When Gary Kohn founded Luxury Travel Hackers in 2019, he certainly did not predict having his initial business plans thwarted by a global pandemic. While many travel and tourism businesses were going under due to travel restrictions, Kohn was lying in wait. He knew that travel would come back with a vengeance, so he used the unexpected downtime during lockdowns to pivot his focus away from raising money and more towards leveling up his coding skills and learning how to secure funding for a new business. This hard work sustained Luxury Travel Hackers through the worst of the pandemic, leading to a successful go-to-market launch in August 2021.
Even in the early days of building his company, Kohn realized that an Excel spreadsheet wouldn’t be able to capture the growing complexity of his cap table. To establish accurate, organized financial data and set up long-term equity management, Kohn turned to Equiniti’s equity management platform, Astrella.
Gary Kohn and the Beginning of Luxury Travel Hackers
Gary Kohn is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Creative Director of Luxury Travel Hackers. After 25 years as a film and TV producer, he was itching for a new venture. Kohn decided to combine his fascination with technology and his lifelong love for travel into a unique travel company: Luxury Travel Hackers.
Social media is a largely untapped market for travel. Even though 86% of people choose their next vacation based on content they’ve seen on social media, Kohn explains that there traditionally hasn’t been a good way to book vacations through that channel. Kohn saw an opportunity: He could leverage influencers and online content to make vacations bookable on social media.
One travel trend has held true over the past few years: Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z value experiences. They care less about amenities like TVs in their rooms or a glamorous hotel pool than they do about having one-of-a-kind adventures at hidden-gem locations. These are the experiences that Luxury Travel Hackers specializes in. As Kohn says, “We are redefining luxury: We offer five-star vacations on a three-star budget.”
Growing with Astrella
As Kohn’s titles would suggest, being a CEO, Co-Founder, and Creative Director requires wearing many different hats. On any given day, Kohn could be solving problems across departments, looking into how his business will grow and scale, strategizing various ways to develop departments, taking sales calls, or working directly with clients.
Kohn also enrolled in an incubator program where he learned all the financial information he needed to have to grow his business. Having a solid cap table was the first step. It had become increasingly complicated to track all his financial data in a basic spreadsheet. Kohn knew that the longer he waited, the more difficult setting up his cap table would be. He also knew that he wouldn’t be able to attract more investors if his cap table wasn’t easy to understand and up to date.
Kohn’s cross-functional responsibilities had given him the ability to thoroughly understand nearly all aspects of his business. But once it was time to move away from Excel and set up a more robust cap table, Kohn realized he would need additional support.
Kohn describes himself as “an expert in almost every area of my company, except for equity management.” He explains, “There are so many intricacies when it comes to setting up a cap table and understanding the various types of stock options.” He then says with a laugh, “It’s a rabbit hole I tried to go down and failed miserably at. Having cap table software that explains everything and is ‘plug and play’ is super beneficial for me as a founder.”
After going to market, Luxury Travel Hackers went from having six investors cleanly tracked on an Excel spreadsheet to having convertible notes, an equity crowd investing campaign, and employees who had stock—as well as stock options—in the business.
Benefits of an Equity Management Platform
Astrella has been a fantastic solution for Luxury Travel Hackers due to its seamless UX, transparency, and the visibility it provides investors.
Kohn says that, as with any cap table, the most difficult part is setting it up. Fortunately, “Astrella was really instrumental in giving us the support to build [our cap table] out properly. They provided information that was really important; it allowed me to save money in the long run. I could set up the cap table with Astrella and then get my legal team to review it, rather than hiring my legal team to set up the entire cap table.”
After the initial setup, the platform has been straightforward. One feature Kohn frequently uses is Astrella’s robust reporting capabilities. With customizable reporting, Kohn can present the information in different ways depending on whom he is sharing the cap table with. With added context around the figures, potential investors can understand the business’s financial data much more clearly.
Astrella also provides Kohn’s current investors with significantly improved visibility. Rather than waiting for Kohn to send an updated spreadsheet every so often, investors can log in directly to the portal and see the cap table for themselves. It serves as one reliable source of truth that investors and employees alike can access and get an understanding of their investment. This wasn’t possible when the team was relying on an Excel spreadsheet.
Kohn notes that the secure document sharing and storage have been especially helpful for Luxury Travel Hackers. Financial documents can quickly be shared with investors, and if any paperwork needs to be signed, it can be done virtually without leaving Astrella. These official documents can be stored in Astrella’s vault, ensuring that this information is accessible but won’t be compromised.
What Sets Astrella Apart From the competition?
When Kohn sent initial emails out to other equity management companies to learn more about their platform, he was consistently disappointed. These businesses either didn’t respond at all, showed a lack of understanding, or were more interested in selling to Kohn than in nurturing a relationship with him.
But from the moment he connected with Astrella, he knew their approach was entirely different. “The problem with a lot of SaaS companies is that they provide very limited customer support,” Kohn recalls. “As a user, you’ll be limited to a help desk or chat box, and these solutions take a lot of time. At Astrella, it’s really easy to get an email response or hop on the phone with someone, or have someone do a screen share with me and walk me through what I’m having trouble with. It doesn’t require six emails back and forth or waiting four days to find a solution to my problem. They actually publish their phone number.”
Kohn also sees Astrella as partners and says that he asks them questions “constantly.” The team is extremely knowledgeable and can inform Kohn about the nuts and bolts of something that he may not understand. By educating him about certain laws or what different grant options mean, Astrella empowers him to make informed decisions for his business.
Results for Luxury Travel Hackers
Kohn has been thrilled with the results he’s seen while working with Astrella. There is more organization across his business; instead of needing multiple platforms or hiring various consultants, he can update his cap table, model results of new investments, run reports, and share documents in one secure platform. This keeps the team’s financial information organized at a fraction of the cost.
Kohn can also enjoy more time in his schedule to focus on his other responsibilities, knowing that his financial information is in good hands. He spends significantly less time communicating with investors and shareholders because they can log directly into the system to get their questions answered.
With the fantastic customer experience he has had so far, Kohn is excited about the future of growing with Astrella. Once Luxury Travel Hackers reaches Series B and beyond, Kohn knows there will be additional features and support Astrella can provide. Having this relationship has been an incredible experience for Kohn, and he looks forward to the future of both businesses.