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Zoom and Go – Truth in Travel
Jonathan Haldane is the creator of a unique travel web site called Zoom and Go. On Zoom and Go, travelers submit pictures, reviews and even videos of themselves and their opinions regarding cities, hotels, and attractions. Their opinions often give a more realistic look at a hotel or resort, something unavailable on any other travel site.
Looking back through Haldane’s upbringing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, it’s easy to see how he ended up with a media-based travel site. Haldane’s dad is a film director who started the Director’s Guild of Canada and his mom is an actress. Although both advised him not to go into show business, their influence and experience shaped his destiny anyway.
Haldane has been a creative entrepreneur from the start. In 1987, Haldane graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor’s of Commerce based on a full academic scholarship. While in college, he started a guerilla-style tag game played with a plunger dart-gun. Each student player received a random photo of another player. If you saw the person whose photo you had drawn and shot them with the dart gun, they were eliminated. The photo they had drawn would then pass to you and you hunted down that person until there was only one player left, who then won a fantastic Caribbean vacation. By Haldane’s junior year, over 1,000 students were playing and he franchised the game to three other universities.
After graduation, Haldane went into commercial real estate and got a great practical education in finance and best use of property, but soon an opportunity arose to attend the prestigious USC film school. While there, he connected with a powerful Hollywood family and got a taste of life in the fast lane. Summer in the Hamptons, private jets, A–List parties and partnering in a production company were all a part of the whirlwind. By the time he graduated with a Masters in Film Production in 1995, he was very experienced in media production and familiar with the maxim, “Trust No Friend”.
Soon after, when life had returned to what most of us consider normal, Haldane licensed the rights to create the multimedia version of Fielding’s Travel Guide. While producing the guide for the Caribbean, Haldane noticed that the “golf course” advertised by the resort was actually three holes in a mowed section of the lawn. It was obvious that potential customers only saw what the resort wanted them to see in brochures. Haldane realized that here was a need for truth in travel and that many places people visit don’t turn out to be as advertised. If he could create a site where people could have the benefit of other travelers’ experiences, the travel market would come to him.
Haldane’s film background gave him the idea to collect all the pictures and video content for an online-rich media hotel and travel guide Next, he went to designers and programmers to get the site together and raised the first ¼ million from an early stage venture firm, friends and family in 2000. After 9/11, additional financing dried up and his personal credit was used to shore up the business. At one point, Haldane even convinced employees to forgo or take reduced salaries for 3 months to keep the company solvent.
It was clear that new revenue streams were needed, so Haldane created a marketing research tool for the hotel industry allowing the hotels to survey and respond to recent guests’ concerns online. The security of travelers became much more of an issue, so Haldane added security information. He began paying travelers to submit pictures, videos and reviews to make sure that people who booked through the site had an incentive to post their thoughts, videos, and on-camera reviews after returning from a trip.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
Currently, most travel sites can only list and book about 55,000 of the approximate 225,000 hotels worldwide and each of these sites display the same standard promotional hotel images. Zoom and Go lists about 90,000 places to stay, and plans to have pictures and video content for every hotel in the world within the next two years. One video clip sent in by a traveler explains how to ask for, “one more beer, please,” in German, a must if you are going to Munich or Berlin, so this is not your average travel web site. Clearly, Jonathan Haldane, like many other people we profile is not your average entrepreneur.
- Case History: Zoom and Go www.zoomandgo.com
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Carve out a niche by providing a unique service in a crowded market.
- Could This Work For Me? Many entrepreneurs are in competitive markets – what unique service can you provide that will move customers to your business?
Haldane has been a creative entrepreneur from the start.