Sam Hiscocks and his two childhood friends, Hal Tyler and Stewart Chan, all share a love of travelling. Having been to every corner of the globe both separately and together, they discovered 3 core issues that backpackers are struggling with: backpackers are finding it difficult to connect with others, stay in touch with new friends met along the journey and access backpacker specific insight that is both up-to-date and relevant to their current location. Therefore, it was only natural that they decided to work together to create a travel app to give fellow backpackers a voice through a new social platform. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the Tripwire concept?

Tripwire is a travel platform that aims to be a social hub that brings backpackers together. We are moving away from the outdated travel guides and review platforms of this world, to bring backpackers a brand new travel application that’s purely focused on the social experience of backpacking.

In today’s sharing economy people are relying more on peer to peer rather than the one-way conversation which travel guides are all about. The big travel platforms such as TripAdvisor are so big and broad-reaching that again they can be largely irrelevant for people who are looking for particular experiences.

At Tripwire we are purely cater for the younger backpacker who likes to meet up, share stories and give opinions. Our aim is to make sure that we give these backpackers a voice and help them unlock each destination they travel to. We aim to become the most up to date, relevant and reliable company in the youth travel market, maximising both social and cultural experiences for all backpackers.

tripwire_sam_featured

You mention the bigger players in the industry – can you elaborate how you are different?

Travel guides are a dying breed. TripAdvisor is more of a retrospective review platform, but we are taking a different angle. They are so inundated with information now that it’s difficult to sort what is real and relevant and not just self-promotion. People and business are valuing them less, but they are still authoritative in the industry.

So how do you distinguish yourself from a feature perspective?

It’s all about our social element. We want to move away from being seen as a travel guide and to be more of a social community which is focused on real time relevance for the user – not just reviews but also tips, questions, discussions that extend into real life.

For example, you land in Bangkok and drop your pin, Tripwire automatically connects you to all other backpackers currently there and also unlocks a local chat so you can see what’s happening there right now – reviews, questions, photos… and so you can squeeze the most out of each destination. We call the connection process our Travel Tribe – it’s great for solo travelers as you are always plugged in. You can also keep in contact with people and reconnect if you cross paths with users you have met before.

So your app is aimed primarily at backpackers?

The App is initially targeting backpackers. We chose backpackers as our natural entry point to the market due to our in-depth understanding of the core problems. Once we’ve conquered the backpacker market, we will expand into the wider youth travel market and continue to grows all sectors of travel (corporate, family etc..). Lots of our value propositions are transferable across different sectors of the travel industry.

Where did the idea for TripWire come from?

The initial idea came about 4 years ago when my co-founder and I went travelling through Thailand. Although our route was quite pre-planned, we would often happen to meet up with travelers who we had met before, and we discovered many were taking a similar route. We also found out later that we had missed out on meeting up with some of these people simply because we had no way of staying in contact – smartphones were not so big back then and the Wi-Fi was not great! We came back from our trip and went our separate ways, but the seed was planted.

Three years later we went to South America for the World Cup – and when we were over there was an instance when we met someone and planned to meet up again but it didn’t happen simply because we struggled to track him down. This ignited the Tripwire fire for us again, and the ball started rolling from there.

Our initial idea developed into something much bigger than it is today – we realised that our product had to be intuitive so we stripped it back to the core. After we returned, I quit my job and we put together a business plan. Fortunately, the first two people that we pitched to agreed to put £200,000 towards the business! We were able to then launch in March this year. It’s a dream come true to do this but it’s a surreal transition going from friends to being full time business partners.

And was this your first business venture?

My role has been heavily in marketing before. I studied marketing then went to work for a number of breweries in Toronto, Johannesburg and Melbourne. When I returned I was working for a sponsorship agency and then when this opportunity arose I could not resist.

What about your childhood background? Did anyone in your family run their own businesses? Or did the inspiration come from somewhere else?

