This Site Wants to Help You Make Startup Friends While You Travel
Say you’re visiting a new city to meet a client or scout out a business location. In the past, you might have spent hours searching your network, trying to find someone to show you the lay of the land. But with the free service Startuptravels, the work is done for you with a few clicks.
That was the impetus for Anders Hasselstrøm’s project. The Copenhagen-based tech entrepreneur often traveled to Scotland on business. Last summer he seized on the idea that there was potential to up the value of those visits.
“I was traveling back and forth twice a month, and I realized I should connect with entrepreneurs while I was spending so much time there,” he says. Unfortunately, Hasselstrøm couldn’t find a simple, online way to do that. “I reached out to other entrepreneurs I knew and found they were having the same issue.”
His goal was to develop a service that connected visiting entrepreneurs with fellow businesspeople based in the city. The traveler could ask to grab a coffee, request an introduction to another entrepreneur, or ask for help finding local vendors or resources for a project. He or she could even barter for office space or a place to stay during the trip.
To further hone the idea, Hasselstrøm connected with developers Henrik Haugbølle and Rasmus Frandsen. The three surveyed every other entrepreneur they knew—more than 250 in all—to find out their travel patterns and needs.
Among the suggestions for the network was to base users’ profiles on their LinkedIn page. In practice, Startuptravels users register on the site using their LinkedIn login, and their profiles, work histories and other details automatically transfer over. The info can then be modified with useful tags like “Early Entrepreneur” and “Investor.”
As soon as someone decides where and when to travel, he or she can look up locals to meet during specific dates. As more people join the site, Startuptravels’ algorithm will weed through the listings to suggest entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds and interests.
Still in beta since launching in October, Startuptravels now counts nearly 3,000 active users in 120 countries. Hasselstrøm’s reliance on a community of developers to build the site saved costs and time, and created a built-in set of evangelists to promote the service.
“Our co-developers were the guys who fit the archetype of our website’s persona,” Hasselstrøm says. “They are power users who are willing to give their time, office space and perhaps a spare couch to make the service valuable to fellow entrepreneurs.”
Why the name Startuptravels instead of something with broader appeal? Hasselstrøm says the point was to make the service relevant to entrepreneurs at a specific stage in their careers. It also doesn’t hurt that the startup community is, by his thinking, the cool place to be right now.
“Our network wouldn’t have been as valuable five or even two years ago, but today the startup economy is booming worldwide,” he says. “Startup people are the new rock stars, so now it’s not uncommon for people to identify as such. Startups now have much more value, not only in the number of people who are involved in [them], but in the respect for the word startup itself.”