Travelers, personalized tours, and bootstrapping in Lisbon
By JENNIFER HO and LAURE ALBOUY
This interview was originally published on The Next Web.
Every startup has a story to tell. From the conception of an idea, to the first lines of code, early hires, and preliminary funding rounds – every company has a unique narrative.
But there are always shared experiences. Processes, tactics and habits that shape the experience of the fledgling startup. In this series, Tales from the Trenches of Tech, we talk to founders to hear their perspectives on the key element to their successful strategies.
The travel and tourism market is huge, monstrously so. Last year, the market was responsible for 10 percent of the global economy. With continually new and cheaper travel routes, everyone from my grandma to the kid I used to babysit is going on their version of the Grand Tour.
Inviita taps into this, created for the curious and adventurous. It avoids a generic list of places to visit and, instead, gives you a tailored tour depending on what you’re into, where your friends are going, and places you’ve visited and liked in the past.
Joana took us through her ideas of innovating the travel market, and Inviita’s journey in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
How did you get into tech and the startup world?
My background is very techie. I’m a former biochemical engineer! As long as I can remember, I’ve been an entrepreneur. I used to sell homemade jewellery to my mother’s colleagues and their daughters when I was a kid.
I’ve always had side projects while working 9-5. And when I was 27, I decided it was time to take a step and build my own company.
So you founded Inviita – a city tour guide app. How did that come about?
I am passionate about travel! I love to plan trips in advance like big getaways for myself and friends.
When I was 27, I went to Croatia. I was working so much that I didn’t have the chance to plan my trip in advance. In the market, you only have basic trip planners or search giants lacking useful information. So I decided to reinvent the way we discover cities with four other people – we founded Inviita.
It took us about one year to figure out the concept. We bootstrapped for another and then in June last year, we founded and incorporated the company. We launched four months later in October.
Were you already part of the startup scene before Inviita?
No, no. I worked for a telecommunications company in Dubai when I quit to start Inviita in Lisbon.
What’s the Lisbon tech scene like? Why did you decide to base Inviita there?
The startup scene in Portugal is a growing community. It’s small but strong. It’s a really nice place if you need to launch or test a market. It’s cheap in terms of infrastructure and human resources so it’s a perfect place to start.
I decided on Lisbon because it’s where I had the most resources available to start a project with limited resources. Though I’m not planning to stay here forever with Inviita. It’s part of my strategy to move out.
Where are you thinking of relocating to?
I wish I could answer! I want to go to Silicon Valley but I would only move with two or three people from my company and leave the rest here. That’s what most of the companies in Portugal are doing. They maintain their development team and other human resources here and move the CEO and other partners to Silicon Valley.
So, tell us more about Inviita.
Inviita is a pocket city guide that automatically creates city tours based on your mood. We give users a collection of places and activities so they can start planning their trip. It’s very intuitive and easy to understand.
We provide a smart solution to the market with a customer-centred product, focusing on the customer profile. Our users can trust Inviita to show them places that fit what they’re looking for.
How did you come up with your name “Inviita”?
It took us five months to get this name! Inviita is an invitation for people to experience different things and feel the world through other people’s eyes. It comes from the Spanish invita which means “you invite.”
We’re curious about the two “ii”’s …
It’s two people together. And if you separate Inviita in two words, it means “in life” in Latin. So it adds to the idea that Inviita is an invitation to new experiences.
What has the user feedback been like?
We have a global community with users in more than 3,000 cities worldwide. We’ve received feedback in Arabic that we could only translate because of the “cool” emoji they sent. We have a lot of feedback from Turkey but we can’t translate that yet! The reception has been great.
How did you create your space in the travel market?
There’s a lot of competition, I’m not going to lie! For us, the breakthrough was great press coverage two weeks after we launched. We were selected as best new app on the App Store in more than 30 countries.
You have to be clever and think outside the box otherwise you’re competing with apps like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Foursquare…
How are you thinking “outside the box”?
Besides that, we focus on organic growth. Our app is structured in a way that everything is shareable through many platforms and everything has been designed to promote engagement and social interaction. Since we launched the social version in January, our metrics are much more similar to the metrics of social apps than with travel apps.
We are also building a network of travel influencers, brand ambassadors, that engage with our app and promote it through their networks. This is helping us to grow a lot!
We usually don’t compete in targeted digital campaigns with other apps. Although we’re available worldwide, we have a local marketing strategy which means that we address each country separately.
How does your product stand out among other tourist products, non-tech included?
In the travel industry, there is still a gap for solutions that are able to provide assistance on travel planning. You have many solutions but most of them leave you with the heavy job of searching.
With Inviita, we provide personalized customer experiences, making travel solutions stand out from the rest, now and in the future. What we’re working on is to continually enhance customer experience. I think that will be the strategy to stand out in the travel sector.
What are your predictions for travel and tech?
Things like virtual reality will make an impact, I think. The future will need to rely on things that are focused on customers and personalization.
This is probably going to be difficult but what’s your favorite city in the world?
[laughs] My favorite city in the world! Favorite is very difficult for a person who loves to travel but I will say that I love Berlin and I would have to say Lisbon because it really is a magical city.
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