“Utrip” is an online platform that was created to enhance the overall planning, travel, and sharing experiences of the modern traveler by making all aspects of the travel experience simple, enjoyable, and extremely personal.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Berenstein’ regarding his internet start-up company “Utrip”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Utrip” is all about?
Utrip.com helps travelers plan their dream adventures to their favorite destinations.
Utrip creates the perfect trip for you by sifting through thousands of restaurants, attractions, events, and activities and crafting an itinerary that perfectly matches your personal interests and desires. We partner with local experts who provide firsthand authentic knowledge on your favorite destinations. Whatever your dream experience is, Utrip will help you live it.
Quickly, easily, and cheaply any traveler can experience their favorite team’s soccer game in Madrid on Friday, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona for free on Sunday, and still be there in time for the opening celebration Oktoberfest in Munich on Wednesday, all while flying on the cheapest days of the week.
2. When has “Utrip” been founded? And what stage is “Utrip” currently at?
The initial idea for Utrip came about in October 2010 and the team started working 6 months later. Since day one, we have continuously worked on the development and improvement of our product. Public beta officially launched 16 months later on July 9, 2012. Currently, we have a collaborative team of 10 and are located in Seattle, WA.
3. What is “Utrip”‘s business model and how does it work?
We offer a free personalized trip-planning service to all Utrip users.
We have a “20/20 rule”: Utrip lets travelers collapse 20 hours of confusing research into 20 minutes of enjoyable trip planning leading to the perfectly customized trip every time. Based on your desired travel destinations, duration in each city, personal preferences, and interests, Utrip’s proprietary optimization algorithm takes a multitude of factors into account to craft your ideal itinerary.
Once a trip is planned and booked, Utrip receives commissions from the back end working with partners like Expedia, hostelbookers, and more. The service is completely free for our customers and is available at www.utrip.com. Although not available at launch, Facebook integration and blogging features will soon allow Utrip users to instantly share their itinerary, pictures, and stories from their adventures with friends and family.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Gilad Berenstein (founder & CEO) and Edan Shahar (co-founder & COO) share a great passion for travel and technology, and have been good friends since college.
Since the founding of Utrip, the company has brought on 8 more full time members, including 4 programmers, 4 knowledge team members.
Please visit https://utrip.com/about/team to read detailed bios of our team members.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Utrip has a few key differentiators that make our product stand out from the rest. Today, countless travel blogs and websites provide trip planning tips and destination suggestions. However, no one has solved the most difficult and important problem of all, how to take these ideas and tips and turn them into a complete and personal itinerary.
We don’t believe there is such a thing as a one-trip-fits-all. Through a few simple steps, we pinpoint the traveler’s preferences and interests, such as sports (Spanish soccer), art (Baroque), history, culture (running with the bulls), museum, nature (bird watching), etc. Combined with authentic local advice, geographic optimization and other important factors, we then create a perfectly personalized trip for you. Utrip was designed with travelers in mind to build the most useful travel tool around.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Utrip” achieved so far?
Since official beta launch 2 months ago, many early adapters have used and loved the Utrip platform. The initial response of the service has been great. We have fortunately received notable attention from Tnooz, Q13Fox, and GeekWire. Some important milestones we have achieved thus far are bringing in our first few sales, partnering with some large aggregators in the travel industry, and consistently providing our customers with fun and authentic trip planning experience.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Utrip”‘s competitive advantage over them?
International travel has greatly gained popularity over the past decade. Our competitors are everywhere around the globe. Companies like Gogobot.com, Triposo.com, and many more are trying to tap into the market. These websites provide travel suggestions, attraction and hotel reviews, and trip planning tools.
However, they are not solving the problem that Utrip was born to tackle. The travel industry is fragmented. Travelers use many websites and sources when preparing for a trip. Our site is a one-stop shop that allows users to easily discover, plan, purchase, and share their perfect, personalized travel experience all in one place.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Just like most startups, we face many different challenges and learn from our mistakes every day. One of the biggest hurdles we encounter is competing for talent in a city with the likes of Google, Facebook, Expedia, Microsoft, and Amazon. Nevertheless, we have attracted talent by showing people the needs in the market that will lead Utrip to success. We share with them the dream we believe in. Through our journey, we have also learned the importance of focus. Initially we had too many ideas; we quickly learned that focus is the name of the game.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Travel and how to plan a truly authentic trip. Today people seek travel suggestions by reading online reviews, travel guides and blogs just to find activities that match with their interests. Utrip’s algorithm helps travelers collapse 20 hours of tedious and time-consuming research process into 20 minutes of easy and fun travel planning on Utrip. Our site plays matchmaker between traveler’s interest and our firsthand knowledge of their favorite destinations. Utrip delivers a great trip planning experience, maximizing users’ time and budget.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Utrip will succeed because our service addresses the needs and challenges faced by millions of modern travelers. The average traveler looks at 21 online sources during 9 sessions while planning a trip; the abundance of available information today often leads to divergent information and decision fatigue. Utrip takes the hassle out of trip planning by bringing you the most relevant and authentic trip planning knowledge personalized for you.
Travelers seek authentic travel suggestions and advice. We always put our customers first in every decision we make. In addition, we have a great team of extremely driven individuals. We love what we do and share a great passion in travel and helping others enjoy their experience.
