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EXCLUSIVE: This Entrepreneur Built A $7B Business Without Outside Funding. Here’s How He Did It

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Tim Hentschel is the CEO of HotelPlanner.com, probably the most important traveling booking platform you haven’t heard of.

Tim’s platform handles billions in transactions a year, powering all the booking sites you know. 

Altogether, HotelPlanner provides group travel technology expertise to over 4.2M group event planners while servicing $7B in group hotel booking requests in 2017.

(They expect $10B in 2018.)

Since launching in 2003—bootstrapped (the way we like it, WealthGANG)—Tim has raised money, paid back investors, scaled the platform to billions in transactional value.

And as of this year, he’s also won Cornell University’s award as Hospitality Innovator of the year, taking the prize from Lyft CEO, John Zimmer.

This is his story.

Solving problems

HotelPlanner.com was an idea birthed from frustration with inefficiency.

“There was a huge pain point in rate procurement process for groups,” he says. “It would take days, sometimes weeks, to get an answer.”

“A sales manager would ask you where your place of work is, all of the details about your contact information. They will come back and continue to keep asking and asking until they give you a rate,” Hentschel explains.

Like a true entrepreneur, Hentschel was able to simplify the group booking process. “We just ask where you are going, what your budget is, the dates and the number of rooms.”

And boom, the business was born.

Next thing you know, Hentschel and co-founder John Prince scored a bevy of Q-rated clients like Best Western, AT&T, and Walmart.

(They’ve since expanded to major sports leagues, including the NBA and NFL.)

Flipping the model

Despite the simplicity of the process, the business model is quite unique. Hentschel says the site launched on the back of an uncommon financial engineering decision.

What it effectively does is enable a reverse auction process—permitting hotels to bid on travel groups.

Whatever the occasion, the users can submit their requirements like the number of rooms needed (with a minimum of 9+ rooms per night) and the dates, and companies will compete to get the business.

Thus ensuring the best rate for the group.

Better yet, the brand has partnered with lots of affiliates like Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, Hotwire, Priceline, helping them tap into an expansive user base.

The process is extremely simple, and leaves no room for extra hassles.

Instead of screening for excess info, HotePlanner.com scratched out all of these requirements.

In addition to the current client list, the travel platform is betting big on expansion through acquisitions.

After its launch, the company’s acquired TravelTicker, Hotel Hotline, and very recently folded accommodation auction site BackBid into HotelPlanner’s suite of services.

It’s a disciplined approach, he tells us. 

“Our initial valuation was based on the cash we needed to reach profitability in relation to the equity we were willing to give up. Our 60 pages of market research helped investors believe that we could hit our targets with a very small initial raise by today’s standards,” Hentschel says.

“Our research was correct, and we hit profitability in our second year, and we never had to raise money again,” he adds.

Bootstrapped growth

In recent years, sectors like hospitality—and especially real estate—have seen a massive influx of capital inflows. One fund’s committed $93 billion to tech investments alone.

Despite all the VC dry powder looking for opportunity, Tim advises startups to stay as far away from funding for as long as they can.

“Think about it,” he says. “That big seven-figure, eight-figure check doesn’t go to you. It goes to the company, and you effectively lose control of your company. It’s business and the VCs can be ruthless.”

Instead, he recommends moving the focus to actually building the business.

“Focus on your core value. We filed a patent for our online group hotel booking technology 15 years ago, and we have been working everyday since to make that technology better for customers and suppliers,” he tells us.

What’s next on the cards?

While his company is busy garnering robust sales, Hentschel’s naturally bullish on the travel industry’s future.

The travel space is wedged into a transitional phase. Baby boomers who are spending their retirement traveling. Then we’ve got millennials prioritizing “experiences” over “stuff.”

“We have been through market bubbles and bursts over the history of our company and the highs and lows can be challenging if your core product cannot adapt quickly to market conditions. We are going to continue to expand globally and follow up with group travel trends,” Hentschel says.

“We want to compile as much data and information about every destination, and push it out to visitors in an easy to digest format.”

And what’s next, Tim? IPO?

“Not yet,” he says, laughing. “Our books are healthy, we’re growing. Maybe at some point in the future.”

ENTREPRENEURS

This Millennial Makes 6 Figures From Selling Other Peoples Stuff

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Check out how this 32-year-old, Mark Meyer, started his business with a $400 loan. He is now making six figures, by selling other peoples items on Ebay and Amazon. He mostly gets his inventory from police auctions, liquidations and abandoned storage sales.

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ENTREPRENEURS

How Dwayne Johnson Became The Biggest Box Office Draw In History

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Dwayne Johnson’s earnings haul has been nothing short of scintillating. In 1998, at 26, he became the then-youngest WWE champion of all time.

Fast forward 20 years later, Dwayne Johnson’s wrestled his way to top of Hollywood’s food chain: For one, he’s the world’s highest paid actor. And he recently became the biggest draw in Hollywood history.

Johnson climbed the Forbes’ rankings to clinch the top spot as the world’s biggest star, trumping fellow actors like George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr.

The Rock’s scripted a superstar success story when it comes to entrepreneurship. After launching his production house with ex-wife, Dwayne soon expanded its operations to cover content strategy for social media platforms.

This big move helped them increase their global footprint.

Several endorsements, WWE stints and numerous action films later, Johnson now commands earnings of eight figures for films and shows. And his journey has only got more exciting by the day.

Bob Iger Insight

Happy to share a lil’ insight from an invaluable mentor and friend, Bob Iger. CEO of one of the most trusted and beloved brands the world has ever known. Building a global brand takes time.10, 20, 30 years.. even more. Sure it takes relentless hard work, passion & vision, but the main thing it takes is TRUST. Building that trust with your audience where they know and believe that you’ll always do your best to deliver a fun, memorable EXPERIENCE. And like any successful relationship, it takes years to build up and you always gotta take care of it with your own two hands. #TimeAndTrust 🌎

Posted by Dwayne The Rock Johnson on Friday, July 20, 2018

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ENTREPRENEURS

VIDEO: How NBA Star Stephen Curry Is Churning Money Off The Court

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NBA’s ace athlete, Stephen Curry, is sitting pretty on a net worth that’s over $90M. Apart from playing for the Golden State Warriors, Curry is an investor and entrepreneur, and very recently turned executive producer, with his feature film, “Breakthrough,” slated for release on April 12, 2019.

Here’s how he makes his millions.

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