Going back to the tourism sector, we turn to a company that will be present in the upcoming WebSummit: TravelCentral24. I talked to André Conde, their Founder & CEO, to find out more about their plans and their app YouGoTo.com.
In a nutshell, how did TravelCentral24 come about?
I should split this in two: It came to fruition because of a product I was working on 2 years ago and then from my experience as a traveller as well. So many times I’ve wished there was a single app I could use to move around in a destination that would satisfy all my needs, especially if I don’t know anyone in the area.
Tourism is one of the main economic engines in Portugal. How do you plan to ride this trend?
I think there’s still plenty of room to innovate in the travel space. Tourism is growing strong, not only in Portugal but worldwide, and mobile devices are in everyone’s pockets. I firmly believe that a mobile-first approach with local services is the future. We want to be in the front line of reshaping tourism and that’s our contribution, connecting travellers to destinations, to local people, to local businesses, empowering those already in the market with “smarter” tools to better serve their customers.
What are the strong points of the YouGoTo.com platform?
You know when you’re talking brick and mortar retail and everyone says the three most important things are location, location, location? For us it’s you, you, you. You, the traveller.
Every aspect of what we’re building is driven by user preferences, context and behaviour. The more and more travellers use the app, the better it will be. Let’s say you’re a jazz fan: how cool would it be to get a live jazz show near you notification even though you did not have any prior engagement with the app regarding music?
I would hate to be doing this if we would be just another discovery, inspiration or travel marketplace. And I love my job.
Feature-wise, you will find instant booking for restaurants, tours, activities, attractions, events, you will be able to book personal local guides, get ground transportation without the need for maps or addresses and also get human assistance a tap away.
Also, less is more. We do not – and will not – carry thousands of operators and restaurants. We’re establishing those who excel on what they’re doing and share our vision for what the travelling experience should be. Searching through dozens and dozens of options is tiring and time-consuming, especially when you’re on vacation and you want to make the most out of it.
Lastly, our local guides feature means we’re welcoming those who want to make travellers feel home and give them the time of their life. If you can welcome a guest to your house or apartment why can’t you show them around?
Summing all that up, our main advantage is to centralise a bunch of different features and real-time information in one single app. We want to be your best buddy during your holidays, we’re positioning ourselves in the “during” of the travelling process.
What are your growth plans for the next year?
We’re doing a soft launch later this year in Madeira and, first of all, we want to learn from it. Our plans for the next year are to consolidate the technology and if everything goes according to plan we will be debuting the app in a few more destinations. How many will depend on a number of factors.
Does the fact that you’re in Madeira make a difference to your business?
As in everything there are upsides and downsides. It sure makes a difference in the sense that we have a better controlled environment for testing purposes, as the island is small and we have an economy led by tourism. But then it’s an island and it’s small… makes sense? It’s difficult for us to engage often with people in the same boat, the startup community is mostly inexistent and the talent pool is somehow limited. That said, those are not excuses to back off.
What are your expectations for the upcoming Web Summit?
We’re the new kid on the block and it’s the first time we’ll be attending so we’re not quite sure what to expect in terms of the summit itself. Nonetheless, we’re exhibiting with a clear mission as it’s a unique opportunity to connect and network with those developing state-of-the-art Web and mobile technology and also to meet, personally, potential investors interested in the travel and tourism space.
What’s your take on the Portuguese startup scene today?
It’s better than ever mostly thanks to hustler entrepreneurs. Yes, there’s still much to do and we don’t compare to the US but Portugal has amazingly talented people in diversified fields and these people are coming together with great ideas and execution.
I would like to mention CrowdProcess, Uniplaces and Unbabel, all for different reasons. And MagniFinance, that we’re using for automatic invoicing.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Do it”. Not a fancy piece of advice but for me that was it. The context of that “do it” was inspiring. There’s a cultural barrier that I think we need to cross in regards to the fear of failure. I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I’ve failed and succeeded. I’ve learned from both, maybe more from failure even. I remember reading something about Silicon Valley getting you medals of honor for failing, it makes sense. Doing, despite the outcome, makes you better.