Category: Spotlight (page 1 of 2)

Get Your Passport to Adventure With Nicholas Woodhams, Founder of Adventure Pass

Renting sport equipment can be a hassle and expensive. Your only other option would be to bring your own equipment, but who wants to bring a surfboard or a bike on a plane? Nicholas Woodhams, Founder of Adventure Pass, faced that same issue. Luckily, we now have a better option. He set out to create an alternate way that gets you affordable rental equipment without the hassle of lugging it around from place to place, and fits in your back pocket! As Nicholas would say, Adventure Pass is your passport to adventure by providing member-only discounts on gear around the world. As a member of the British army, he’s no stranger to adventure that awaits around every corner and has now made it easily accessible to everyone.

What is Adventure Pass?

An Adventure Pass gets you discounts from 25 -100 percent on sports equipment rental and tuition around the world for an annual fee. You can buy it online or at one of our partner rental shops. Having these discounts at your fingertips helps to turn your travels into adventures.

How is Adventure Pass different from owning or renting sporting equipment?

If you own equipment you and want to travel you will have to pay most airlines to carry it for you. Then you have the hassle of transporting your gear from the airport to your hotel. However, with our passes it’s a lot cheaper to simply forgo those hassles and costs and rent in all the places you are traveling.

Where did the idea of Adventure pass come about?

It was two things really. I toured Iraq and Afghanistan with the  British army and I would be given a large amount of leave. I always took off kitesurfing for 5-6 weeks and was very bored of dragging all my gear around the place but rental costs were prohibitively high for that length of time. Secondly, we’re lucky in the army to be given lots of adventurous training for free. The idea is you push soldiers out of their comfort zone so they understand how to deal with fear. I think this is great for personal development whether you’re a soldier or not. So, I set out to make trying adventurous sports cheaper for everyone not just the wealthy and military. I realized if I could get the buying power of a lot people like me and partner with outward bound charities I would be able to arrange sizable discounts on gear rental.

Adventure Pass is launching in September 2017. Who will be the first travelers that are eligible to get this card?

The first people to receive our club pass, which is our 25 percent discount pass, will be disabled and disadvantaged children in the UK who have completed one of the outward-bound courses that our amazing charity partners run. We have four other cards too. Three sport specific passes (green for mountain biking, blue for watersports & silver for snow sports) they give holders free rental for a year of all the equipment specific to those sports. They are aimed at people who have recently taken up a sport and want to try different gear out. Finally, we have the Premier Pass which gets you free rental of all gear and that’s aimed at the long-term travelers, people taking gap years, sabbaticals, career breaks, etc.

Currently, Adventure Pass is in tech development. What has been the biggest hurdle and how was it overcome?

It’s foolish to build tech before you have customers, I think you have find your customers and work out what they need then try and find tech that can deliver and match it to the information you want to get. So, the biggest hurdle is trying not build something because you’re itching to and you know it’s much easier to sell something that exists.

How does the app and website assist with Adventure Pass?

It’s a great interface, it tells you where your nearest shop is, what other users think of that shop, lets you book your gear in advance and look at your history. Also allows you to review the gear you’ve hired and send that feedback to equipment manufacturers. In the future you’ll get snow reports, wave reports weather reports and maps.

You have also been a Business Development Adviser for Advntur and Co-Founder of KiteShare.org. How has these businesses help prepare you for Adventure Pass?

All those businesses were in the same industry and in their own way were solving the same issue, which is that action sports equipment is expensive to buy, expensive to travel with and expensive to rent. Going through the process of customer acquisition taught me about getting the lowest barrier to entry and about making sure you have a singular, clear message/vision for your customers to get behind.

How was the experience being the British army and how has it made you into the traveler you are today?

With the Army, I traveled a lot and saw parts of the world you simply can’t go to. Some of these places are breathtakingly beautiful with the most wonderful warm hearted people trying to eke out very basic lives. I wish we could all visit them because we would not be so quick to advocate violet action against them. So, I travel now because I think that, as Mark Twain said “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

What are some of the main goals you most want to accomplish in professional career?

The big one is to grow a company that does some good in the world. To get there I’d like to use the leadership skills I gained in the military to grow a strong, happy, inspired team that can execute that goal.

