At last month’s Red Innova Brazil Startup Competition in São Paulo, Escapes With You came out ahead. The startup, which helps travelers to discover, share, explore and buy experiences around the world, beat out ten other companies for the title, adding this latest victory to a string of accomplishments and achievements. So what’s all the fuss about? How did the business come to be?
Each member of the Escapes With You founding team has made a unique contribution to the startup by way of their own experiences and backgrounds. Miguel Torres, the CEO of the startup, is a creative thinker who has led businesses in the past. Mejia, who acts as COO, boasts significant knowledge in travel, having a received a degree in the tourism and worked in the Tourism and Development Department of UNESCO. Loaiza and Granda, the two technical minds of the project, founded CometBits, a developer of games and apps, and have extensive experience in systems, developing and tech.
The four launched the beta version of Escapes With You just a few weeks ago. Thus far, the results have been promising. In under a week, the startup’s number of users doubled with minimal marketing efforts from the team. Users spend an average of nine minutes on the page, engaging by “loving” the experiences listing (the platform’s point of interest action). Users from the U.S. have been especially enthusiastic, as well as those from Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. Notably, many users are returning to the platform on a daily basis.
The Escapes With You business model is a blend of e-commerce and social discovery that is dependent on viral growth. The company earns up to 15% commission on every sale or booking made through the platform, whether for crowdsourced or scouted experiences. Its closest competitors are Living Social and Gidsy.
We caught up with Torres to find out a bit more about the startup.
Emily Stewart: You’ve been heavily involved in events and competitions for startups – Red Innova, Global Entrepreneurship Week, etc. – and are now participating in Start-Up Chile. To what extent has your involvement in the entrepreneurial community affected your business?
Miguel Torres: We have participated in the entrepreneurial community since day one. Moreover, we love to compete, so we enjoy being part of competitions, battles, etc. Being active in the startup ecosystem has enabled us to network and get real validated experience, as well as search for mentors. These elements have been the key to taking our startup to the next level.
The main benefits for us have been apprenticeship, mentoring and networking. We have always believed in “entrepreneurial karma,” so under this philosophy, we try to give a helping hand to other entrepreneurs.
It’s important to take advantage of opportunities without losing sight of the focus of your business. Being involved helps a lot, but it takes time, so you have to be careful, very organized and aware of distractions.
ES: You have launched your product in Chile. What markets will you attack next? Assuming that this is a global platform, what strategies will you implement to expand?
MT: We have been gaining traction and getting to know our users. Thus far, our most active users are couples, honeymooners, young professionals and Airbnb travelers. In consideration of these main markets and demographics, we have been pivoting the types of experiences we’re featuring and working on better scouting.
Looking ahead, we do want to go global. We have launched in Chile and Ecuador, and we just opened operations in Mexico. We also won a Chilean contest called Contact Chile, which helps us with networking. Right now, we’re undertaking commercial missions in the U.S., Brazil and Hong Kong. With our crowdsourced platform, we have been able to reach people worldwide. We are also finding our suppliers in a natural way as individuals and companies contact us to sell through the platform.
ES: What have the technological implications been of rolling out Escapes With You? Are you considering going mobile as well?
MT: Our main competitive advantage, and secret recipe, is technology that allows us to offer highly specialized and customized products in terms of experience and service. Our main differentiator is based on our algorithms for an innovative crowdsourcing platform. We have a real time recommendation system that can learn from shared information from social networks in a cool and attractive way, allowing us to craft and customize incredible experiences. We are committed to making new discoveries and offering them to users on our site.
We are currently working on our mobile app. At the moment, almost a 40% of the traffic on our site comes from mobiles devices, and 80% of that is from iOS. We are perfecting both UI and UX for the app, thus aiming to turn mobile devices into a channel that will allow us to grow.