By Jenisha Watts
A true consumer-friendly travel site is about to take flight. Well, actually, according to its founders, Wanderfly, a new service that helps people discover where they can travel to based on their interests and budgets, is more of a travel inspiration site. No matter what your aim—partying 'til dawn, chillin' at the beach all day, or a romantic getaway with your main squeeze—Wanderfly, which launched last October, will make it happen without leaving you too broke to do anything else. After seeing the team behind the start-up present its latest developments at a NY Tech Meetup event, we spoke to co-founder Christy Liu about planning your next getaway, how Wanderfly can help penny pinchers, and the company's future goals. Oh, and for those who are itching to start their own company, she drops a few jewels on how to do that, too.
Complex: What is Wanderfly?
Christy Liu: Wanderfly is a travel inspiration site. We help people figure out where they can go, what they can do based on the amount of money they have to spend, and the type of things they like to do when they travel. We hope to match peoples’ profiles to all the data and content that we have. We noticed there is a lack of innovation in online travel. We are trying to be a real customer advocate for our users. There aren’t many travel sites today that are really aimed toward helping travelers figure out their plan. So many are confusing and will give you a headache. We are trying to simplify it and make it really personal.
Christy Liu: Every [travel website] looks like they have been made in 1995 and haven’t really innovated since then. We launched Wanderfly this fall and the reception has just been incredible. We have users from over 170 countries and a lot of great partnerships have developed out of that.
Who are some of your partners?
Christy Liu: We work with Expedia for hotels. We have cool content guys like Foursquare and Yelp. Really, the vision is bringing in more partnerships like that—especially those that can offer some exclusive specials. Whether it's one based on a great deal or it's one based on really limited opportunities. We definitely want to find the right guys to partner with. When you come to Wanderfly, you are not just getting a cool user experience; the product and services that you get through it are really unique.
Did you guys think about the current economy when brainstorming?
Christy Liu: Yeah, we are definitely looking out for those who want to see how far their money can take them. A lot of people are pretty budget conscious when it comes to traveling. People want to be able to personalize travel to their actual means. Wanderfly sort of flips the typical online search for travel. Usually you put in where you are going and when you are going, then you get a bunch of prices. Here we are saying, you name your price and we will figure it out for you.
Finding a trip on Wanderfly for $200 is impossible. Will this ever change?
Christy Liu: Yeah, we are going to do road trips and car rentals at a certain point. It will help you find more options. Right now, it is where you can fly to so, obviously, it's hard to get somewhere under a couple of hundred dollars, but in the future we will do shorter trips and cheaper trips.
How does Wanderfly make money?
Christy Liu: We get a cut of the different bookings and purchases that happen through the site. We work with different partners like Expedia for hotels and we share our profits from any of the purchases that happen. We are doing some forms of sponsored-content advertising. You don’t see them right now, but you will in the future.
So the user will not have to pay anything in the future?
Christy Liu: We are not going to charge them anything like membership fees, but we will find other ways that don’t hurt the user to make money ourselves.
What was something you all learned when creating Wanderfly?
Christy Liu: To not try to change customer behavior. It's easy to think of products that are awesomely unique and like nothing you've ever seen before, those that stretch the limits of what people actually do. If you build against that, people won't use you. We heard that early on, so with Wanderfly, we built against an existing customer behavior that just happened elsewhere—a behavior that was a reality, but was made difficult with the existing tools and technologies.
What should users expect in the future from Wanderfly?
Christy Liu: We are putting in more "trip scenes" so there will be close to 20 to 25 different experiences and interest that you can find on Wanderfly. Another thing that we are doing is we are getting into the social and group travel. You will be able to invite your travel party, whether it's friends or family, onto the itinerary itself. You will have almost like a collaborative dashboard that everybody can work on together. And that’s a big goal for us because right now I don’t think there are any sites out there that are doing group and social travel in an effective way.
Alright, what’s your pitch to Complex readers on why they should try Wanderfly?
Christy Liu: [Laughs]. You are able to search by your budget—that’s obviously a concern for a lot of people. I think that’s a huge feature that appeals to everyone. For men exclusively, we have a lot of "trip scenes" that are tailored for male-oriented audiences, like the best places for casinos, for solo travel, and for partying and night life.
Sounds dope. What advice could you impart on our readers looking to launch a start-up?
Christy Liu: To quote NIKE, just do it. Often, the hardest part is not the business idea, not the value proposition, not even the money. The hardest part is just having the balls to go for it. To quit your cubicle and be OK with the fact that the success of your company is now going to depend almost solely on you.
Christy Liu: First, figure out what you need to survive. If you don't do this hard math, you're going to constantly be in limbo without a sense of your own reality. Next, find great partners who can be your support system. I wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of my co-founders. We all quit our jobs and started Wanderfly the same month.