My mom and dad are both extremely hard working – my dad has done well in marketing too and as the oldest child it was natural that I headed in this direction too. Funnily enough, my brother has also just started up his own olive company, Olly’s Olives! The inspiration for me came really from wanting to be my own boss and the opportunity to work with my best mates. The timing just worked out!

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Tripwire Team

Tell us about your hobbies – are there perhaps some inspirations there?

Travelling of course! I’m also a big football fan hence the World Cup tour. But yes seeing the world is up there – I have been to every major continent (except Antarctica and the Arctic!). My top three cities would be Rio, San Francisco and Melbourne. There’s something about being on the move that keeps me fresh! We are hoping that this platform will also open opportunities for us to travel even more!

Tell us about the most exciting moment in running TripWire to date

The raising of the money was a really big day! But thinking further, probably two other moments stand out. The one was being featured on the App Store in Best Travel Apps – which came out of the blue. This was really reassuring as we were making noise when we weren’t even trying to make noise! Off the back of that we also got invited to do a tech talk in York – again I couldn’t believe it when the email landed on my desk! It was an incredible experience.

What about the toughest moment?

I don’t think that we’ve made any big errors… but it is tough when you have full belief in a product and raise the money, but after this happened you hit the entrepreneurially acclaimed ‘trough of sorrow’, when you realise how much you still have to do! Legal, operational, marketing, business partnerships, future raising… Reality slapped us in the face.

We have had to listen to our market and come out with a much simpler more intuitive product. The travel market is a crowded space so we need to make a lot of noise and be disruptive to compete with the bigger platforms.

Have you made any bad decisions along the way?

I can’t say we’ve made any bad decisions but I think the first product we launched was a bit too ahead of itself. Everything we included in the first version is something we hope to reintroduce down the line. It was maybe too mature for the less tech savvy market. So we had to strip it back.

You mention your friends as being your co-founders. Can you tell us a bit about them?

My co-founders Hal Tyler and Stewart Chan are very old friends – we grew up together in Chiswick.

It’s been a weirdly fated coming together to work together. Stew was focused on operational financial stuff at university. He’s a very rational thinker and a good problem solver. Paired with my marketing and creativity we make a great combo.

Hal worked in sales in Australia then recruitment back in London. He’s the most seasoned traveler of the 3 of us and has a natural entrepreneurial flare, thus is focusing on the partnership side and doing fundraising – the business development role. Obviously there were gaps in the strategy in what we needed to know and learn. We’ve worked very hard and tried to learn as much as we can. We are almost at the stage now where we have formed this sort of perfect circle.

The only thing that was missing was the tech brain…

So who built the product?

The incubator agency built the product and they were brilliant but as agencies are, we weren’t their sole focus. This has caused a slight lag timewise which has cost us but what matters is top quality which they have delivered. It has been a top priority though for us to bring the tech development in house with us – the last element that we are missing.

Fortunately, enough about a month ago we had a 4th member join our team – Ziad Khouri. He was working as a CTO for a financial trading company when we met him over coffee a few months ago. We were thinking at the time that he’s maybe way too experienced and that we were too small for him to jump in with, but he loved the idea and also loves travel as much as we do so he joined the team. It has been a real blessing to have him joining the Tripwire family.

Tell us about your goals for the next few years for the product?

Within the next 2 or 3 months are targets are to raise more funding with another bridging round, to give us the ability to make sure that we have completely embedded it in South East Asia and prove the concept wholeheartedly. After this we will go for a more aggressive series A funding round and branch out into Central and South America and gradually go market by market.

We have already built a reasonably substantial amount of content around Europe and South America but at present our marketing budget will be targeting Asia – particularly Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. We basically want everyone who uses this app to be able to squeeze the most out of their journey – no missing out!

tripwire app demo

And finally what would be the one piece of advice for someone thinking of a start up?

First and foremost, follow your heart. If you believe in something, that is enough of a reason to pursue it. However, before committing your life to the cause, listen to your head. This can only come by testing and validating the concept with your target audience, one of the most (if not THE most) crucial steps in the start up process.

photos credit: YC-Studio

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