Harvard graduate Naren Shaam is passionate about travel. It was in 2010 when he travelled across Europe that he realised he was spending too much time in the planning, and not enough on the travel. He saw a need for a platform that could compare and combine travel options across Europe, offering more choice and an easy way to book through various combinations of travel options. We spoke to him to find out more about the GoEuro story.

So what is GoEuro?

GoEuro is a travel search platform that allows you to compare and combine rail, bus and air transport across Europe.

Our platform revolutionises the travel planning experience, providing customers with more choice, transparent pricing, travel times and easier booking. GoEuro let travelers search to and from any location, including towns or villages, showing you the best possible transport combinations based on price, total travel time and convenience, eliminating the need to visit multiple websites to plan an entire trip. With GoEuro, travel planning is simple, flexible and personal.

Where are you guys based?

GoEuro is based in Berlin. We chose Berlin as our HQ for multiple reasons. It’s an extremely vibrant startup scene right now, and that means we have great access to technical talent here. Berlin is also such a diverse city, with young people from all over the world so we can find people that have done a lot of travelling and really understand the travel challenges that we are out there to solve

Most of us moved here from 30+ countries.

What sort of audience or market do you target?

GoEuro is aimed at any type of traveller, whether for pleasure or business travel. It’s for anyone looking to plan a journey within Europe and wants to discover the simplest, most convenient and most cost effective transport options. Because users can search between any town and city it’s particularly useful when travelling to unfamiliar locations where typically you wouldn’t know the local transport systems to take you to your destination.

I travelled for four months across 14 countries in Europe in summer 2010. It was a fantastic experience, but I spent too much time planning my trips rather than enjoying the travel. For example, I wanted to go from Edinburgh to London but couldn’t easily discover if a flight, train or bus would be the best option based on time versus price. And when travelling from Heidelberg to Prague I couldn’t figure out which train or bus would get me to the airport or to my end destination.

The train operators are not all presented on one platform and each country has a different way of showing data and user experience, so unless you know the name of the train company it’s a challenging process. It’s the same for coaches and buses. Overall infrastructure for travel (especially ground travel) is phenomenal, but access to information and distribution is non-existent. This is the problem I’m trying to fix.

Tell us what makes your business unique – and how do you think your business differs from other companies and competitors, from a customer experience point of view?

We are the largest normalised distribution platform across most of ground transportation in Europe, and also normalise this data in the same format as air. Our ability to bring an entire industry which mostly works offline by proprietary technology is unique. We do not currently see anyone else offering full rail and bus coverage in 11 European countries, including the six largest EU markets. We do however compete with regional companies in any specific market and that also varies vastly market to market.  We believe GoEuro stands out in being the only tool you need to find your best rail, bus and air travel options in Europe in one single easy-to-use platform.

And how old is this company now? At what stage is it at the moment?

The company is two and a half years old. We now operate in a contiguous area of 11 countries across Europe with over 40 railway companies, over 300 bus operators and all airlines, while helping operators reach new customers from all over the world.

How is this project funded?

We are venture capital funded with some great investors including Goldman Sachs, Atomico, NEA, Lakestar and Battery Ventures along with many successful angels.

Is this your first startup venture or did you start other businesses before this?

Yes it’s my first startup. After Harvard, I worked in financial services in New York but in April 2012, I moved to Berlin to start GoEuro.

GoEuro Travell drives me every day.  ☺

What about your work background? How did you come from studying or working to running GoEuro?

I worked in the US as a Global Product Manager managing multi-million dollars in business in the auto industry before getting my Business degree at Harvard and I then worked in financial services in New York before moving to Berlin.

What’s your hobby? Would you say that it has an influence on the way you work?

I play basketball and chess. I love mathematics and at the same time business. I am sure all the above has a large influence on how i run the company.

What’s the most exciting or inspirational moment to date in running this business?

Seeing the business grow from an idea with one person to a full company and the personal growth along the journey is exciting. Looking ahead of what we can build and what more i can learn is inspiring.

And the toughest moment?

As any business, we have many tough moments. Different  stages of growth gives different scales of problems. If I have to pick one, it is in the early days when every night you wake up to ensure you can pay salaries to your people. Once you get scale and financing, you focus on different and true business challenges.

Have you made any bad decision along the way? What lessons did you take from this?

Haha. Tons. Most entrepreneurs are doing it for first time. There is decision-making every day with incomplete information. The major thing to focus on is to not make the same mistake again.

What’s the goal for GoEuro in the next few years

I would hope for us to be the largest travel company in Europe.

Finally, what advice would you offer for someone starting their own business?

Building a business is always more inspiring than anything else. But it has a fair share of problems and know that you can withstand the wind for a very long time. There’s no glory in being a founder, do it to build something big as it comes with a lot of responsibility.

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