By Josh Ephraim
I had the opportunity to sit down recently with one of my favorite startups in Berkeley right now – WeTravel. WeTravel is a group trip management tool that did three million dollars in revenue in the last five months. I like three things about WeTravel. First, the team is really strong. Zaky, Johannes, and Garib know how to get things done. Second – they have a very clear vision to become the marketplace for group trips. Companies like TheYachtWeek have shown that people will pay a significant premium for an organized group trip. And lastly, the company is growing very rapidly. That three million dollars is a huge accomplishment in such a short time.
A bit about the product:
WeTravel provides a group trip management tool. It is free, financially secure, and easy to use.
What is your background?
WeTravel has 3 co-founders: Johannes, Garib, and Zaky. Johannes worked extensively in the travel industry in Europe and non-profits in Central Asia and Africa before getting his MBA at Berkeley. Garib was a CTO in the largest bank in Azerbaijan before moving to the US, founded and exited a company, then worked as a senior engineer in Silicon Valley. Zaky worked for McKinsey & Co and cofounded Indonesia’s first marketplace for volunteers, then worked for marketplaces in Brazil and SF while getting his MBA at Berkeley.
What gave you the idea for WeTravel?
Johannes organized group trips on the side for wealthy Europeans while he lived in Central Asia. It was always a cumbersome process! He realized that there were many people like him – semi-professional and amateur trip organizers – who need a simple tool to organize trips. He came to business school with this idea, then met Garib who is also working on his own startup. They merged then started work together to create WeTravel.
What is your vision?
Creating a free trip management tool is only a start. By providing this tool for amateur and semi-professional trip organizers, WeTravel will amass inventory of unique trips that travelers can join. This is when WeTravel will be a marketplace for unique trips where anyone can create and join trips.
How does the technology work?
The process is very easy for a trip organizer. She fills in template about information of the trip (price, capacity, deposit, extra options, itinerary) and uploads pictures. Usually it will take someone 15 minutes to fill out. After that, she will have a registration page with beautiful itinerary for travelers to see, a booking page for travelers to pay, and a dashboard where she can communicate with and manage payment from travelers. We recently made a 90-second video on how anyone can easily build a trip using WeTravel:
Is there any cool recent news about WeTravel?
Since launching in August 2015, our users have transacted close to three million dollars worth of group trips through our site to date (Jan 2016). We also raised a very successful seed round!
What are your biggest challenges?
Initially we started as a marketplace for group trips right away, but we were challenged by “chicken-and-egg” situation to grow the demand and supply side simultaneously. During our user interviews, we found that organizers want a simple tool to manage their trips. We built it and gave that away for free, and since then we’ve had amazing growth.
How has the Berkeley startup ecosystem helped?
Students organize a lot of trips for social and academic purpose. Students at Haas and School of Information were some of our early adopters. Our classmates and professors gave us great feedback and have supported us along the way and introduced us to their friends in other schools. Johannes received Hansoo Lee Fellowship and Zaky was a Mayfield Fellow that gave them opportunity and financial support to work on their startup during school. WeTravel also participated at the LAUNCH competition where we met our advisers. We were also fortunate to be part of SkyDeck where we received all the support that a young startup can expect.
What, if anything else, can UC Berkeley do to help?
We took the risk to become entrepreneurs and not to apply for traditional MBA jobs because we received such strong support from Berkeley community. We welcome opportunities to connect with Berkeley students who are interested to go this path. We hope that Berkeley will have more and more entrepreneurs!