When I asked Edwyn Chan, Founder and CEO, Spottly, if he had any recommendations on where to go in Osaka, Japan, I should have known that he would pull out a link from his own app. It was a collection of the top places to visit in Osaka, Kyoto, and the Kansai Area. Top places, according to Chan.
Chan’s profile on Spottly is pretty accurate: “Founder and Chief Everything Officer of Spottly. Loves to eat. Have a really bad memory. Wants to remember the best places and make travel research better.”
His way of making travel research better is through an app that helps people collate a list of places they would like to visit, or places they have already visited. Not only can users log information down with photos and text, they can also do so with videos.
e27 chats with Chan to find out more about how Spottly is doing since its inception two years ago, its plans in the next six months, and how the entrepreneur keeps going when the going gets tough.
Here are the edited excerpts:
Can you tell me more about the company?
Spottly is looking to build a more premium version of TripAdvisor to help people find better places to go. We do this through social curation, where users save and collect places they like and they can discover new places to go through people of similar interest to them.
When and how did you come up with the idea?
I came up with the idea sometime in 2011. I have really bad memory and like to save stuff down for future reference. I’m a huge fan of delicious.com (I have been using it since 2005. Too bad it hasn’t improved).
I wanted to note down the places I have been to in my travels so that I could find them again and the places I want to go to when planning a trip. There wasn’t a good solution. I tried Google Maps, but it’s pretty clunky.
As I thought more about the idea, I realised this: Wouldn’t it be cool if I could share my collection of places with my friends as well, then we could swap our travel research?
And so Spottly was born.
How big is the company now?
We are a small team of six.
Has the company received external funding, and if so, how much and from whom?
We received US$850,000 from 500 Startups, Cherubic Ventures, Gobi Ventures and Mindworks Ventures.
What are a few challenges faced by the company?
It’s hard to start a social user-generated content service. It’s all about breaking the chicken and egg problem of content creators and consumers.
We solved it by first making sure it was easy to save places. So that even if there wasn’t anyone to follow or people to follow you, you could use it as a tool. Our initial users all used it for themselves. We then grew from there.
Most of our users that have been with us in the past year so they have seen our product evolve. They would have noticed that the section that changes the most is ‘Explore’. It started from having very little content to ‘Discover’ to having more than 20 featured cities with new ones added regularly.
How does Spottly differentiate itself from competitors?
Most travel services do crowd sourced reviews to derive composite ratings and top lists. Users are writing reviews for these services. Spottly is a place for you to save and collect the places you like and they all live in your own personal profile. Our users have full ownership of their own content.
We believe that finding places to go isn’t a ‘one size fits all’.
We believe that some people know better than others in different cities and have different taste in places. Therefore, we believe user curation (discovering through people who share the same taste as you) is a better model to find places to go to.
What keeps you going when things are rough?
I remind myself how there is nothing else I would rather do. No matter how tough it is, I wouldn’t want to trade this for any other job. It’s a hard puzzle to crack but we think the value that will be created will be worth my while.
What are your plans for the next six months?
Launch a fully functional website. Now that our community has created over 100,000 pieces of content it’s time to take advantage of the long tail user generated content we have accumulated and scale user acquisition from search engines through search engine optimisation.