When you are having a stressful day at the office, how do you like to unwind?

If I’m in California, I’ll go surfing. If I’m back in Scotland, I’ll go Kitesurfing or catch a film. I love the escapism of a cinema.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I speak a dialect of Farsi called Dari.

More about Nicholas:

Personal Mantra: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
De-Stress Technique: Imagining myself back on a beach in Egypt with my younger self next to me telling me it’ll be OK.
Latest Gadget: Thin collapsible USB wall plug.
Favorite App: Skyscanner
Favorite Travel Brand: The Adventurists
Next Vacation Destination: Oman

Share a Drink With Founder and CEO of All Beauty Water, Camille Varlet

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We all know how hard drinking eight glasses of water per day can be, especially when you’re traveling. Often times you can be left feeling dehydrated and with major jetlag. Camille Varlet, Founder and CEO of All Beauty Water, set out to create water that not only tastes great, but to encourage people to hydrate while giving your skin essential vitamins and nutrients. With their delicious and unique flavors such as Strawberry Acai and Cucumber Aloe, All Beauty Water won the Gentleman Jack Pitch Distilled Competition in May 2016 and pitched to CNBC’s The Power Pitch this past October. You can purchase All Beauty Water online at Amazon and Jet.com to help you keep hydrated and nourished for your next travel adventure.

How did you come up with the idea of All Beauty Water and who are your ideal consumers?

I got the idea for All Beauty Water when I was in B-school. I noticed my friends were talking about seeing signs of aging. They were only exchanging topical or cosmetic beauty secrets, and their favorite products, yet they were drinking diet soda!  This was a real disconnect for me. I wanted to bring healthy lifestyle into the dialog and change the beauty conversation.

Through research I learned many people are not drinking enough water because they either don’t like the taste or find it boring. Many skin experts continue to talk about how many molecules in skincare products are too large to penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin.  Hydrating and nourishing from within is critical to skin health.

This information was my inspiration: to create a great tasting water with skin benefits, and encourage people to hydrate and nourish their skin from within.

Each bottle of All Beauty Water is a great way of drinking two glasses of water, with eight skin vitamins and seven additional skin nutrients, zero sugar / zero calories and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors or preservatives. Comes in three refreshing flavors.

How has working at L’Oreal and Dennon prepared you for the beauty industry?

Working for relevant companies before launching my own brand made a big difference as it served as an invaluable education into CPG, product development, marketing, sales, promotions, packaging, etc. I would say working for both L’Oreal and Dannon was key preparation for me to launch a beauty food brand as I was able to get both food and beauty category experience before combining the two into one brand. Had I not worked at these companies All Beauty would likely taste and look much different, and I would have made many costly mistakes along the way.  I honestly don’t know if I would have launched All Beauty Water had I not had previous brand management experience in these categories.

How do you decide on Beauty Water’s flavors? Have there been any flavors that didn’t make the cut? Are there any new flavors that we can keep an eye out for?

We did multiple tasting before deciding on these three flavors. Initially we had consumer groups taste five. The top three are what we have in the market today.  You should definitely be on the lookout for more flavors. We are targeting to launch one to two new products for next year.

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What hurdles did you encounter while creating All Beauty Water and how did you find your solutions?

Every step of the way has been a hurdle.  Starting from formulation.  I found a beverage lab that helped us create the formula, but early on they were not sure we could get the great taste without sugar or artificial sweetener. I didn’t want either in the product, so had to really push for this and we did it.  

Second, finding a co-packer to run my product on a production line and would do small minimums without annual guarantees. Through my network, and asking everyone I could, I finally found one.

Third was distribution. I walked into stores locally and got GMs or buyers to give our brand a chance. I didn’t have a distributor when I launched so I had to carry cases of water into the stores myself. Those are glamorous days but it had to be done to gain points of sale, and get to where I could bring on a distributor to take on this part of the business.

Lastly, the financing. Financing is a constant hurdle and we are always working on that. I could go on all day, but I think these are the main challenges.

Who has been your role model and an inspiration to your success?

My father has always been my role model. I know that’s cheesy to say but it’s true! He is a great businessman and an amazing person.

