349. The Secrets Behind Building a 35M+ Following, Why Social is the New SEO, and How Tripscout is Creating the Super App for Travel (Konrad Waliszewski)

349. The Secrets Behind Building a 35M+ Following, Why Social is the New SEO, and How Tripscout is Creating the Super App for Travel (Konrad Waliszewski)

Konrad Waliszewski of Tripscout joins Nick to discuss The Secrets Behind Building a 35M+ Following, Why Social is the New SEO, and How Tripscout is Creating the Super App for Travel. In this episode we cover:

  • Launching the 1st In-App Hotel Booking Platform for Instagram
  • Why Organic Attention is the Rarest and Most Valuable Asset
  • How Tripscout Hacked Customer Acquisition
  • The Future of How We Search
  • And more!

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Transcribed with AI:

Konrad Waliszewski joins us today from Chicago. He is the CEO and co founder of Tripscout, a New Stack portfolio company that is building the first hotel booking app for Instagram. Tripscout now has over 1 million registered users, ranks number two in the app store for the keyword travel, and has over 35 million followers on social. By the way that’s more followers than Airbnb, Hopper, Kayak, TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Expedia, and Priceline combined. Prior to Tripscout, Konrad was the founder and partner at Abdo Ventures in addition to being the CEO at venture funded Speek, which was acquired by Jive Communications in 2015. Konrad has been a travel guru for over a decade, having been named the modern Marco Polo by Forbes. Konrad, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Nick. It’s always always great to chat with you.
Always a pleasure, man, this is gonna be a lot of fun. So take us through your background and your path to Tripscout.
Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s kind of a combination of my my whole life stories, I was the son of two political refugees. And so the two things that have always been a constant my life or doing something entrepreneurial, and traveling, so grew up dual citizen and traveling all over the world. So the world felt small and started career in business started multiple companies with various degrees of success. But travel has always been a passion and obsession of mine. So I’ve personally travelled to about 100 countries at this point, I started a travel blog, in the very early days of blogging and social media that ended up getting a pretty sizable following just a couple 100,000 people. And that caught me deeply plugged into both the very early days of the Creator economy, but also the travel community in the travel industry. And I just saw a fundamental shift happening with our society’s relationship, to travel. If you look at why we travel, how we travel, what we hope to get out of the experience, how we share those experiences with our friends, all of that just looked so radically different over the last 1015 20 years, it really blew my mind how, essentially, nothing in the travel industry has changed since 2001, when it first came online. Now with the exception of taking an Uber from the airport or running an Airbnb, while you’re there. Basically, it’s the same companies that have dominated the entire industry. And I just became really fascinated why such a massive industry was operating the exact same way, even though its customers had shifted dramatically. And I just became obsessed with that. That one question. And that took me down a journey that started Tripscout and got us here today.
So tell us, you know, what was the inspiration that started Tripscout, I know you’ve done all this traveling, I know that there’s a lot of legacy players that haven’t really evolved. But you know, what was the major insight? Or what caught your attention that led to the launch of the company?
Yeah. So there’s two things. So one, you know, I saw this saw this big cultural shift. And I really dove deep into the industry. So why was this the case? Why are these two companies still, you know, basically, booking holdings and Expedia group still dominating the entire industry, and no one has disrupted them, when I looked at it as I went down that path. And that same time, I just wanted to learn about that cultural shift with the modern traveler. And so I kind of went down this dual track process. And when I analyzed the industry, I saw that and I found every travel startup that I thought was a good idea that didn’t succeed. And I talked to as many founders as I could, and I analyzed from afar. And ultimately, what it came down to, was nobody could solve for customer acquisition, because you had booking.com and Expedia spending $12 billion a year, they were very good at paid ads, get TripAdvisor publishers and what Google takes for themselves dominating SEO. So any good idea that came into the space, no one could really get traction. And at the same time, you know, I knew that the way that we would be able to create something that, you know, the modern traveler really loved was having more insight into that customer. And so my co founder and I started building some basic MVP products just to get things in the hands of customers. And we did something really crazy in the early days that turned out to be quite pivotal. We gave our personal cell phone number to every single person who signed up for one of our products and our original nuts original app. Yeah. And I was gonna ask you a shout out to MDX your co founder. Yeah, totally. Yeah, it’s we’ve been on a great journey together. So 250,000 travelers had my personal cell phone number and Andes as well. And you know, my my wife absolutely hated me for doing that. But it gave us more insight into psychology in the behavior of the modern traveler and I told everyone look, I’ve been to 100 countries, wherever you’re going, there’s a good chance I’ve been just text me, call me email me anytime, you know, think of us as your travel buddies. And they did 1000s of people reached out. And we just did all the unscalable stuff on how to help them plan their trip, like look at their plans, all of that. And we saw this really interesting shift happening where, and this was quite a few years ago, that everyone was starting their trip journey on Instagram. So they started to search on Instagram, before Google, and before anywhere else. And so we realized that, you know, this