Early 2012 we launched our start up bookyourdive.com, like many start ups it started because we wanted to scratch our own itch.
We where planning a dive trip to South East Asia and there was no usable platform where we could find dive centers clustered in specific regions and where we could see some videos and photos of the dive center and read reviews from other divers. This annoyed me, because as a dive instructor I know that there are a lot of crappy dive centers out there.
It started small with a simple WordPress blog where we added some dive centers from friends and we started blogging. From there we got some great feedback and we decided to pitch the idea on one of the biggest professional dive shows in the world, the DEMA show.
We designed flyers, created a sign up page and we left for the US and returned after 5 days with 5o sign ups and 150 business cards from dive operators who were interested in the idea but did not have the time to have a chat with us. Nice score, I guess we where onto something here.
Back in Amsterdam we bumped into people who liked what we where doing and the fact that we brought back 5o customers with no real site triggered them. To keep a long story short, we got funded (no millions though) and a web develop company in Amsterdam offered us to build the first version of the site for a fraction of the cost it would normally have been.
Now we have a site where we have created 300+ profile pages for dive operators worldwide and where divers can review, compare and book there scuba dive packages.
Besides our tech team who is looking after the code I run the site by my self. I do all, from (online) marketing to link building, content creation, answering e-mails, community management and more.
Get out of the office
The real fun part of all this is that I can run this business from all over the world and since we focus on scuba diving why not get a bit closer to our core audience? And that is what we did. Mid December 2012 we left for Central America and we are now traveling for four months. My girlfriend jumped on the train and we are now running our start up abroad. It is fun and we learn so much from our clients.
From a business point of view it was one of the best things we could have done. Get out of the office and talk to our clients. In order to keep all these balls in the air we use some tools that make our life a lot easier.
I would like to share some of the tools we use.
Buffer gives me the opportunity to curate content for our different social media channels on the go. By scheduling different content I find on the web I am always sure our scuba communities on twitter and on Facebook get the attention they deserve even when I am busy with writing content for our blog.
It would be safe to say that with the help of buffer we where able to grow one of the most active scuba communities on the web. We started with a free plan but now upgraded and we can curate unlimited accounts as we go.
buzzstream is a tool that helps me find link build opportunities When we first started I used all kinds of queries in Google to find guest post options. I had a sheet that I used to keep track of all kinds of metrics and responses from site owners. No buzzstream does all this for me. I am still no buzzstream Ninja but I am able to work the system.
It will need some endurance to understand how it works but as soon as you know the system it works for you. We where able to scale up our outreach within 2 weeks without having to change to much on our workflow.
In order to curate content for our community and to generate ideas for our own blog post we use Feedly. After Google announced they would kill Google reader these guys jumped in the big black hole that Google left behind. The migration of the RSS feeds was seamless and their UX is intuitive and the app works great. Together with Scoop.it these are my favorite content curation apps.
Since we are developing our site continuously we needed to find a way in which we could keep communicating with the tech team back home.
Because we meet so much of our clients in real life we get awesome feedback from where ideas arise for new features. Campfire gives us the opportunity to share and fine tune ideas on the go. It is easy to upload files and to keep track of different threads. No more e-mailing back and forth, we stick to campfire.
We are living the life and to give you an idea I wrote this post sitting in a comfortable chair on a balcony in the middle of the jungle of Costa Rica. This is a shout out to all start up founders, “Go out of the office and use the right tools to help you work more efficient”
[author ]This guest post was written by Rutger Thole of bookyourdive.com, a startup based in Amsterdam that helps users from different regions to review, compare and book their scuba dives.[/author]