to offer car rental services through their websites.
The business’s core network now comprises two parts. Website owners can add the CarGDS software to their public-facing site and become affiliates through the shared technology. CarGDS also provides a customizable supplier SaaS, with a back-end administration that includes fleet, locations, insurance and reporting. Suppliers install the software on their sites, which displays their inventory and offers an instant booking service for clients. This technology expands the supplier’s market to include not just cities and towns, but airports, railways stations, resorts, hotels and ports. Using CarGDS also makes that supplier’s services available on the Car Rental Bookers affiliate network.
Car Rental Bookers has developed a simple pricing model for their network. Affiliates are provided a free network subscription and receive commission on sales after incorporating Car Rental Bookers’ 5%-10% charge. Suppliers may list products and services free through the site, with a commission added to the rates they provide. To integrate CarGDS into their own sites, suppliers pay a monthly subscription fee of between €50 and €500, depending on fleet size and location.
The CarGDS system is just now reaching completion, as it has been developed with limited resources. Car Rental Bookers is bootstrapped to date, with the founders taking a lean approach to business. Carrentalbookers.com is profitable and brings in approximately $50,000 in revenue per year.
According to Katinas, system development financing is almost complete. In 2013, Car Rental Bookers will focus on financing their marketing strategy. In an estimated two to three months, the supplier SaaS will also be finalized. And with more than 250,000 cities and towns globally, combined with the average 20 million visitors to Greece per year alone, the addressable market is a large one.
Car Rental Bookers has already expanded to service approximately 70 countries, with the most customers in Greece, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, and South Africa, in addition to U.S.-based business.
This segment is a part in the series : The 1M/1M Incubation Radar 2012