Startuptravels is a brand new, two-week old social network for travelling entrepreneurs ‘made with love and coffee in Copenhagen’. e27 spoke exclusively with Co-founder Rasmus Frandsen, who is currently on a Masters programme at Duke University, North Carolina. But studying is only half his life. The other half is getting this new platform up and running — with help from his talented team and co-founders — for the benefit of entrepreneurs all over the world.
Here he talks about the story behind Startuptravels, passion for travelling, crowdsourcing ideas, and more
What’s the background to Startuptravels?
I travel a lot myself. I go pretty much everywhere and what I really like to do as an entrepreneur is get to know other entrepreneurs. For example, I want to know what it’s like being one in Hong Kong, how does it differ from Singapore, and how does that compare to Moscow? I want to get to know the different startup landscapes, know the people there, and make local contacts — I love that.
But for me, it’s very time-consuming to get to know some local entrepreneurs. I’ve been using LinkedIn and Facebook earlier. Now I use Startuptravels, and this works better for me.
So I got the idea for creating Startuptravels. It’s basically about making it easier to be an entrepreneur when you’re travelling. It should be easy to meet local guys, go to local events and get contacts.
What we’re doing is not complicated at all — it’s a social platform for entrepreneurs. You go on the platform, write where you want to go, and from there it brings up a bunch of people from that area. Then you can write to them and say, ‘Hey, I’m coming to Hong Kong at this date. Are you available and do you want to meet?’ It’s pretty simple actually.
It has been a great journey so far. We got the idea three months ago, and we launched it two weeks ago. Since then we’ve had over 10,000 people on our landing page. However, not all users have been suitable for the platform –we have also disapproved some people, since we want to focus on having people onboard who are entrepreneurs or have a connection to the startup environment.
We have at the moment a little more than 1,000 active users on the platform.
Is there a mobile app?
It’s a (web) platform, but it will definitely be an app at some point. Right now, we just have a mobile (web) platform available.
Are you focussed on any regions specifically?
No, we don’t want this to be just, say, an Asian thing, or a Danish thing, or an American thing. We want to create a global community — it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do, as long as you have an interest in entrepreneurship.
Are you self-funded at present?
Yes, we are. We had an earlier venture that went pretty well, so we used the money from that venture in order to do this. It was motivational speaking for high school students, really another sphere.
This is my second startup. I’m 24. I’m not doing it to make money. I want to do this because I have a passion for entrepreneurship and travelling. If I can somehow combine these two things with this venture, I’ll be really happy.
We have (online) city guides, which we definitely want to have for places like Singapore and Hong Kong in the region. That’s in order to try to encourage people to travel some more, see some new places. So say you search Hong Kong, and find eight entrepreneurs there, you can then refine the search for someone you want to meet with a specific skill.
For example, you want to meet someone who’s into web development. That further limits the search. You can then message him saying, ‘Hey Brian, I’m coming to town. Want to meet?’ Or you can propose a meetup with him at a certain date and location.
I’m a believer in the lean startup methodology. Since we started this, people have come forward with ideas and suggestions for what they want on the platform, and they can up-vote or down-vote these ideas. For example, an entrepreneur called Tina wanted to search for events, and not just for people. Everyone can then discuss this and you can see this one has had quite a lot of up-votes, so it’s something we are looking into right now.
So crowdsourcing ideas?
Exactly. It’s all new, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do. But we’re getting great feedback and people love it. In the last two weeks, about 100 meetups have already taken place.
How are you going to ensure enough people are on the platform so that others also want to join?
I think the problem is two-fold. On one hand, you want to get a lot of people on board to have a critical mass and make sure that there are people there whom you want to meet. But on the other hand, you don’t want to have people onboard who are not there to engage with others. So right now, when you search for ‘Copenhagen’, you have to go through 10 pages of people and you’ll probably never get to even the sixth page.
We’re different in that way. We want people on board who want to meet and connect with other entrepreneurs, so that every time a user goes through the sign-up flow, we will decide whether to approve or disapprove them. We are not just approving everybody who comes on the platform. I really believe that high user quality is important in this case.
Can you keep up with screening new users as thousands begin joining?
(Laughs) Yeah, that would be a good problem I guess. Right now, we have gone through tonnes on ideas of how we should do this, but I think the best idea is to go through them manually. And also, every time a new user comes on board, we are actually writing a new message to them to welcome them. We ask about their prior experience and why they want to be on the platform.
Again, this is a lot of work, but I get tonnes of feedback, tonnes of good comments from people, and because of that I’m certain we will have a pretty amazing platform in the end.
Are you against making this a subscription or payment model?Right now, there is no payment at all. We’re working on the business model and have some ideas, but that’s not a focus as of now; it’s about getting the right people on board.
When you search for someone, can you see if you share any connections?
That’s funny, it’s one of the most up-voted ideas. This is, therefore, something that we are looking into creating as a feature on the platform.
This e27 exclusive with Startuptravels Co-founder Rasmus Frandsen continues in Part 2.