Christy Liu, Director of Marketing and Co-Founder of Wanderfly, wanted somewhere to go. So she and her team created Wanderfly, a travel inspiration site that helps people discover new and exciting experiences, based on their budget and interests. Powered by a sophisticated recommendation engine, it currently features 1,200 destinations worldwide and content from nearly 20 best-in-class brands such as Expedia, Foursquare, NileGuide, Yelp and Lonely Planet.
I sat down with Christy and a BLT over lunch today at Spring Natural to talk travel.
Where did you get the idea for Wanderfly?
It’s funny, not one of us comes from the travel industry, but we’re all avid travellers. Our team (of under ten people) speaks eight languages collectively! Each of us needed a tool to help make better decisions in travel. There’s not a lot out there that’s approaching it in a fresh way.
For other aspiring entrepreneurs out there (including myself), how did you go about setting up the business? What was that process?
As a tech startup, we flipped the process that’s usually taken. Normally you build (or have) the product and then try and figure out who it’s for and how to market it. So, it’s execution before startegy. But because of the strengths of our team we took a business-minded approach from the beginning and got a lot of validation before we began to execute.
What unmet need in the travel market does Wanderfly fulfill?
I’m going to throw some numbers at you: 70 per cent of people don’t know where to go when they decide to travel. The average traveller searches 25 different sites before they figure out what they want to do. They need ideas and nobody is helping people make decisions AND inspire them. Travel is such an inspirational experience itself, but the booking experience can be a hassle.
What are some trends you’ve noticed in travel?
Media and content. A lot of historically functional industries have been adding media and content to their offerings, which is great. You should get inspired during the travel booking process, not just during your travels.
Also aggregation. There’s so many travel sites out there already, but if you can bring things together and curate it well – rather than dumping it into one central depository – then it’s useful to people.
What role will social networks play? Integration with other (more travel-related) networks, like asmallworld, gumtree, meetup, etc?
Right now we’re integrated with Foursquare and Facebook. We’ll also be bringing in Twitter feeds (of relevant local news) based on what city you’re looking at. That will help give people a good feel for what’s going on right now.
We’ll also be doing a lot of UGC stuff – allowing people to review cities on different types of themes, for example, “is New York really great for food and nightlife?”
With Facebook, we’re making trip planning more social by offering group planning tools. For example, you can drag friends into your itinerary (to invite them along with you) or you can notify friends in a city you’re visiting that you’ll be in town. So, we’re mimicking how people naturally plan travel.
Does this appeal to a certain type of personality? More adventurous? More tech savvy?
Yes, the curious traveller who is open to new experiences and exploring. This is not for the person who likes to do the same thing each year, know where s/he will be staying, uses the same travel agent, etc.
Where do you see Wanderfly in two years?
Ha, I don’t know what will happen in two days! We try not to have very long term plans. I think about what’s going to happen tomorrow, the day after that.
Either we’ll own travel inspiration – become the Pandora of travel – or we’ll get merged into another travel brand.
Should Expedia.com and Orbitz.com be worried?
We work with Expedia, but yes we’re also competitors. Bigger businesses should be worried in general about how startups and new companies are questioning the status quo. Especially in New York, which is such a hot bed for inspiration and entrepeneurs.
So, yes, big brands should keep on their toes because the small ones will challenge convention.
Who or what inspires you? What is the most exciting / interesting you’ve seen in digital recently?
Gilt. What they’re doing really well is making themselves into an entertainment property.
Dropbox is also great for small companies. They’re not about entertainmentl they’re pure utility, no frills. It just works. I think that’s cool, when certain companies know they’re a tool and just get it right.
And finally, what is your ideal vacation, budget unlimited.
I don’t know, that’s what Wanderfly is for! I look for cultural experiences and food! Not hitting all the hot spots, but wandering around and discovering great things.
Wanderfly is currently in Beta and set to launch within the next few months. BUT as a special So Sticky treat, we’re hooking up 30 of our readers with exclusive Beta access!
1. Go to http://www.wanderfly.com
2. Enter you first and last name and email address
3. Enter sticky in the code box
You’ll receive an email immediately with a password to enter the site. Feedback is very welcome!