36hrs seems like a mash-up between Pinterest, Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor. Launched in beta April this year, the startup has created a platform that collects, categorises and shares interesting spots in different cities across the globe. But it differentiates itself from its popular counterparts mentioned above by focusing on being more social as well as providing unique, locally curated information. 36hrs is therefore more than a network of avid travelers and travel bloggers. It allows anyone to create their own mini city guide. These guides don’t only rely on written shared experiences, users also use photos and Google Maps integration which pinpoints where what is in the city on interest. There are countless of travel startups around the globe, each trying to perfect and build on the last once’s success.
So what makes 36hrs stand out? The startup aims to provide users a more personlised experience. Meaning that instead of keen travelers reading up about the most popular tourist hot spots written by renowned bloggers, 36hrs gives people “easy access to recommendations from people they can trust,” argues 36hrs co-founder Ravijot Chugh. Chugh’s always been a avid traveler and interested in discovering “hidden gems” along the road. “Rather than rely on mass tourist perspective of platforms such as TripAdvisor, travelers can now get recommendations easily from their friends, people who share similar interests, as well as ‘tastemakers’ — people who can bring interesting perspectives to things to do in a city,” he explains. With the mass availability of content available online today, its significance doesn’t so much depend on what it represent but rather how it’s represented. Is the content easily reliable, digestible and actionable?
Travel blogs are no different. “Our product is different in the sense that we are removing the barrier for people to share such recommendations, by not requiring lengthy reviews or long articles, simply relying on people choosing their favorite places which other users can then interact with, add it to their collection or itinerary or view on a map,” he says. Type in “New York” and you’ll get either a board that looks similar to Pinterest with cards such as Where to be a Hipster in NYC or Favorite Pizza Places in the City with way points tagged on an interactive map. You can fill in a map of cities they you’ve visited and see which of your friends have gone to the city they are interested in.
New-York After graduating from IIT Delhi with a degree in Computer Science, Chugh worked for a couple of years as a management consultant at The Parthenon Group in its Mumbai and Boston offices. During this time, he also advised PE funds, education institutions and corporate clients in different sectors in over 15 countries. Co-founder Jen Blumberg graduated from Harvard and worked for four years as a management consultant, first at Khulisa Management Services in Johannesburg, then at The Parthenon Group in its Boston and Mumbai offices, where she worked with clients in the restaurants, retail, financial services and education sectors. Wanting to go on a long weekend trip to Singapore, Chugh asked for recommendations from couple of friends who were living in the city state. Chugh ended up getting email recommendations from friends, and found some good restaurant ideas by referring to a popular food blog and Lonely Planet. He resorted to creating a manual itinerary by a Google Doc spreadsheet that he could then share with his girlfriend.
This is when the idea first struck him to develop a platform which could make the process of sharing recommendations as easy as few clicks and remove the hassle of reading through emails or long articles and manually gather information. “The core value proposition of [36hrs] is to enable content creators to share recommendations with their network easily and quickly, without the need of writing long articles, and in a form that is easy for the audience to interact with and organize into actionable itineraries,” explains Chugh. With both founders being jet-setters and keen to simplify and improve the travel experience with a simple solution, 36hrs eventually managed to receive over US$30 000 from the Startup Chile accelerator program. It’s headquartered in Delhi, India and Boston, US and operates globally.
36hrs is now in beta phase and is currently exploring two revenue channels. Firstly, looking to use carefully curated and exclusive offerings which provides commission on direct bookings. “Our first and foremost aim is to build a compelling itinerary share and travel advice product that breeds user engagement and loyalty,” says Chugh. This will also involve various other methods that would lure third-party travel services on board such as direct booking integrating. It’s also looking to license out its itinerary platform onto third party sites as a widget perhaps, that would communicate via other sites looking to offer recommendations such as Airbnb or Vayable.
Since it raised seed funding, it’s been bootstrapping with personal contributions from both founders. 36Hrs says, it plans to raise more than US$300 000 in the coming months to further develop its web product as well as a mobile app.
This article was first published on VentureBurn: http://ventureburn.com/2014/05/36hrs-the-social-travel-itinerary-platform-for-jet-setters-the-world-over/