Hack your upcoming travel plans with Seatfrog
Seatfrog, founded by Iain Griffin makes upgrading your train ticket, easier and quicker than ever before. The easy-to-use app allows passengers to bid on seats up to 24 hours before travelling to offer them the opportunity to travel in style for a fraction of the original price. We caught up with Iain to find out what makes the company tick, and how he juggles being a CEO, and dad to twins.
What was your eureka moment?
I travelled a lot for business before founding Seatfrog, often on trains where I was surrounded by empty seats in 1st class or upgrading was complicated and expensive. At the same time, the statistics showed that over 570 million 1st class seats travel empty every year in Europe. A big, two-sided problem that needed to be solved.
What is your elevator pitch?
Seatfrog’s app helps 1000’s of people upgrade to 1st class across over 500 destinations every day, without the big price tag. Just download the app, add your trip and bid for the seats you want to upgrade. The auction runs from 24hrs prior to departure, but you can buy it now instantly if you want. Upgrading to First Class has never been easier.
How did you test your idea?
Quickly and ruthlessly. The key is getting out there and talking to your audience. We built a basic prototype and jumped on trains, talking to hundreds of people across the UK. This helped us iterate quickly and build a product that was ready to rock. We signed Virgin as our UK launch client, tested Seatfrog 1.0 across 100’s of trains every day for 6 weeks and rapidly iterated to get the product ready for scale. Experimentation is still core to everything we do today.
Is encouraging Slow Travel something that you considered when launching Seatfrog?
That’s a great question and we really think that the journey used to be something people enjoyed, but today it’s become something people endure.
When we launched, we were focussed on making 1st class travel more accessible, aiming to fill those 570 million empty seats. Seatfrog has grown rapidly to cover 1.4Bn journeys, so we now have the chance to make a more lasting impact. We’re now expanding what we do to truly help people fall back in love with the adventure of the journey again.
What’s the most challenging thing you had to overcome while setting up the business?
Maintaining focus in the team. It’s easy to get distracted, especially in a category that has many problems to solve. But focus is critical. It’s why most startups fail. The most successful companies solve one problem and do it amazingly well. Find your product-market fit and then put all your energy into creating the best experience for your most important users.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
First, pack your bags with plenty of resilience for the ride. The nature of disrupting something that exists means there are a lot of people who are used to how it has been. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, and resilience is key to overcoming this.
Second, throw away your management books or MBA formulas, these all assume that great companies follow a formula. The truth is they don’t. The most successful companies don’t imitate, they build products that disrupt and can’t be copied.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
Having a coach/mentor. If you were trying to win the Olympics you wouldn’t do it alone, so if you’re trying to build an incredible company then you need to recognise that being a founder is no small task. Your team won’t understand the huge sacrifices you have made, they definitely won’t thank you for it, and nor should they. So having someone to work with 1 on 1, helping you jump those hurdles makes a huge difference.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Balance feels like an insurmountable task, but it’s not if it’s part of your daily routine. I rise early, get in early, eat well and I’ve always been very active. I personally find regular slots, protected in my diary to train and play sport really helpful. My wife and I were also incredibly lucky to have twins last year, a boy and a girl, which adds another dimension so making sure I rock as a father. That’s at the top of the list right now.
You can find the Seatfrog app on the App Store or Google Play here.