Building A Travel Startup To Change The Way We Share Trips Forever
Tim Fernando and Essa Saulat are the co-founders of Esplorio – Esplorio makes it simple to record and share your travels, by bringing together the things people who use social media are already doing: status updates, taking photos, checking in.
When I was seven years old my class’s English teacher set each of us a somewhat ambitious project to write our own book. Having just moved from the countryside of Oxfordshire, UK to the hills of Berkeley, CA, I imaginatively named my book “Travelling” and the cover had my finest hand drawn depiction of an aircraft flying above some mountains. The booked detailed a family trip to Sri Lanka and then the story of flying to the Bay Area. It contained many crude full page drawings of waterfalls, tea drying machines and the nose cones of aircraft on snake like runways. Years later after returning to the UK, I went on to start my first business.
Alas this business failed and failed fast; it turned out that it was hard to find a good product-market fit when your product was bespoke paper aeroplanes and your market was to fellow ten year olds.
Recalling these events from my childhood I have come to realise three things: 1. I have always been crap at drawing 2. I have always had travel close to my heart 3. I have always wanted to build a business As an adult I went to work for the University of Oxford, I rose through the ranks and was lucky enough to build a team of fantastic people and worked on some exciting projects. Elephant tracking in India using infrasound, one of the first university mobile apps in 2009, optimal advertising positioning research using GPS trackers and so on. My team’s focus was on mobile and geospatial projects. It was during this time that I was visiting Sri Lanka with my then fiancée.
I was trying to surprise her by taking her to a turtle hatchery I had been to. Being a location geek I had used some online service to record this place on a previous visit, but which one? How would I find it? After a few minutes of frantically prodding my phone, I gave up and realised I could just ask someone for directions. Of course, like many men, I decided not to. An hour or two later we finally arrived to see some turtles. I’m pretty sure Emily was not impressed but thankfully, she still married me. It was after this trip that we started Esplorio (then codenamed “scrapbook”), with the aim of creating a better way for people to keep track of and share their travels. After a bit of hacking a prototype together we were accepted by Oxford University’s Software Incubator and in the past year the founders have gone full time on the project.
The founding team comprises of myself as CEO and the talented Essa Saulat as CMO/COO, we’ve been lucky enough to have countless others help us along the way. Today Esplorio makes it simple to record and share your travels, by bringing together the things people who use social media are already doing: status updates, taking photos, checking in. Our beta users so far have been absolutely fantastic, many of them putting hours of thought and testing into our product giving us valuable insights and even more motivation. Our users have travelled to staggering places: the cold of the Antarctic, the warmth and remoteness of Christmas Island and many have used Esplorio to record amazing journeys like The Mongol Rally. [https://esplor.io/trips/k8g96my2j4vnm].
“It takes years to become an overnight success” – Richard Branson
The road to where we are now has been longer, windier and less paved than we expected. When we became entrepreneurs we traded stability, good pay and in some cases the respect of our peers to go build something we believed in. It sounded sexy, pretty glamorous, and different. That is what we see after all, “The Social Network” helped us to forget the uglier parts of startup life.
Of course when you see your metrics rocket up or you get a fanatically loving message from one of your users, the highs are higher than we could have hoped to have had from our previous jobs. We’ve found startup life all about learning as much as possible while also making sure it’s relevant. Without a framework to operate within it’s difficult to know what to learn next.
The best shortcuts we’ve had have been from fellow entrepreneurs and their past pain, so in the same spirit here are some of our tips when building your own startup. * Those who advise you may profoundly affect you, both positively and negatively. Re-evaluate your beliefs methodically if you are ever in doubt about what you’re doing. A simple pros and cons list can quickly set your mind at rest or give you clarity on what you’re doing wrong. * It’s impossible to know everything, but it’s easy to know enough. Don’t be overwhelmed by the breadth of things you will need to understand, take it one step at a time and try to take time to reflect on what you’re doing. * No (wo)man is an island.
Make sure you have a team that believes in your product and has complementary skills. Managing people can be a full time job and as the guys at 37signals say: hire when it hurts. For many of us travel is one of the most exciting, thought provoking and longed-for activities in our lives. Pioneers, explorers, families and friends, have for generations listened to talks, read journals, huddled around photo albums and scrapbooks to hear and see tales of the beautiful, strange and wonderful places that others have visited. Our next key release is our iPhone application which intelligently keeps track of your holidays for you, automatically mapping out the routes you took, the restaurants, hotels and places you spent time at so that you can spend more time enjoying your travels than updating your phone. Esplorio is all about sharing your journeys and we hope you check us out at esplorio.com