11. If “Utrip” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our goal is to help people plan dream adventures to their favorite destinations.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to see Times Square in the Big Apple or chill with the locals on the French Riviera. Utrip will not rest until our map includes all the major cities and the surrounding towns and plans perfect trips for every traveler anywhere around the world (and one day in space).
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Utrip” based on?
We are a team of passionate travelers who love technology. Our founder Gilad took a trip to Europe after grad school. Unfortunately, reading a dozen travel books, blogs, and websites was just not good enough. The travel guides turned out to be outdated and the plans he made fell through. His group’s lodging was far away from the rest of their activities and places had closed since the guides were written. During his trip he missed the Barcelona FC soccer game and because of this wishes he had visited Barcelona first instead of Paris. Lastly, despite all the fun on the trip, he felt that authentic experiences were hard to come by.
Long story short, he wondered if there was a way to plan a highly personalized experience without paying a travel agent or spending an exorbitant amount of time which most of us just don’t have. The thought inspired and motivated him to start Utrip. Our goal is to help people spend more time having adventures instead of planning them.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Being passionate travelers we wanted to address everyone’s needs all in one go. What we soon realized is that the journey of a million steps has to start with only one, since physically we don’t have a million feet with which to step. We only have so many resources, and therefore, narrowing down our focus was a crucial decision we made.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Although we don’t run our everyday operations based on fear and anticipation of problems, our next biggest challenge is probably going to be selecting our next destinations between S. America and Asia. We love Europe and are excited to be working on North America as we ‘speak’ and look forward to offering destinations all around the globe.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Think of the hours spent with travel books, agencies, and websites that know nothing about you. With Utrip we have quick and easy ways to pinpoint your interests and design a trip from start to finish all in one place. Whatever your perfect trip looks like, Utrip will help you plan it in just a few simple steps.
Moreover, we partner with local experts on the ground in your dream destinations to find you the authentic, quiet restaurant or the best raging night club in town. Whatever it is that you want to experience, we bring it to you live.
Utrip is your local tour guide that will allow you to discover new destinations and rediscover you favorite destinations in new and exciting ways.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
In the beginning, friends and family were the first users of our service. Now, most people find out about Utrip through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. We also have a blog where we regularly share travel ideas and destination suggestions.
Since our beta launch, we have been featured in several online publications (Tnooz, Q13Fox, and GeekWire) which have attracted readers to our website. Most importantly our users have become our best brand advocates.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our target audience is adults traveling with adults in major European centers. Despite the available information on destination and tourism, many people find it difficult to find authentic travel advice that is truly tailored to their interest. Our early adaptors are users who are somewhat tech-savvy, live an on-the-go lifestyle and seek a quick and easy trip planning solution for their holiday and weekend adventures.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We have slowly but surely acquired more and more users by word of mouth. In addition to social media initiatives, fundamentally, Utrip has a unique product which attracts new users to try it. We plan to launch the sharing feature, which will allow users to share trips they created on social media or via emails. We anticipate growth virally once it becomes easier for our current users to share the service with their friends and family.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Since our beta launch, we are lucky to have received positive and insightful feedback from our current users. Reviews have been overwhelmingly good and our users are thrilled to see more destinations added to the Utrip map. Learning that they like what we are trying to make happen and where we’re headed keeps us moving every day. We want to build the best product and keep the Utrippers excited and passionate about travel.
20. How are you going to scale?
From day one with scaling in mind, we have built a system robust enough to handle as many user accounts as we can take on. We have plans to make our service more social, which will help the company grow organically, gain more users, and generate more content. We understand that people want to share their fantastic itineraries and travel stories with friends and family, and it is our job to make that quick and easy for them.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
We appreciate all the feedback and ideas we receive from our users. The biggest missing feature is a mobile app and we are working every day to make this happen in the near future.
In addition, many have expressed they’d like to see more travel destinations. At this stage we have 12 major Western European centers, but Utrip is soon launching more cities to satisfy our users’ needs. So stay tuned to see where you might want to go on your next vacation. Please feel free to suggest your favorite destination(s) on https://utrip.com/about/contact.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Utrip is an international business by its nature. We work with local experts who provide firsthand and current knowledge on our destinations; this helps travelers experience the cities like a local.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
With a dedicated team and a great product, we believe there is high growth potential for Utrip.
Nonetheless, the first thing we always try to do is keep our customers happy by consistently delivering an excellent experience. We hope to become big enough to share our passion for travel with more people and to help them design their dream adventures to an ever growing number of destinations.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We have just brought 3 new program developers on board.
At the moment we are not looking to recruit. However, as we grow our client base, we will bring on more talented developers and sales representatives to continuously improve our product and make sure our customers remain satisfied.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We just closed our seed round. However as we continue to grow, we’d always love to hear from interested investors and potential partners.
Interested investors may contact Gilad Berenstein directly at email@example.com.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Execute, Execute, Execute! You can have a million wonderful ideas, but it’s far more important is to carry through on execution.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
We’d like to take this chance to thank everyone who’s made Utrip possible. And big thanks to those who have taken time to explore and spread the word about Utrip. We invite everyone to become a Utripper and enjoy travel with us.