Ryan Bailey, cofounder & CEO, TravelNet Solutions
In 2000, Ryan Bailey was still in college and simultaneosly launching a new software company.
It was the quintessential startup situation. His brother, Charles Bailey Jr., and third partner Darin Anderson were developers; Ryan was the front man — responsible for all things marketing, sales, and delivery.
“The yellow pages was my prospect list and I remember all the calls from my dorm room basement in Duluth that winter. We’ve come quite a ways since then…” says Bailey, trailing off in reflection.
Their pitch was a primivitive software product called Availability Tracker for independent real estate rental owners to publish availability schedules and accept bookings online. It was basic in function, but conceptually novel as convincing people to embrace the internet and start paying was a tough sell at the time.
“I had never sold anything before, but I had always welcomed a challenge, so I read every business book I could find and became an entrepreneur.”
With Ryan’s hustle, they acquired upwards of 400 paying customers in the first two years and broke the six figure revenue mark at a time when the addressible market for online bookings was dominated by big name hotel and resort chains with resources and foresight.
His business took a sharp turn for better in 2002 when Ryan randomly stumbled across a global directory website called ResortsAndLodges.com, a listing of boutique lodging, unique properties, hunting cabins, mom and pop places that was 9,000 names deep.
He immediately inquired with the site’s owner, Michigan-based Polyphasic, about the status and situation — recognizing the database goldmine and cross promotion potential for Availability Tracker.
“Why don’t we just buy it, I thought?”
After crafting an offer and convincing his partners to finance it, they accessed needed capital through debt to purchase Polyphasic in April of 2003 and adopted a new parent company called Travel Net Solutions.
“We just started scaling up on everything right away,” he says in recalling how quickly they adopted a managed services model, went to market, and grew revenue by 10+ fold initially.
That gamble, backed by personal guarantees, achieved an investment return after the first year of integration.
As TravelNet continued to traction, they grew up to 15 employees in the Twin Cities by 2006. Following an amicable buyout of Darin, the company built a 25,000 square foot headquarters in Cottage Grove for their fledgling company, now topping $5m revenue.
Fast forward a few years and TravelNet Solutions would raise a small strategic round for a second acquisition of a promising young product called TRACK Hospitality Software, sourced from Tennesee. Following that deal, with Ryan in at CEO and President, he speerheaded a sales effort that has reached $1m annual recurring revenue for TRACK within that first year.
With two hot irons now in the fire, Bailey pictures a melding between TRACK and the 7.5m-8m unique visitors ResortsAndLodges.com receives annually.
“After all these years, the plan just keeps getting bigger.”
His vision for TravelNet is to touch all unique rental properties with atleast one, if not both, of their products and achieve a dominant position in the market by crushing industry margins by 75% or more. The early results are in, as his company now employs 60 in Cottage Grove fueled by 7.5m in revenue this year.
“We have invested heavily in creating a great team around a philosophy of service,” he says giving credit.
Throughout their 15 years of business, the target market has matured into hundreds of millions of dollars booked online, having become a much more mainstream practice than ever before. He currently counts some 200,000 unique resorts and lodges plus 13m vacation rentals between US and Europe as potential customers.
With intentions of tripling TravelNet’s growth over the next three years, what started as the old college try has turned into the hustle of a lifetime for Ryan Bailey.