Wanderant is a website and smart phone application that organizes the best travel tools for inspiration, research, and booking into a single planning workflow powered by a proprietary decision engine. By providing a one-stop shop, Wanderant with branches in New York, Sofia and Madrid, is providing its clients with a simpler and hassle-free way to travel.
KITE: Before discussing Wanderant specifically, please explain how the Wanderant team came together? Was there any particular mentor or catalyst behind the company’s formation?
Wanderant: We came together bonded by our frustrations with travel planning, as well as a good team, and lucky timing. Itai (CEO) and I were working at the consulting firm McKinsey – we worked hard, so we wanted our vacations to be perfect! At the same time, our third co-founder and high-school friend Todor (mobile lead) had just left his job at Google and was on a 3 month long trip around the world before plunging into entrepreneurial endeavors. As we talked, we realized that we not only shared frustrations of time wasted planning trips and a vision for a simpler planning workflow, but also had the ability to make it happen (Todor has created and launched multiple apps with 3+MM downloads, and Itai and I had just won the $50k 1st prize in the national FinCapDev app development competition).
KITE: What do you consider to be the top features of Wanderant that differentiate it from competitors? Why is this product relevant?
Wanderant: Our workflow approach to planning. Wanderant is the first end-to-end travel planning workflow: we guide travelers from initial inspiration through planning logistics (order of the trip, accommodation, transport options), and give access to all this information during the trip through our mobile app. Other tools tend to focus on a piece of the puzzle – e.g., inspiration or bookings – while our mission is to link the best available tools into an intuitive process built from a user perspective.
The pain we’re solving – the effort required to put together a trip – is felt by most leisure travelers (some cope with it by not planning at all!). Our early adopters, ‘über-planners’ (20-30% of travelers), spend over 40 hours planning a trip. We cut down the time and hassle, but keep the fun of discovery.
KITE: Your target client is the ‘über-planner’, are Wanderant’s services applicable to the ‘last-minute planner’?
Wanderant: Yes, they are – in two ways – by helping them get a bit more organized while planning and through our mobile app on the go! Let me give you an example – my husband and I are non-planners. On our honeymoon to New Zealand we somehow arrived in Auckland on Christmas Eve with no place to stay and no rental car reservation. We had spent at least 10 hours looking at maps, options, things to do; and another 10 hours watching Lord of the Rings. In our minds we had done everything we needed for our trip. If only we had a tool that knew our end-to-end intentions and could highlight the gaps in bookings!
We’ve spoken to many travelers over the past year, and what sets apart planners and improvisers is where in the process they need help. Über-planners need clarity on logistics so they can make a predictable plan ahead of time; last-minute planners value on-the-go suggestions for local finds. A good travel tool provides an integrated solution to both planning and on-the-go support, and also appeals to the casual planner (middle 60-70%). As we build up our local content database with the help of the über-planners, we will become increasingly relevant to the casual planner and the last-minute planner.
KITE: Founded in October of 2013, having adapting and developing the product through user feedback the company is already on track to meeting its target of 15 thousand users by the end of 2014. One means of doing this has been through the already established partnerships with national tourism boards around the world from Austria to Japan to Brazil. As a startup, in terms of marketing and communicating your product / brand, what have been some of the most rewarding and/or surprising tactics?
Wanderant: We’re excited about our partnership with Austria.info, the online portal of the Austrian Tourism Board. We’ve integrated our planning functionality into their site so that their users can immediately start building a plan based on a place they like. We are testing whether taking concrete steps makes it more likely to follow through and visit Austria. At the same time Wanderant enjoys additional visibility and traffic. The Austrian Tourism Board has been a great thought partner and we are working on providing planning functionality to other tourism boards as well.
KITE: To date where is your current largest consumer market and what are some of Wanderant’s goals in terms of penetrating other markets?
Wanderant: Our early adopters are English-speaking independent travelers who love a well-planned trip. They already put a lot of effort into the planning process, and feel the pain Wanderant solves. They’re wonderful because they are willing to invest the time and thought to help us make the product better for them. As the process and our ability to provide relevant recommendations for local hidden gems improve (with the help of our early adopters), we’ll be able to expand towards casual planners and last-minute planners. Further down the line, we aspire to be a solution to travelers from emerging markets like China and Latin America with adapted content in Mandarin and Spanish.
KITE: With regards to investors, what is Wanderant looking for from potential future investors? And in return, what are some of Wanderant most appealing qualities that they can offer investors?
Wanderant: Our ideal investors relate to our approach and will contribute expertise in the travel space or in scaling up a consumer-facing organization. We offer early access to a high-growth opportunity, and a team which has the vision and ability to execute. Our prototype is in open beta and is generating traction and feedback we can learn from. We’ve successfully worked together for almost a year building a team and putting in place disciplined processes that emphasize customer focus, data driven decision-making and software quality which were at the core of the success of our former firms Amazon, Google, and McKinsey.