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of the many things we’ve accomplished so far with All Beauty Water, including starting to work with our first distributors this year and launching in our first chain account across four states.  We won the Gentleman Jack Pitch Distilled Competition in NY earlier this year and are in the finals for the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch competition.

Where can someone purchase All Beauty Water?

We are in Shaw’s Grocery Stores across the northeast. Additionally we are sold online: Amazon and Jet.com. You can also find us in limited distribution in NYC in independent natural grocery stores. More locations to come very soon. Check our website for the locations.

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Why would you suggest All Beauty Water the perfect product for traveling?

All Beauty Water is formulated to help hydrate and nourish skin, two very common concerns, and complaints, people have about their skin while traveling. Each bottle of All Beauty Water is two glasses of water, eight skin vitamins and seven additional skin nutrients.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I am a very picky eater and I don’t eat cheese though I’m half French, half Italian. I get made fun of a lot for that!

What do you like to do on your downtime when you aren’t running a company?

Friends, working out and the arts keep me sane. I see my friends every week, I work out 4-5 times a week and I try to go to the theater or listen to live music as often as I can. I love to read. I was a literature major in college.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start their own company but don’t know where to start, especially in the food or beauty industry?

Getting prior experience in the industry by working for an established company is very useful. You’ll learn a lot and make fewer mistakes when you launch your own company.  Get feedback on your idea. When you start working on your product/service. Establish a support/advisory group who can help you problem solve, give you advice and help you when you get stuck. Also, make sure you love and truly believe in what you are doing, because it’s a long and bumpy journey.

Is there anything else about All Beauty Water you would like the readers to know?

All Beauty Water is not just for women. Men can drink it as well! I get asked this question a lot.  Men have skin too and should feel free to enjoy All Beauty Water.

More about Camille:

Personal Mantra: Actions speak louder than words.
De-Stress Technique: Working out
Latest Gadget: Not a big gadget person.
Favorite App: Google Maps. I don’t have the best sense of direction.
Next Vacation Destination: Madrid, Spain

Find a Solution to a Common Travel Problem With Loopit’s Founder Vanessa Chan

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As the Founder and Chief Designer at re.design, Vanessa Chan has always been trying to find solutions to life’s problems. Having her Ph.D. from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering, and previously worked as an engineer and consultant, finding these solutions is Vanessa’s specialty. Loopit was no exception. Loopit is the first product from re.design that solves one of Vanessa’s tricky problems; making her earbuds easily accessible and untangled. Vanessa is always on the lookout for new problems she can solve and we cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

What experience did you encounter that helped you create LoopIt?

When I was in the corporate world, I was on the phone 12-14 hours a day.  I was very frustrated before every call because I had to fish around in my handbag for my headphones. Untangling my earbuds was an epic feat. Everywhere I went, I saw people struggling with knotty headphones.  

I’m an avid tinkerer. I like to make jewelry, knit, do woodwork and metalwork, make pottery, sew, knit and bake insane cakes with my girls. Using those creative and tinkering skills, I decided to try to solve this tangled problem I had. My first loopit prototype was just some mechanical clips to prevent knots but didn’t solve the other problem I had which was digging in my handbag looking for my earbuds.  I wished there was something stylish I could wear as a necklace. So I started playing around with decorating my headphones and after multiple prototypes, the chain design for loopit was born. I was inspired by the timeless design of Chanel. I loved how the chain was so versatile and could be worn with any look.

As an MIT trained engineer, I wanted a super simple solution.  As a former partner at McKinsey & Company, I needed to make a solution that was stylish.  As a busy working mom, I needed to make sure it was easy to use.  With these three hats on, loopit was born.  

LoopIt is a product of re.design. What is the idea behind re.design?

We believe that life doesn’t need to be filled with day-to-day frustrations. Our mission is to re.design every day products with a simple twist that will solve everyone’s daily gripes.

Why would LoopIt be the perfect travel accessory?

I designed loopit with the on-the-go traveler in mind. All of our designs are TSA security friendly. You can wear yours as a necklace through airport security and they won’t set off the alarms. That means there’s one less thing to put in the gray bin when you go through security. Also, when you’re sitting in your tight airplane, car or train seat, you don’t need to fumble in your bag or pocket for your headphones. Simply pull and the magnetic clasp will unlock, and you can use your headphones wherever and whenever you want. When it’s time to deplane, simply create the magnetic clasp, drape them around your neck as a necklace and you are ready to go.

