As tech-savvy travelers, we’re so over collecting trinkets and tacky souvenirs. Instead we want to come home with a suitcase full of experiences, connections, and stories.
That’s what Seamless Planet is all about.
We’ve turned our passion into a project and are now working on becoming the one-stop destination for independent travel agents and activity providers world-wide looking to share and book travel experiences and activity bookings.
But we must admit … it can be easy to lose focus when we’re surrounded by the frenzy and hype that so often defines the world of startups. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
If you’re going to spend 15 hours a day pouring your heart and soul into a passionate and ambitious project, you’ll want to make sure you’re surrounded by people you enjoy, trust, and admire.
Finding a Co-Founder
My co-founder Ramin and I met over a decade ago while completing our post-graduate degrees in engineering. We instantly clicked. Communication was easy, our skill sets and specializations were complementary – we knew we’d work together one day.
So as soon as the idea for Seamless Planet started bubbling up in my mind, I called Ramin. He got it. He saw what I saw, was confident we could pull it off, and quickly jumped on board.
If we were going to claim that we were all about life-changing experiences, we were about to put our money where our mouths were.
Building a Team
We’ve since tried to build our team based on that same synergy, that same drive.
We’ve focused on offering a challenging and rewarding environment for all kinds of people, which has led to us having an eclectic team of people bringing their own fascinating set of skills and interests to the table.
Working both with and for people you trust forces you to work hard every day. It motivates you to pull your weight and to stay honest, to keep your ego in check. Those mechanisms are essential to a thriving startup, especially when the time comes for nitty-gritty team work.
We’ve taken the same approach to forming professional relationships and selecting our investors, who at every stage of our company’s growth will play an essential role in shaping and shifting our product. As mentors and guides, our investors need to understand our vision and feel as confident about it as we do. After all, they’re now part of the team.
He showed us a passion, curiosity and drive that matched our own philosophy and approach – another perfect piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
So remember, as a startup founder, you get to decide who you’ll be working with and held accountable to. Make sure you chose people with the experience, expertise and shared ambition that you’re looking for.
You’ll be going through thick and thin with these people; pick them wisely.
There’s little to no point in spending months or years building something that no one needs. But in order to identify that need, you first have to listen.
Understanding the Current Landscape
When we started building Seamless Planet’s powerful API, it was really important for us to have a deep understanding of the travel industry and the challenges that were being faced by independent travel agents and activity providers worldwide. They were the people who were one day going to use our distribution system, so they were our priority.
Once we started listening, the opportunities were endless.
As it turns out, current travel inventory is not only disparate and difficult to navigate, it’s also much more accessible to massive corporations with the financial resources to independently pool together and analyze huge amounts of data through incredibly expensive but often limiting in-house platforms and algorithms.
The playing field is in no way level.
Creating Value by Leveling the Playing Field
Our audience told us that there was a desire for smaller, independent players to have increased access to that same inventory and more.
Independent travel agents and activity providers were struggling with finding unique experiences that they could match to their customers’ personal needs and preferences in order to maintain their competitive edge.
So we found a way to creatively and intelligently qualify and quantify travel inventory pulled from a wide array of online marketplaces, including meta-search results, daily deals, and small tour operators. We wanted to make travel experiences as easy to find and purchase online as physical goods.
Travel agents also told us they often dealt with over- or under-booking of experiences and activities. The platforms they were using simply didn’t have the technology and data to provide up-to-date and relevant information about the activities stored in their databases.
Our solution was to build an advanced API that could intelligently and intuitively find and categorize travel inventory while updating its availability in real time.
Focusing on the Features that Users Truly Need
But we didn’t stop there, we wanted to go above and beyond their expectations. We recognized that they also needed smarter algorithms to detect patterns and preferences in order to offer tailored recommendations and ideas. So we started building one of the most comprehensive and innovative natural language processing and machine learning algorithms on the market.
From the very beginning, we focused our efforts and energy on features that people truly needed. Along with our great team, that drive allowed us to avoid the all-too-common trappings of spreading yourself too thin and trying to be everything to everyone.
Being Open to Criticism
But most importantly – and this may be the most difficult rule yet – it’s incredibly important to listen to criticism and advice.
There, we spent our days alongside investors and mentors who were quick to put us on the spot and question our assumptions. They identified our weaknesses, asked tough questions and challenged us to see bigger than we ever had before.
Had we chosen to dig in our heels and let our egos take over, we wouldn’t be here today.
Instead, carefully absorbing and considering their feedback allowed us to build a stronger and more robust platform that could hold its own in the face of criticism and scrutiny.
And once those improvements were made, we turned our attention once again to the most important bunch of them all – our customers. We asked for their honest feedback, for their ideas, and hesitations. And we listened again.
We don’t think a company should ever stop listening, no matter how successful it becomes.
Being honest with yourself and others about what you want and can build is essential, as is taking pride in the results of your hard work.
Laying a Solid Foundation
From the beginning, it felt important to us to deliver a product that was up to our own standards and expectations. With an awesome team behind us, we’ve now built a powerful product of which we can truly be proud.
Once we were confident in our idea and technology, pitching and explaining it to others became easy and intuitive.
Beyond giving us a valid reason to work day and night, feeling like we were standing on a solid foundation made it easier to resist the anxiety, self-doubt, and jitters that can plague even the most confident and competent of entrepreneurs.
Preparing for Growth
Stability and certainty of purpose also allowed us to grow, expand, and improve on an idea and product that we knew could hold its own through growing pains and experimentation.
We may have added features and fine-tuned our technology, but we were simply improving a rock-solid platform.
That having been said, building a product you’re proud of doesn’t mean thinking that it’s perfect. We’re always on the lookout for ways to improve and adapt to both users and changing technology.
Knowing that we’re constantly working on innovation and growth helps us to keep our cool in the face of unavoidable difficulties, while also giving us the drive we need to push distractions out of the way.
Recognizing the Inevitable Ebb and Flow
We’re proud of the work we’ve done and the attention it has attracted. And while we’re incredibly excited to see what comes next, we’re also aware that this is just one step among many others.
The momentum and hype that surrounds our company today will undoubtedly ebb and flow as we learn and grow, but being grounded in our founding ideas and ambitions provides us with the strength we need to weather it all – to find validation in our own work and in customer satisfaction.
That’s something we wish for any new startup looking to thrive in the long-run and resist being caught up in the fanfare.
Remember, the key to lasting success lies not only in having confidence in your ideas but also the ability to see above and beyond them.