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Launchpad: Simonseeks.com

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What is it?The latest venture from Simon Nixon, the man behind Moneysupermarket.com. Simonseeks is a new travel website that aims to compete with the mighty Tripadvisor by giving everybody the opportunity to make money from writing about their travels.

How is it different?Contributors to the site receive a share of any revenue generated from bookings triggered by their reviews or from advertising click-throughs. Simonseeks also insists on high quality reviews – a requirement for submissions being published – which sets the site apart from other travel websites with user-generated content.Who is it aimed at? Anybody who likes to travel and enjoys telling other people just how great their holiday was. The range of contributors to the site is broad – from celebrities, travel writers and journalists, to members of the public with a flair for the written word. Simonseeks aims to create an online community of travelers sharing their experiences and benefiting from doing so. If it is targeting a particular type of traveler then it is not apparent from the current website.

What’s the point?Nixon claims the motivation for setting up Simonseeks was his frustration at a lack of quality travel guides – an interesting observation given the range of travel reviews now available online and via other media. It remains to be seen whether others share his frustration, as the unmet need is not immediately apparent. Perhaps this venture is more about Simon Nixon himself – given the name of the site and the invitation to follow Nixon’s travel adventures on Twitter. Who thinks it’s a good idea?Sir Cliff Richard for one. His review of Barbados includes the revelation that the Sandy Lane hotel is a nice place for a spot of alfresco tiffin (my words not his). One of Simon Nixon’s own reviews also recommends Sandy Lane, suggesting this is where he and Sir Cliff hang out together.

What could possibly go wrong?Simonseeks needs scale to be a success. Although the site already has over 1,000 reviews, Tripadvisor can boast 20 million. Any site used by travelers for advice needs to cover a wide range of destinations and places to stay. This is easier if the site is focused on a type of traveler, holiday or on certain destinations. Given that Simonseeks tries to cover all travel it needs to gain scale – fast.

Without scale its only benefit is the quality of reviews but the Sunday newspapers already deliver on this front. Yet the current site content has plenty of room for improvement – telling visitors the Sandy Lane hotel is the best in Barbados is not the level of insight most travelers are looking for.

However, my main concern for Simonseeks is whether there is a need for another travel review website. Moneysupermarket.com was a success because it delivered against a real consumer need when nobody else was offering a similar service. For me, this just isn’t different enough to succeed – whatever Simon says.

For more info: www.simonseeks.com

Justin Wright is a founder of Mangrove Consulting, a specialist innovation consultancy advising companies on how to grow through innovation and entrepreneurship, and is a director of several small businesses. His life has not been the same since the launch of the 5 blade razor – he finds it hard to remember what life was like with only 4 blades…

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