SpareFare: Georgi Stavrev
After failing to sell an unwanted plane ticket, and having been swindled by a bogus seller in the past, this entrepreneur decided that enough was enough
Tell us what your business does:
SpareFare.net rescues non-refundable flight fares. We built an online platform connecting people who have bought flights or holiday packages but can no longer use them, with people seeking last-minute deals or discounted travel options.
By transferring their booked non-refundable tickets to SpareFare buyers, sellers are able to partially or fully recover the money they paid for the trips, while buyers get a true discount of up to 50% by not paying the current price of the tickets.
SpareFare provides fraud protection to both sides by acting as an intermediary. The site also incorporates a bidding system to help secure fair ticket pricing.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea behind SpareFare is rooted in a universal experience of modern human craving and frustration.
Our story starts on Craigslist, 2013. I was really keen on a football match and, for lack of any official options, decided to risk it and buy tickets for the match from an anonymous seller there. The seller gave me his name and a UK bank account, so I thought he would be traceable if he tried to swindle me.
Well the long and short of it was that I didn’t get the tickets, it was impossible to stop the money transfer and the police couldn't find the conman. I was left seething, having wasted time and money.
Fast forward to 2014, I realised I would not be able to use a flight ticket due to unpredictable work commitments. Full of misplaced hope, I ended up changing the outbound date two times, until I eventually gave up.
None of my friends wanted the ticket and there wasn’t a scam-free marketplace I could sell it on (Craigslist burned me once, but there wasn't going to be a second time!)
This is when, although I was already working a 55-hour job, I resolved to find time to figure out a way to end such frustrations once and for all. In one year, two enterprising friends of mine, Galena and Zdravko, had joined the effort and our start-up was born!
How did you know there was a market for it?
According to easyjet, 2.6 million of their passengers didn’t turn up for their flights in a year– to us, this implied a 4% no-show rate as easyjet had 65.3 million passengers in 2014.
We conservatively assumed that half of the no-shows are people who are just late for their flights. From the remaining 2%, we again presumed that half of the flights would be too cheap to justify the name change fees.
Finally, using easyjet's no-show rate across all 41 airlines, this leaves us with 6 million passengers who can – and should- resell their flights, but instead their tickets go to waste. Travel insurance does not normally cover these situations, so there is a big market for such tickets.
Additionally, there are many European destinations with very limited flight frequencies, so all flights get fully booked around holiday seasons. Thus, an increasing number of people looking to travel home get stranded due to lack of capacity.
At the same time, the plans of people working abroad change frequently so many happy connections can be made on SpareFare just by introducing buyers and sellers to the possibility of recouping their flight expenses and seeing their families against all odds.
Finally, SpareFare also caters to the environmentally-conscious by design. What we offer can be looked at as the airborne version of car-pooling, by reducing – albeit minutely – our buyers’ personal carbon footprint, and by reusing as many journeys as possible that would otherwise be wasted.
What were you doing before starting up?
We are all (still) working in the City of London – finance, accounting, and law. We all met during our studies at the London School of Economics.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, it has been a goal for all three of us. When you are employed, you work all your life for someone else’s dreams and we want to work for ours instead.
How did you raise the money?
SpareFare runs on the personal savings of its founders, earned with long hours in the office.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The goal is to profit from the generated traffic to the website and moderate advertising. We also charge commission for premium posts.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Probably the biggest challenge has been keeping up with the equivalent of two and a half full-time jobs.
What has kept us running? Determination, motivation, and of course, gradually hiring more people to work on the project – we currently have 10 people involved.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The biggest breakthrough, or at least the most satisfying so far, were the instant positive reviews users shared after we launched the website.
We were quite occupied with improvement work around the platform, so we weren’t expecting feedback saying things like “The site is awesome” while we were still going over our to-do list!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
If you think that you lack determination or motivation for a particular project, don’t waste your time. However, if you possess the combination of determination, motivation and creativity – everything is possible!
What has been keeping us motivated day and night is the final goal – make millions of people happier as they get a refund on otherwise non-refundable travel!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We aim to capture a significant part of the world market for unwanted transferable flights and holidays. Our target in five years’ time is to facilitate 1,000 transactions a day. Our dream goal is 5,000 transactions a day.