The Flybook’s clients provide people with all sorts of fun from guided fly fishing and river rafting trips to walking tours and destination lodges. But for many, managing all those reservations can be a headache. That’s where this Bend-based startup comes in. BendTECH caught up with The Flybook’s co-founder Craig Langer to learn more about the company’s reservation software, the industry it serves and why relaunching their company six years in was smartest move the founders have made.
Startup: The Flybook
Founders: Craig and Megan Langer, Ben Ipsen
Founded: 2006; Relaunched 2012
What does The Flybook do? We make software that helps businesses manage reservations for tours, lodging and outdoor recreation experiences. The more complex and convoluted your reservation system is, the better our system can help. An example of our client might be a destination resort in Mexico that offers its guests activities such scuba lessons and whale watching tours. We manage the whole thing.
How did you come up with the idea? I used to be an assistant principal at a high school. I would spend the summers as a fly fishing guide. I thought that there must be a better way to manage the reservations. We were living in Portland at the time, and we ended up selling our house and cashing in our retirement to fund the first software product, which was aimed strictly at fishing guide companies.
What happened with that first product? We had several hundred clients, ranging from very small to very large outfitters. But, this was our first go at it, and there was ample room for improvement. On the technology side of things, we had a pretty long list of enhancements piled up. We wanted to provide a better user experience. On the business side of things, our pricing model wasn’t creating the right behavior in customers. The combination of all this – over five years’ worth of hard-earned lessons from these outdoor service providers – we knew we could make a better product. We knew we could expand beyond fly fishing. So we ended up starting over.
What did that entail? We decided to target the entire outdoor rec and tourism industry. We really needed something that would scale. We rebuilt our system, made all the necessary enhancements to improve the experience, and contacted all of our original clients to change them to a monthly fee pricing. We actually ended up overhauling all but 20% of our entire client portfolio immediately. We doubled our revenue in that first month.
You landed at BVC shortly after? We did. We didn’t win, but we gained a ton of exposure. And it was a great exercise having all those people put pressure on our business model and try to poke holes in it. We learned a great deal through that process. We had a lot of investors approach us after the fact, but none of the deals were a great fit. We’re still fully bootstrapped.
Are you actively fundraising? No. The door isn’t shut though. If we stumbled upon the perfect partner, we are certainly open to it. We are growing at what we think is a good clip without it, and we aren’t desperate for it. We are a pretty gritty team, and we are all on the same page with the end goal. For now, it’s really nice to make our own decisions and do what’s right for our customers and our business vs. the investor bottom line.
When did you relocate to Bend? Was that a challenge for your company? We moved here in 2013. It’s been great for us. I think this place is filled with competent, passionate smart people who are looking for opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised at the great start-up and entrepreneur community here; it feels great to be a part of it.
How’s business now? We have a 95% retention rate and customers in 48 states and nine countries. We’re set to triple our revenue.
What’s next for The Flybook? We’re continuing to grow and we’ll have some new products to release soon. It’s mostly about getting the word out and continuing to grow.