WSU students to roll out Go KEFI travel website
Startup Weekend champ will test idea on campus
Judith SpitzerMarch 12th, 2015
Three Washington State University students who have developed Go KEFI, an affordable adventure travel website, say they are poised to test the platform on the Pullman campus.
Amanda Scott, a WSU senior who generated the idea for the website, pitched the business concept at Startup Weekend Spokane last November and won the entrepreneurial competition.
The team hopes to roll out the Go KEFI.com site to WSU students by next month, with what it calls a “minimum viable product,” or MVP. They’re also gathering names for focus groups to test out the concept, and are working on a business plan, as well as attending other business competitions.
Last year before spring break, Scott searched online travel websites to find just the right adventure to get away from it all with her mom. She felt exhausted, she says, having to go from one website to another to locate the availability of hiking or sports activities at a given venue, and then go to other websites to find out about transportation and lodging.
“We only had so much money. We wanted to go someplace warm. We wanted to hike,” Scott says. Frustrated with the online search via travel websites, Scott remembers thinking there must be a site that has all the information in one place. “Everything we do is so easy because of the Internet. Not so with travel,” she says.
Scott says she and friends at WSU also love to take weekend trips—small adventures she calls them, to destinations where they hike, explore, or generally just have fun.
She talked about the idea with fellow WSU students Monica Bomber, a chemical engineering major, and Troy Carpenter, a finance major, and the students used it for a class project.
From there, the idea for a website was born that would cater to people seeking the type of travel experience they desired combined with their travel budget. They decided to use the word kefi, which is a Greek word meaning “a life filled with joy and happiness,” Scott says. The three students spent the semester developing the idea of a web-based platform that could do it all – provide information about flights, lodging, events and available pursuits … even weather.
“We wanted to create a platform where anyone can go and answer a few survey questions about what they’re looking for, and have the program narrow down the data to fit specifics based on the criteria that’s been input,” Scott says.
Concept in hand, the students entered Startup Weekend Spokane last November and came out winning first place for the weekend. Among their prizes was the chance to make a pitch to Spokane’s Angel Alliance and 40 hours of website development, as well as free business cards through Spokane-based Rainmaker Creative.
“We’ll use these to promote Go KEFI at trade shows, and also on campus with WSU students when we go to test the product,” Scott says.
They have also independently created a marketing video to get people excited about the launch. She says the team reached out to millennials, the age group they feel are their website’s target market, and asked them to share their video clips, which they incorporated into the video. “We want our users to see what their experiences could be like by using Go KEFI, Scott says.
“We are entering business plan competitions and feel like the video will be a great asset for those competitions,” she adds.
Scott says she produced the video using some of the user content.
“We’re thrilled with the response so far. We currently have 160 individuals who have signed up saying they want to test the product, and this number is growing daily, especially since the release of our video,” she says.
Since November, co-founder Monica Bomber has been part of the team researching Go KEFI’s target market and the travel industry as a whole. She says at first the team surmised they would be targeting an older demographic until they discovered that millennials spend almost as much on travel as baby boomers.
“Millennials are spending about $3,200 a year on travel, while baby boomers spend only a couple hundred more on travel. The deciding factor is that millennials have more volume,” Bomber says.
After more research on demographics, the team decided to split up marketing dollars between Facebook and Google AdWords, an online marketing tool, based on how much it costs to acquire new customers.
She says the team also discovered that its target market is very experience-driven, so part of the platform will be dedicated to users who will be able to post their own experiences, as well as photos, on the website.
Scott says the concept includes monetizing the site by working with affiliate programs such as Expedia and others to pull information into the website while keeping Go KEFI’s branding.
“The website has the look and feel of Go KEFI, but we’ll pull information in about airlines, car rentals, bookings … so it looks seamless,” she adds.
The three co-founders are seeking investors in the project and have entered several other business competitions hoping to gain exposure, Bomber says.
“We believe in the idea and we think there’s a market for this,” she says. “Now we want to see what unbiased sources say. We want views from other people. Now it’s more about how do other people feel about our idea.”
The students also have been working with Ann van Leeuwen, president of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA), who has provided advice on the travel industry as a whole.
Scott says Ann Van Leeuwen is a member of Go KEFI’s board of advisers.
“She assists us with everything related to the travel industry. Her immense amount of knowledge and expertise are invaluable to our team. She sends us a lot of industry statistics and research, and also assists us in acquiring the correct legal documentation for the travel industry and helps us prepare for trade shows,” Scott says.