Also unlike other products out there, you don’t need to charge them, like Bluetooth headsets. You don’t need to spend a lot of time winding them around something to prevent tangles and you can stylishly wear them as an easily accessible necklace.

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Are there other products TWIPPERS should keep an eye out for from re.design?

I keep a running log of “gripes” and now that re.design has launched, people tell me all about their gripes.  In fact, you can go to our webpage and submit your own gripes. I use this as a source of inspiration. There are quite a few travel gripes in the prototyping phase so be on the lookout for some new products on the horizon.

You volunteer your time with many organizations like Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Free Library of Philadelphia. What do you find to be most rewarding about working with organizations like these?

The Free Library of Philadelphia right now is launching their Business Resource Innovation Center (BRIC), whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses. It’s great to be a part of a program that’s looking to scale and support growth in the Philadelphia community. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy has been a thrill by working with K-12 children on their entrepreneurial endeavours. Children are so open minded and don’t see the traditional barriers adults see, which is very inspiring as an entrepreneur.  In fact, helping SCH launch their Venture Incubator for children and seeing my then eight year old daughter bring her concept to life, convinced me that I could take my ideas to market.  My daughters who are now 7 and 10, are my biggest advisors and part of my reason for taking the entrepreneurial plunge.

How do you feel having your Doctorate in Philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has helped you?

My Ph.D. was focused on inventing a new way to create ceramic nanostructures from polymers. I was an experimentalist who was constantly tinkering and using my hands to engineer the next step in my experiments. This eye to solving physical problems has been at the core of re.design and my “MacGyver” approach (as my husband puts it). Physical problems is something I have become adept to. My children always come to me when something is broken since I can usually engineer a way to fix it.  I also think the test and learn approach experimentalists naturally take is critical for entrepreneurs. In my mind there really isn’t the concept of failure. You try something, you get a result (it may not be the result you expected or hoped for), you learn from it and take the next step. Negative results do not equate to failure and having that mindset is important because entrepreneurs by definition are breaking new ground so you can’t get hung up with negative results.

What has been your greatest achievement and challenge you encountered with Loopit?

My greatest achievement was coming up with an idea, leaving the corporate world and launching my product in less than a year.  This experience has been thrilling knowing that people love my product, especially the sound quality, and customers using them every day.

My greatest challenge has been getting over the “perfectionist” mindset people have when they’re in the corporate world.  We come from a generation of insecure overachievers. We all strive for the perfect SAT, the top colleges, and the prestigious job, so to be comfortable that everything may not be perfect was something I was not focused on in my career.  This was a mental challenge for me to pivot from a  perfectionist mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset.

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Who has been the biggest role model for you throughout your career?

I’ve changed a lot in the past 20 years, so different people have inspired me throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint the one person. Of late, my biggest role models are those who publicly talk about their “failures” because I think for the U.S. to thrive, we need to get over this perfectionist mindset. The people that come to mind for me are Chelsea Handler, Meg Whitman, Steve Jobs, James Dyson, and Mark Cuban. These people are honest about having “failed,” how it hurt but ultimately how they picked themselves up to go to the next thing. None of us are perfect and I love how open they are about the trying times they had to overcome.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice that would help you today, what would it be?

Take more risks! I am someone who is risk averse, which at times has slowed me down. I would love to tell myself to not overanalyze things, but as a trained engineer that can be hard to do at times.

Is there anything else that our readers should know about LoopIt?

Through this journey, I’ve found that earphones are very personal purchases and people are very hesitant to buy from an unknown brand. However, as an MIT engineer, I made sure the sound quality was amazing and the feedback we’ve received about the sound quality has been incredible. You also spend 3.5 days of your life untangling headphones, so for just a few dollars you can get this time back with our patent pending magnetic clasping mechanism. I also have designs for men, women and we launched a sport/teen Loopit in September.

For all Twippers, please use promo code TWIP at re.design and you can get 20% off your next order of Loopits!

