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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

Here’s How Apple’s CEO Tim Cook Starts His Day (And What He Does Might Surprise You)

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Apple has became a trillion-dollar company. Despite the tech giant’s great numbers, how does its CEO Tim Cook actually start his day?

In a recent Axios interview, Cook revealed he starts each day just before 4 a.m. with a strict morning routine.

What that consists of might surprise you: He reads user comments about Apple products.

“I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like this that sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us,” Cook says.

In other words, he reads comments from fans, trolls and everything in between.

You’d think the CEO never bothers to read stuff like that; that he’d have an assistant ready to give him the rundown.

“And then I go to the gym and work out for an hour because it keeps my stress at bay.”

Workouts can be super critical. Billionaires and other successful entrepreneurs cite fitness as a key component to their success (and overall sanity).

“I seriously doubt that I would have been as successful in my career (and happy in my personal life),” Branson once wrote in a blog post. “If I hadn’t always placed importance on my health and fitness.”

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Entrepreneurs

Gary Vee’s ‘$1.80’ Instagram Strategy To Hack Your Follower Count

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Entrepreneur and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk—aka Gary Vee!— is one of the biggest business on social media today.

His IG currently boasts 4M followers while his YouTube has near 1.6M subscribers.

The CEO of Vayner Media, Gary uses (and absolutely loves) social media to propel the growth of his business, now valued at a whopping $125 million, which even includes a media franchise.

(And no, WealthLAB’s not for sale, G.)

Obviously, if you’re someone just starting out in business, you’re looking for ways to get your business out there. How to get more followers.

For 90%+, you pick a couple of platforms, you post. More often than not, you end up with dwindling traffic, or no shares or comments.

So how do you get around that?

According to Gary Vee, you can get more followers and more engagement through a $1.80 strategy. (Well, sorta.)

Here’s how you do it.

Make a list of every hashtag that fit the work your business does. Apart from this, check out the other tags people use when generating content similar to yours.

With this in hand, check out any hashtag for the top posts surrounding that description—and then share your two cents about it as a comment.

If you were to do this ten times over, your work would equal $0.02*9 posts*the hashtags= $1.80. (Yeah, kinda corny, but you get the logic.)

Check it out here, in his own words.

Over time, this can help you snag followers, and you will continuously learn about what matters to many of your followers.

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Entrepreneurs

6 Questions You Must Ask Yourself To Improve Your Health And Productivity

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Engaging the right mentality. Whether it’s fitness, business or just self-improvement, setting your personal goals is just like setting any other major goals in life:

You need to be in the right state of mind in order to develop the discipline for progress. 

Below are some mental exercise questions to help you gauge where you are mentally. Ask yourself the following questions.

Q1: Why is it important to be honest with myself?

Being honest with myself not only helps me identify a problem but more importantly, identify a solution. 

By being honest with myself, not only do I give myself an opportunity to understand how I confront my problems, but I also give myself room to understand my priorities and goals.

Q2: What contributed to my current state of health?

Not exercising consistently, eating out on a daily basis, nurturing destructive habits with my current habits and routines. In other words, set a plan to address it—and then do.

Q3: How can I achieve a better state of health?

Follow a workout plan, develop the habit of consistent exercise, hiring a personal trainer who can guide me towards my goals. Create a list of healthy foods to eat, reach out to a friend who has similar goals and work together.

Accountability is everything.

Q4: What has been my biggest setback from reaching my goals?

Procrastination, not having a clear set of goals, and bad habits. It’s really that simple.

Q5: Why have I not applied these solutions yet?

Example Answer: “I’m not sure where to start, I haven’t taken the time to think about these things.”

Q6: Is it possible to change any of the negative answers I listed?

ABSOLUTELY! If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me! 

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