Before Itai Marcipar got married three years ago, he researched and booked hotels online for a romantic honeymoon in the south of Spain. “I was 100 percent sure I got the best price,” he says.
A few days later, he decided to upgrade one of the rooms he’d booked. “I noticed that the exact same room I’d already reserved was now 30 percent less,” he says. He began looking at his other reservations and noticed other price changes, some of them significant.
Marcipar rebooked the rooms at the lower prices, but as he was traveling through Spain, he began to brainstorm: He was a recent graduate from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and knew the ins and outs of computer programming. Could he help other travelers avoid overpaying on hotel rooms?
The answer came a year ago when Marcipar launched Pruvo, a website that automates the time-consuming process Marcipar went through manually. You email a copy of your hotel reservation to Pruvo, and the site tracks when a price drops. You’re then given the option to cancel and rebook – either on the site where you made the booking or via Pruvo. The reservation must be cancellable or it won’t work.
If Pruvo finds a better deal, “we tell you to always make the new reservation first so you don’t risk canceling the old one and then the new one is not available,” Marcipar tells ISRAEL21c.
There’s also an extension for the Google Chrome browser so you don’t have to send out emails to Pruvo for each hotel you’ve booked.
As Marcipar and Pruvo’s CTO Regev Brody discovered while programming the service, about 40 percent of reservations drop in price at some point after the initial booking is made. Savings can be as high as 67% off the original price.
Pruvo isn’t the only site that helps travelers save money on hotel reservations. DreamCheaper is the biggest, Marcipar says, but has a major disadvantage. “You need to give them your credit card and they charge 20 percent of any savings,” he explains.
Pruvo, on the other hand, is free to the consumer. The company takes its cut from the booking engines with which it has affiliate relationships – that includes Booking.com, Expedia, Travelocity and more.
Pruvo will show you cheaper rates even from a non-affiliated site. Meaning that if you rebook with that site, Pruvo earns nothing. “We want to make the entire market transparent to the user,” he says. “Other sites force you to rebook through their system.”
Clearly, Marcipar hasn’t put revenue as the main goal… at least not yet. “We dedicated a year in order to learn customers’ behavior,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
Pruvo can do that in part because it is still quite small – just Marcipar, Regev and their head of business development, Doron Nadivi – and has been totally bootstrapped so far.
That’s about to change.
Pruvo is currently raising money through the Israeli equity crowdfunding platform ExitValley. “We set a minimum target of $100,000 and after just one week, passed that mark,” Marcipar says.
ExitValley gives investors actual stock in the company. Marcipar sees that as a win-win. “We get a long-term relationship with people who invest in the company. We are buying ambassadors to be our partners and to spread the message.”
Viral marketing on social media has been key to Pruvo’s promotion. With just minimal Facebook advertising, Pruvo has built up a dedicated customer base. “We’ve helped customers save over $200,000 since we launched last year,” Marcipar says. “And we’ve monitored reservations worth over $6 million.”
Most of Pruvo’s users so far are in Israel, but there’s a rising number from abroad, in particular from Central and South America. That’s not surprising given that business development manager Nadivi is located in Costa Rica. “He was one of our first customers and he was a travel blogger,” Marcipar recalls. “He wrote an article about Pruvo and, over time, we became friends. Four months ago, we asked him to join the company.”
Nadivi is Israeli. After his army service, he went traveling to Latin America and never left. Marcipar also has a connection to the Americas: Although he was born in Israel, his parents are from Argentina and he speaks fluent Spanish.
The Pruvo website is in Hebrew, English, Portuguese and Spanish, and Pruvo can handle bookings in any language, even Chinese. There is a mobile-responsive website but no dedicated app yet. Pruvo hopes to process at least 10,000 monthly orders in Latin America alone by 2018.
Among other Israeli services that also save travelers money include RoomsNinja (more for travel agents than end users) and Fairfly (for business flights). Both companies are profiled here.
So what did Marcipar do with the savings from his honeymoon hotel re-bookings? “We went out to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Madrid,” he says.
A tasty first course for an entrepreneurial traveler.
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