 

More about Vanessa:

Personal Mantra:  Always find a reason to smile and laugh.
De-Stress Technique: Getting advice from my kids.
Latest Gadget:  Loopit!
Favorite Travel Brand: Re.design
Next Vacation Destination: Scuba Diving – place TBD but open to suggestions!

 

Taste the World with Spice Madam’s Co-founder and Chief Spice Madam Kim Simithraaratchy

Kim Simithraaratchy has co-founded Spice Madam to connect people through good food and the sharing of culture across all borders. By working as a technology consultant, she was able to perfect her skills in problem solving and creating an online presence from day one. From delivering the flavors of the world to your kitchen table to giving back to Cafe Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training facility that transforms the lives of our most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities, Kim has made an impact in people’s lives with her passion for food. With her sights focused on international consumers in the near future, Spice Madam plans on expanding her reach so other cultures to get a deeper understanding of other countries around the world through their palate.

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Tell us about Spice Madam.

Spice Madam is a privately-held, global lifestyle brand dedicated to bringing people together through food. We believe cooking and sharing meals is the most powerful platform for communication, connection and community. Spice Madam curates subscription spice kits featuring a different country’s cuisine every month, conveniently delivered to member’s doorsteps on a monthly basis nationwide.  Each kit includes the featured country’s key spices, recipes, cultural information and a music playlist with representative music from that country. My friend Meghana Moya, a fellow foodie and world traveler, and I co-founded Spice Madam over dinner where Meghana brought up the idea for the subscription spice business model. I loved it immediately and came up with the name Spice Madam that night.  Spice Madam’s target market is anyone who likes to cook, travel and explore other cultures.

How has working as a Computer Engineer and Technology Consultant prepared you for your role with Spice Madam?

At the end of the day, my work as a technology consultant was about helping companies solve difficult problems. Having worked across many client industries, I am very confident in facing any new problems with an analytical and solution-oriented mindset no matter the context.  As an online business, establishing a presence on the Web is critical.  I was able to quickly set up a site capable of taking orders and conveying our value proposition.  As our needs outgrew our initial hosting platform, I migrated our site to another platform to streamline payment processing and maintenance. My 13 years of technology experience allowed us to get moving quickly without worrying about hiring the right person to help us.

What has be the biggest hurdle transitioning from the technology space to the food industry?

I’ve been involved in the food industry for a long time as an avid consumer, but also in running a cooking blog and producing cooking videos in my spare time. The biggest change in moving over from the technology space has been that I now get to dedicate all of my time to something I am very passionate about. The hardest part is moving from being a part of a company with an established structure and process to owning and directing a brand-new enterprise from the ground up. Through it all, I am continuing to learn and grow in all new directions, and that is the best part of it for me!

What is your proudest accomplishment since the launch of Spice Madam?

Meghana and I came up with the concept for a Travel Spice Kit while on a plane as we returned from a spice research trip in New Orleans and were able to turn it around to launch in five days. We feel pretty proud of that ability to be innovative and nimble as a business!

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What was the biggest obstacle while creating Spice Madam and how did you overcome this hurdle?

The biggest obstacle we faced in launching Spice Madam was making the time to get all the necessary elements of the business organized while holding very demanding full-time jobs. When we agreed to pursue Spice Madam together as business partners, we committed to meeting once a week to dedicate time to plan the launch.  Our drive to stay the course enabled us to successfully launch Spice Madam one year after we began our weekly meetings.

What are the benefits of working with your business partner Meghana?

As business partners, we are very aligned in our vision of Spice Madam’s mission and core values.  This has made the decision-making process very easy since everything we do must support our shared vision for Spice Madam or we just don’t do it.  We complement each other very well as one of Meghana’s strengths is her experience working in marketing, finance, and operations at a private equity backed consumer products company and in technology at a leading Fortune 500 company.   We both recognize that it’s always great to have two perspectives on an issue and through open communication we arrive at solutions together that abide by our brand’s mission and values.  We feed off each other’s energy and passion for what we do and our team’s results benefit from our combined ideas and perspectives.

When a customer receives their box, what would they expect inside?

Each box contains 3-5 spices and 4-6 recipes from the featured destination. You also get a playlist of music from there to set the mood while you are cooking, as well as fun travel tips and cultural facts to give you some context around the food you’ll be cooking and enjoying at the dinner table.

