100 Countries and 219 Meetings Later, a Business Was Born
My parents were both thrown in jail for their leadership in Poland’s solidarity movement, so it’s safe to say independence runs in my blood.
While I grew up in Nashville, I spent every summer traveling to Poland. My parents taught me to value freedom and mobility, and I never took it for granted. By the time I turned eight, I made the international trek alone. Whereas travel brings stress to some, it’s always brought excitement to me. To this day, I’ve found no better way to learn than through travel, which is now my professional calling.
But before that, I lived an entrepreneur’s life, launching a number of startups from the safety of a desk. One night, I hit send on three big projects from my Chicago office during one of the city’s worst blizzards. As I closed my computer, and watched the snow build up, I had an epiphany. With my laptop and cell phone, I could easily have done this from anywhere, so what in the world was I doing in Chicago in the middle of a blizzard?
After that, I fully embraced mobility and resolved to take my work with me. I started traveling through Europe and the Middle East, making my way to South Africa and up the eastern coast of Africa, all while working remotely. I realized how lucky I was, not to have to compromise my lifelong passion for travel to earn a living.
I wound up visiting approximately 100 countries and met thousands of locals and backpackers along the way. With every interaction, I realized the passion people had for travel and the unique experiences they craved. The travel industry was stuck operating on untrustworthy reviews and outdated booking experiences. However, we all craved daily inspiration personalized to fuel our curiosity and to help us create our own, unique trips. The world needed a go-to mobile platform that travelers could use every day – whether we were scanning travel videos for inspiration months before our trip or discovering that hidden gem around the corner from our hotel. While I contemplated the idea of a travel app, the startup I was working on got acquired. It was just the push I needed to completely dedicate myself to travel – and to try to change the industry along the way.
I launched TripScout and soon reached out to a longtime college buddy to join me on the journey. We wanted to build a platform that kept up with the cultural shift happening in travel, in a way that other platforms were not. We prototyped a mobile app that offered travelers something new and valuable: on-the-ground insights and recommendations from those who know best: local influencers and publishers. We handed out our personal cell phone numbers to hundreds of thousands of users for feedback while developing the app. While this certainly made me an annoying husband to live with, it also made me one step closer to understanding today’s travelers.
No surprise, our challenge was funding the business. It would take 219 meetings – yes, I kept count – before we met a group that believed in our vision and the product. We knew that would be the game, encountering yea- and nay-sayers, and making sure to listen every step of the way. The yeas and nays were equally powerful. The former kept us going, and the latter made us sharper.
Our app developed into a full-fledged platform called TripScout. It invites and inspires users to engage in travel year-round, even if just in mindset. While passionate travelers may only be away from home a few weeks each year, they’re certainly dreaming about it the rest of the time.
What’s up next? I just returned from a trip to Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania with my wife and our two young children. We don’t have too many plans for the rest of the year although I’m hoping to make it to Brazil, Portugal, Cuba and Puerto Rico soon, instilling in my kids that same sense of empowerment and curiosity through travel that my parents gave me. It’s a priceless gift that lasts a lifetime.