Personalized Travel Planning Made Easy

Interview with Journy founder Susan Ho

Travel planning is difficult and time-consuming. Why does it still take 10 – 20 hours for an Internet-savvy person to figure out what’s best to eat, see and do on a trip? There’s no one go-to place for trustworthy recommendations, and it’s all organized in email, Excel and Google Docs, at best.

Susan Ho, CEO of Journy, started her company in February of 2015 to change the way we travel. She sits down with us to share Journy’s success so far, along with thoughts about her participation in the Techstars METRO Accelerator.

What is Journy, how does it differ from other travel platforms and what is special about it for your users?
Journy is tailored to modern travellers. On, you get a completely personalized travel plan that includes food, drink, activities and attractions. You answer a few simple questions about your tastes and preferences. Questions ranging from “Are you a museum person?” “Do you like artisan coffee?” “What’s your shopping style?” to questions about budget, dietary restrictions, and more. We also take into account the time you have in that city and where you’re staying; for each place we recommend, you’ll see pictures, a short description of why you’ll love it, along with pro-insider tips such as the best times to go to avoid a line. We’re also able to snag reservations directly for our customers. The end product is a fully customized itinerary complete with Google Maps and directions – everything you need to enjoy your trip.

All in all, it’s travel made simple and special, as if your local best friend with great taste is showing you around. Recommendations come from local experts, chefs, sommeliers, editors and fashion folks, so you know you’re not missing out.

How is it that you have so much information about different places all over the world?
Our co-founder Leiti is a food journalist and show host. I’ve know her for 10+ years; she’s worked with the likes of Twitter, BMW, Whole Foods and Unilever and launched lifestyle / hospitality startups in NYC (Lot18, Cover and Sosh). Through her work, she’s built up a worldwide network of power players in food, travel, and hospitality.

What have you learned from Techstars METRO Accelerator?
We heard about the accelerator from a food tech industry colleague of Leiti’s named Holley Atkinson. When Holley heard about Journy, she suggested we apply for it. After a bit of research, we realized that the program would be a great fit. Now here we are!

Through the accelerator, we’ve learned a level of discipline that we might not have had otherwise around constantly challenging our business model and asking if there’s more experiments we should be running to get traction. It’s like boot camp, but for building a company. Further, we’re grateful to Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad and her team, Christophe Schultz on the Strategy team, the Spain country team, and our lead mentor Martin Behle for their support in initiatives like #JournyxBarcelona, an Instagram campaign we ran recently which garnered over 200,000 engagements.

What were the first few days in the accelerator like for you?
At first, we were pretty jetlagged. The first few days were exciting, but tough. We met so many people: mentors, METRO managers, and the other start-ups. It was a lot all at once, but at the same time, it was an amazing experience. We noticed really quickly that we fit in here, and that they understand our product. We have a great opportunity for growth here in Europe (Paris and Barcelona are among our most popular travel destinations!), which is why bringing the team to Berlin was the right decision.

What new insights have you garnered from the accelerator? What has helped you?
Talking to dozens of mentors made us realize that our value proposition was hard for some groups of people to understand. Why couldn’t someone use TripAdvisor or Time Out? Our product is in fact completely different from those companies, yet we weren’t getting the message across. Today, we’ve come up with a simple explanation of our project. Our tagline is short and attention-grabbing: “Journy: Tailored to the modern traveller.” The description of our service gets at the core of our value proposition more directly: “The best restaurants, sights, and attractions. Recommended by experts, personalized to you. Reservations and bookings included.”

Also, just being based out of Europe these couple of months and being able to pop over to Milan, London, Paris, Copenhagen and more to develop key relationships with chefs and influencers. In our business, it’s all about connecting with good people.

Where do you want to be in a year from now?
It’s a long road, but the vision is to become recognized as the go-to place for millennials to get travel inspiration and plan their travels in the simplest way possible.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in reaching this goal?
The biggest challenge in general for any travel company is customer acquisition, and the traditional way to acquire new customers is through advertising. In the industry, there are a lot of big companies with big money to spend on paid acquisition channels. As a start-up, we don’t have the deep pockets for that. That’s why we’re focusing on telling stories and building a community of travelers who are hungry for a better way…and experts like chefs, sommeliers, local experts, editors and fashion folks who love Journy. If our community loves the Journy experience, they’ll spread the word. We’re also incredibly focused on our product to make it on that people love and can’t help but share. Right now, 9 out of 10 new customers discovers Journy based on recommendations from friends and colleagues.

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