How do you choose which spices you are going to have in your box?

Each month, we go through a process of research on the cuisine of the featured destination. We also bring in our own firsthand experiences from worldwide travel and our international network to ensure we are getting to the heart of the culture. We select recipes and then decide which spices to feature in our curated spice kit.  We test all the recipes in the Spice Madam test kitchen to ensure they are doable in the average home kitchen, and we also devise substitutions for members to prepare gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan versions of our recipes to suit their lifestyles.

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What are your favorite spices, recipes and why?

Ginger is one of my favorite spices because I love the spiciness and flavor it adds to so many dishes. In addition, it has lots of anti-inflammatory properties that make it really healthy and healing for you.

A favorite ginger recipe would be Vietnamese caramelized pork, where tender pork chunks are braised in a sweet and savory ginger, coconut juice sauce. It’s the comfort food of my childhood!

What is one of your most favorite customer reactions to receiving their box and making the recipes?

One customer shared that he gets together with his dad to cook every month with Spice Madam Spice Kits. I love that we can help bring people together through food.

What is one thing about spices that most people do not know?

Spices have many healthy properties and have been used in eastern medicine for various purposes. In recent years, science and western medicine have started proving what has been known in practices such as Ayurveda for over two millennia.

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Where would you like to see Spice Madam in the next five years?

We are working for Spice Madam to be recognized as the easiest way to bring global cuisine to homes worldwide and for bringing people together through food. We have gotten requests for Spice Madam from Brazil and Italy, among other countries, and are working to ship internationally within the next three to five years.  

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

One of the core values of Spice Madam is to give back to the community. A portion of the proceeds of each box is donated to a nonprofit that supports children and education. Currently, we donate to Cafe Momentum, an organization that provides life skills training and mentorship for at risk teens in a gourmet restaurant kitchen setting. They’re doing amazing work!

Use the code TWIP20 for 20% off your first box!

More facts about Kim:

Personal Mantra: “Let’s Go!”
De-Stress Technique: Dancing and Yoga
Latest Gadget: Travel Spice Kit
Favorite App: Slack
Next Vacation Destination: New York and Bali

Kyle Parker: Designer and Lead Developer of The Traveler

Kyle Parker, designer and lead developer of The Traveler app says, “Success in the tech space is not only the ability to create something useful and practical, but you have to make cool and fun.” Well Kyle, we believe you have achieved this! The Traveler app started out as a tool for students at Ball State University in architecture and planning to document, capture and record their experiences on field study trips. Now, this app has visited six continents and more than 35 countries, recording over 100,000 miles of traveled paths. With over 100K downloads from Google Play, The Traveler is gaining popularity in the travel world. The Traveler has received recognition from Google and Lonely Planet, and awards like the Campus Technology Innovators Award and the TechPoint Mira Award. With the recent launch of their new version complete with premium features, The Traveler Pass and companion website, this is one app that you should include in your travel arsenal.

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What is The Traveler?

The Traveler is a road-tested mobile app, along with a companion website, designed for globe-trotting tourists to casual vacationers who struggle to capture, organize and share their travel experiences. The app offers fitness and activity tracking with Google Fit integration, Android Wear support for quick and easy access to features from your wrist, and the opportunity to discover over 9000 “guides nearby” from our partner, GuideAdvisor.com.

Organize your travels, with paths following your every footstep. Along the way, photos, videos, audio clips, notes and sketches are geotagged on the path, capturing everything you see and do. Additional information like descriptions and placename ensure you won’t easily forget all of the amazing places you’ve visited.

How is The Traveler different from other platforms or applications?

Since our launch in the fall of 2012, The Traveler has been focused on the user and their experiences while traveling. Originally developed for students at Ball State University, the app has traveled with over 150 students and faculty to all seven continents and 40 countries, while recording over a million miles of paths and capturing over 25,000 photos and other media. The students, along with feedback from our worldwide user base, are responsible for many of the features, functionality, and overall experience of The Traveler.  

Our partnership with GuideAdvisor also sets up apart from other travel journals. Travelers can easily find, learn about, and ultimately book a guide from the app based on their location and interests. Other apps on the market lack integration with Google Fit, which provides step counts, activity recognition (biking, walking, running, etc), and quick access to commonly used features from their Android Wear watch. These are all great bits of information to accompany your travels to provide that extra level of detail.

