Startup Travels, a Copenhagen-based travel startup has big plans for Asia, particularly for the growth markets of Southeast Asia. Prior to its Asian launch, it had already attracted 10,000 entrepreneurs from 130 countries and almost 1200 cities.
Launched in October 2014, it functions as a platform and professional social network for travelling entrepreneurs and startup professionals. It was founded by Rasmus Elkjær Frandsen, Anders Hasselstrøm and Henrik Haugbølle, in order to connect with local entrepreneurs while travelling overseas.
Aside from a membership that is based on LinkedIn profiles and a vetting process by the founders themselves, it also hosts city guides for travelling entrepreneurs to get an idea of the startup landscape in their destination.
Value Proposition & Business Model
Startup Travels allows travelling entreprenuers to network and cultivate local connections, as well as gaining insights and understanding into the operations of the local ecosystem. With a vision of connecting and networking entrepreneurs globally, the Danish team aims to make the scene more transparent.
To date, user feedback has been generally positive. Carlos Matos, a Brazilian entrepreneur based in Sao Paulo shared “If you are open-minded, willing to share, learn and teach, I think Startuptravels is the best place to be. This is the most awesome idea I heard about in the startup environment that will surely make things happen. Let’s share, let’s be open, and let us help each other!”.
According to Cody Littlewood, managing principal of the Codelitt Incubator in Miami, Florida, ”Innovation comes from talking with different people, networking and building a network of ideas. Startuptravels for me is a fantastic way to meet other entrepreneurs, hear about new ideas, technologies and methodologies of doing things.”
Asked about its business model, Startup Travels disclosed that it planned to generate revenue from affiliate agreements with large companies, providing deals for entrepreneurs using the platform when travelling and arranging meetups.
Aside from professional tier memberships, like LinkedIn, it also plans to charge fees for facilitating the creation of private groups for startup companies or networks that want to connect their members and communicate more efficiently
When asked about funding, Frandsen explained “What we really need, is to get to know the right people. I don’t think it would be wise of us to take on board money just for the sake of it being money. We have received a lot of offers, but the right guy with the right expertise has not been there yet. What would be really important for us is getting people on board with the right connections and knowledge that can support the development of Startuptravels. We’re still young and have a lot to learn. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we weren’t open to criticism.”
While most users are European, with a strong Danish user base, the proliferation of meet-ups in Southeast Asia and the growing user base in the region has attracted the attention of Startup Travels. The emerging economies of the region, combined with the strong growth prospects of Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines were also noted as strong attraction points for many European entrepreneurs travelling to Southeast Asia.
However, Frandsen noted that there was a gap in the understanding of Asian businesses by European entrepreneurs. He noted that while the startup ecosystem of North America and Europe shared considerable similarities, conducting business in South America and throughout Asia required cultural literacy on the part of travelling entrepreneurs.
He explained “Asia is still perceived as having cheap labour and a place for outsourcing. Many Asian entrepreneurs are very innovative and hardworking. A lot of tech startups are emerging in Asia, and there’s got to be a reason for that.”
With a global reach, and the possibility to enrich social capital via the network, Startup Travels seems to have a compelling product offering that allows entrepreneurs to connect with the local startup community in a simple and easy manner.
When asked about an Asia-Pacific office, Frandsen replied “Not soon – but since this market is so interesting to us, and since it is a booming market, it could be the first spot for another Startup Travels office. So far it works great by having only our office in Copenhagen. But if we should expand, the Asia-Pacific region would be one of the first places we would look into.”