Interview: Tripeezy Founder Paige Brown

Paige Brown of Austin, Texas was one of the first recipients of a $40,000 grant by the Start-Up Chile program. She arrived last December in Santiago to develop her Tripeezy travel software business, and recently returned to the USA:

Tripeezy lets you GPS locate yourself wherever you are in the world, creating a map of every travel adventure and stunning experience along the way to keep track and share instantly with buddies, family and travel pals back home and on the road.

Paige Brown celebrates in Chilean Patagonia.

What was the genesis for Tripeezy?
It was during my year abroad living and working in Germany that I began to travel, blog about travel, and stay with locals through websites like Couchsurfing. I realized there was a lack of travel information, specifically local travel information. This fueled the original idea of Tripeezy which was local e-guidebooks. We launched this approach back in October with guidebooks for Santiago and Chile.

What was the reception of the market to the guidebooks?
Overall it was a great learning experience, but we realized a couple of things: keeping the information up to date ourselves with businesses abroad that are constantly changing would be very difficult on a large scale, and also that people still rely heavily on actual printed guidebooks, and aren’t quite ready to be using e-books for travel in most off the beaten path locations. 

Torres del Paine, the End of the World.

Did you learn anything else from talking to potential customers?
We also spent spent time in hostels and realized that there was an even bigger problem at hand: The travelers that had the best information weren’t sharing. We have now developed an application to make it easier for travelers to share while their on the road and also off the beaten path. We’re simplifying the whole experience by combining social networks, travel blogs and photo sharing into one application.

We GPS locate their updates, allowing them to keep track of everything they do while sharing with friends and family at the same time. Our iPhone app which will be released soon will allow travelers to still make updates while they’re out of cell range and without international service, and the updates will upload automatically when they are back in WiFi zones.

Aussie Gino Roberts, exploring a glacier in Patagonia, works with Paige Brown to market Tripeezy software. It's a rough job, but someone's gotta do it!

Why do travellers use Tripeezy software rather than microblogging services such as Tumblr and Posterous? Does it pass GPS coordinates to Google Earth or similar service so that readers back at home can see an aerial view of the places where a traveller is exploring?
Tripeezy’s vision is focused on the needs of travelers specifically. We’re working to format the application and features to best benefit travelers who are off the beaten path. The most notable of these features at the moment are the GPS location, an easily accessible and viewable personal travel page for friends and family, as well as the offline features we’re going to be adding soon to the smartphone apps.

Currently only 30% of travelers are actually writing blogs while traveling and we believe from our personal research that the main reasons are lack of personal time and problems with internet and smartphone connections while traveling internationally. Bottom line is travelers want to be out experiencing and living their trip instead of spending their time keeping up with social networks, yet there is a growing pressure for travelers to keep in touch with friends and family with the improving technology and connections.

Could you describe the advantages and disadvantages of working in Chile and your experience working with the Chilean travel industry?
The experience working in Chile was an incredible opportunity for me. During my time in Chile, I spent a lot of time both traveling around Chile to meet tour operators as well as networking with tour companies in Santiago. I helped to start, along with 4 other local Chilean tourism leaders, the Chile Turismo Meetup in Santiago. The purpose is to provide a place where tourism professionals and operators in Chile could meet and network, but also discuss ways to further improve the Chilean tourism economy and offering. We had great support from local tourism as well as lead people within Sernatur, the government tourism office. 

San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile.

How can Chileans make more money from tourism?
As Chileans begin to recognize the need to improve their customer service standards in tourism, I think that the segment will move quickly. The country is blessed with some of the most incredible and diverse landscapes in the world. Once they have truly reached an international standard of tourism offering they will have no problem attracting more travelers.

I have seen strong leadership within the groups that I have partnered with in my time in Santiago and I look forward to seeing this leadership continue to develop the tourism economy in Chile.

How can Start-Up Chile improve the program?
Overall my experience within Start-Up Chile was a great one. I was given the support that I needed, a place to work, contacts within the Chilean network as well as great press for my company. I think the program has begun to set up its processes and get their team set up to best suit the needs of the future participants.

Map courtesy of Wikipedia.

Getting the grant from Start-Up Chile allowed me to not only launch, but also pivot the business model for Tripeezy in a short period of time. Having this sort of opportunity to work directly with travelers and local travel operators to perfect a startup offering this early in the development of my business has been an incredible advantage. 

Would SUC work better if they gave $100K to a smaller number of projects and required a small equity stake (7%?) in return?
I think having more participants with less funding is going to be more beneficial in creating the network globally. I look forward to seeing the alumni network grow, as this will not only be a great resource for Chile but for past participants of the program. 

Technology businesses in Austin, Texas have grown faster than Silicon Valley for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Stuart Seeger via Flickr.

Austin seems to be an ideal location for a technology business, combining the affordable cost of living of Santiago with the easy access to a large pool of investors of the San Francisco Bay Area. How can Santiago and the Bay Area compete?

I’ve seen Austin develop its startup network over the past years, and yes, now it is a perfect place to be for getting everything off the ground. I think developing these startup hubs outside of Silicon Valley will become easier and easier as technology development allows people to build companies from anywhere. As Santiago begins to develop its strong culture for entrepreneurs and a larger network of successful startups, they will also begin to create this kind of hub.

Have you been able to arrange meetings with investors about expanding Tripeezy? What feedback have you received? Will Tripeezy be a lifestyle business or a larger employer?
I have been talking with some angel investors and will be ramping up this process soon in search of a seed round of funding for Tripeezy. So far the response has been really good and I look forward to moving forward with this process in the near future. 

The plan is to build Tripeezy into a larger company and to solidify strong partnerships with companies both in the travel industry and other pertinent industries. I see Tripeezy expanding over the coming years and look forward to seeing the vision grow.

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