From a social perspective, the companion site for The Traveler is focused on the trip and your experiences. It’s not cluttered with political commentary, cute cat videos, or random personality quizzes like you would find on other social media platforms. Plus, just because you travel with someone doesn’t mean you want to be “friends” with them on other platforms – with The Traveler, you can easily keep your travel life on social media separate from your personal, day-to-day life.

Since the app was created at Ball State University, do students and staff have exclusive features and will they become available to other college and universities in the future?

Yes, our students and faculty have full and free access to The Traveler Pass – a paid feature we just launched for our travelers around the world, as well as the companion website. Using The Traveler Pass, users have the ability to upload their trips, paths and media to our website, allowing them to view, edit, and share their experiences with family and friends.

In terms of launching The Traveler at other universities, this is something Mark (my longtime friend and co-founder) and I have discussed, and we would love to see the app used for other university-based field trips and study abroad programs. Over the past several years at Ball State, I, along with our tremendously supportive faculty and students, have shown how valuable the app can be in the university setting – including a book chapter in “Mobile Media Learning: Innovation and Inspiration” from ETC Press, published by Carnegie Mellon University; a Campus Technology Innovators Award in 2015; and numerous national and international conference presentations and news articles. While the app is currently available only for Android, Mark and I are planning an iOS release in the future, which will make it even more appealing to university communities.

Why did you decide to only have the app available for Android and will The Traveler be available for iPhone in the future?

When I first started learning how to build mobile apps, I needed to replace my aging Windows Mobile phone. At the time, the iPhone was still an AT&T exclusive, and as a Verizon customer, an Android phone was my only choice. Then, a couple of years later, Google provided a blueprint for an Android app called MyTracks. That app would later serve as the foundation for what would become The Traveler.

While at the university, the focus of the app was for our students – we loaned them an Android-based tablet free of charge, so it was an easy way to get them using The Traveler, and we achieved great success on the Android platform. Obviously now that the app is available for the general public, an iOS version is at the top of our priority list. We do not currently have a release date for the iOS version, but travelers can follow us on social media and check our website for updates and the latest news about The Traveler.

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This year you volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club. What did you learn from that experience and how do you apply what you learned to your personal and professional life?

As an IT guy at Ball State, I routinely work with our students to create and develop apps, but this was my first real “teaching” experience, not to mention with a group of children much younger than the college students. It was a great time – I enjoyed seeing the children at the Club get really excited about technology and what they could do with it. During one of the sessions, I brought a couple pairs of Google Glass (wearable technology from Google with a small screen about an inch from your eye), some Google Cardboard (low-cost virtual reality viewer), and a few smartwatches. The children loved them! They could not stop talking about how cool the tech was and everyone wanted to run out to the common area to tell all of their friends (there were a lot of selfies taken that day).

From a personal perspective, it reminded me that success in the tech space is not only the ability to create something useful and practical, but you have to make cool and fun! People need to want and love using your tech, whether it is an app or a gadget. The experience was also great to simply give back – for years I had been surrounded with all of this technology, and to some degree had probably taken it for granted. To watch those children react to things they had only seen on TV or online was a good reality-check, and something I’ve kept in the back of my mind as I continue forward in my career.

You have received a few awards and recognitions for The Traveler. Which one has meant the most to you and why?

As a mobile developer, by far the recognition that has meant the most is the attention the app received from Google. Back in 2013, The Traveler appeared as a staff pick on the Google Play store three times that summer, and also made an appearance at Google I/O – the company’s annual developer conference. With over 2 million apps in the Play store, for someone at Google to not only find the app, but deem it worthy of appearing in a “top picks” section is pretty amazing (much less three times). I’ll never forget the first time I saw our red “Tr” icon show up on the main screen of the storefront – it was really cool! Then, a few months later, walking through the conference hall at I/O, I just happened to look over at the Google Play for Education booth and saw a familiar icon alongside apps from Rosetta Stone and NASA. That was a really good year, and that exposure is the reason we hit amassed over 100,000 downloads for the app.

You have been working in the tech space for over 15 years. What do you like the most about the tech space?

As a young kid, I loved playing with Legos and always tried to build something really cool and fun – which typically meant throwing out the step-by-step instruction guide and doing my own thing with the pile of multicolored bricks. Equally important during my childhood was the computer my dad brought home when I was in the fourth grade (this was 1987, a couple of years before most college-age freshmen were even born). I can remember spending countless hours trying to figure that thing out and learn all I could about this amazing new piece of technology. That love for building and technology continued to grow throughout my childhood, and during high school I had made up my mind to attend Ball State and enroll in the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) and double major in architecture and computer science.

When the time came to talk to my adviser about double majoring, she told me I was crazy – CAP was a full-time commitment and taking classes for two completely different subjects was not a good idea. After the first semester of my freshman year, I transferred over to computer science – my love for technology ultimately won. In retrospect, the decision made sense – instead of creating, design and building structures in the physical environment, I simply transitioned those skills, creativity, and passions to the technological environment.

Sixteen years later, I am still just as fascinated with technology as when I was a fourth-grader. I have never regretted the decision to switch majors, and am thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had as an IT professional to immerse myself in this world of tech and gadgets.

After having a rough day at work, what do you like to do to unwind and clear your mind?

Since I’m surrounded by technology all day, the best way I’ve found to unwind is to disconnect myself. It’s a challenge at times to put down the phone, take off the smartwatch, and just get away from it, but ultimately it feels great. Coupled with disconnecting is getting out and being active. Whether a weekend camping trip, a long ride on my bike, or hiking the trails with my family, being outdoors is a welcomed distraction from the constant beeping of notifications and the glare of a computer screen.     

What key piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to create their first app?

Creating an app is the easy part – the tools, training and technology are abundant online. Anyone with the interest and determination can easily find the resources needed to build a great looking and functional app. The hard part is finding success as an app developer. For that, the best advice is to study your competition and find out not only what makes their app great, but what makes it possible for you to create something better. Does the app offer a poor user experience? What do people say about it in the app stores and online? What critical feature is missing that you can deliver? Then once you’ve created something better than your competition, you have to find a way to get it in front of people – a great app is only great if people download it. This part is tough – it takes great connections, a great story, and a lot of luck to have the right person see it at the right time.     

What new features can TWIP readers look forward to in the future?

This year has been another great year for The Traveler – after three years as a university property, the app is now owned by 14Eleven Development LLC, a startup founded by myself and my longtime friend, Mark Caravello. Creating our own company has been a dream for many years, and the app offered a great excuse to finally make it happen.

At the end of August, we launched the first phase our brand-new version, complete with our premium features The Traveler Pass and companion website. The initial launch includes the ability to upload trips, media, and paths from the mobile device to the cloud, where the traveler, their friends, and family can view the experience at mytravelerapp.com. The next version will expand upon the idea of sharing a trip, and allow users to invite others to join them as they travel – creating a composite, multifaceted experience seen through the eyes of everyone on the trip. The website will also allow travelers to upload photos from their digital camera, edit content, and import paths and markers for all the places they want to visit, before the trip begins.

How often have you visited a new place and wish you had asked your friends where to eat, what to see or where to go? We plan to address this problem with a new feature we’re working on – the ability for travelers to leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs for others to find, long after their trip has ended. Personal reviews and markers from family and friends will help you find that perfect restaurant, the must-see place in a city, the secret to skipping lines, the right time to beat the crowds, and countless other travel hints. Rather than relying on reviews and recommendations from random strangers (or paid reviewers masquerading as a normal tourist), The Traveler will offer a way to revisit places based on people you trust and who have similar interests and tastes.

We hope to have this second round of features available in the coming months – keep an eye on social media for more info!

 

More facts about Kyle:

De-Stress Technique: Getting outside like camping, hiking, biking and yard work.
Latest Gadget: Moto Z with Instaprojector MotoMod projects up to a 70” screen anywhere with just the phone. It’s great for showing off those trip!
Favorite App: Twitter is my go to source for news and what’s going on.
Favorite Travel Brand: Airbnb is my favorite. My wife and I have stayed with and met some interesting people over the years.
Next Vacation Destination: No immediate plans, but either the lake in Michigan or the beach in North Carolina. I need to see some water!

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