alongside with that piece earlier that I realized that no one could sell for customer acquisition, I came up with this new theory that social media was the new SEO, none of the incumbents and no, really, no company in almost any industry was really doing a good job of using social media effectively as both a customer acquisition tool and a retention tool. And I thought we couldn’t really innovate there. And we had our path to solve for that first piece. And so that led us down this journey where we essentially pioneered the science of SEO. But for social media instead of for Google. And we, we run the account, hotel, so just add sign hotel, It’s our flagship, but we then built over 100 Different brands on social media with a highest search intent. So almost every major destination, and almost every major travel topic, we if not, are the number one account and community were the top few. And so you know, as people search for places they want to go, we meet them there. And as you said, in the intro has since grant gained, you know, 35 million followers that’s growing at about 2 million or more every single month. And, you know, like you said, it’s more than the entire travel industry combined by a magnitude of two. So you know, I think it puts it puts us in a great place. And, you know, and it has allowed us to create the first hotel booking platform for Instagram, and which we launched officially a couple months ago.
So you mentioned that people’s travel journey would begin on social media and on Instagram, I imagine, you know, they’re looking for photos of various places to go to, are they searching hashtags? At the time? This is years ago, right? Or are they following accounts that are associated with destinations that they have in mind? What does that user journey look like?
Yeah, the search. And this is changing more, as you know, Instagram and other social platforms are starting to become more of a search based tool. But at the time, it was very simple. Unlike SEO, where you have a wide range of keywords, for social, they would just type in the destination name. So if you were planning a trip to Iceland, you would go to Instagram and just type Iceland, and both, you know, hashtags and accounts would show up. And you know, we run the account, Iceland Data Explorer. So the number one account, the number one community would be Iceland, Data Explorer, you know, you’d follow us and you’d start getting visual inspiration for how you wanted your trip to look. And really, that was the priority is you rather than go read a string of words and text you wanted pure visual inspiration. And, you know, that has evolved to be more video inspiration, but you just wanted to see what things look like and what you wanted your trip to look like. And so, so we just really optimized for that destination name. And so if you search Iceland, we have Iceland, Data Explorer, if you search Paris, we have peristaltic spoiler, you have Chicago, we have Chicago Data Explorer. And you know, it’s we effectively have built, you know, for me, every major travel destination, we are there that will show up and as well, we think of it as a page one keyword ranking.
I want to get more into this build. But before we do, is there I mean, you’ve been over 100 countries crazy. Is there a place, whether it be a country, a city or you know something that’s kind of a hidden gem that you’d recommend people add to the list?
Yeah, my favorite places, you know, I think the reason we love travel, is it pushes us outside of our comfort zone outside of our routines teaches us a new perspective about the world and about ourselves. And so I like places that stretch your comfort zone. So some of my favorite places have been, you know, Papua New Guinea or Mozambique or Somalia or places like that, but I realized that’s probably not for most travelers. If, if you’re looking for an underrated gem that might not have been on your radar. I think some of the best travel destinations in the world that don’t get enough global credit is the country of Georgia, Ethiopia, Malta, and Montenegro.
Very good. Awesome. I don’t know if I ever told you this Konrad. But when I was 26, 27, I bought one of those round the world tickets. I don’t know if you remember that. So amazing. Yeah, I remember those. Yeah.
Yeah, you could pay. So for the audience back in the day, you could pay a flat rate. And you could fly on a connection of carriers, like star lions, you know, united as part of that group. And as long as you continued going in the same longitudinal direction, then you can take as many flights as you want it, you could just never go, if you’re going west to east, you could never, you know, move from east to west, you just had to keep progressing. And so, yeah, I spent, I don’t know, eight months, something like that it was in Australia for four and went all over the place.
So I remember I remember those, those really clunky websites that you could book with those around the world tickets, like, you could pin and you could map it and, and I never actually booked one of those tickets, because I ended up just stringing it together. But I am very familiar. I know a few people that have done that. It’s a shame. They don’t keep that that is a that is a great concept.
For sure. I’m getting flashbacks to those websites and all the lost luggage along the way, which is another story, but back to these followers. Okay. So, you know, I’m very fortunate, New Stack’s very fortunate. We’re investors in in Tripscout. So I’ve been to the board meetings. I mean, you reached, you know, 5 million followers, and we’re like 10 million, 20 million when I was typing up some like talking points for this interview, you were at 30 million, you’re already at 35. I mean, it’s just bananas to see the social growth, you know, how did you accomplish this? You know, such a large following and growing this audience so quickly?
Yeah, I think the first high level point was we took a very different approach. I think most people looked at social media as an extension of their brand. And something they shouldn’t do. We looked at it really in a scientific customer acquisition channel way. So we thought about it from, you know, how do we, how do we test everything we can to rank to go viral to really boil down every aspect of social media from a science. So that was the first point was we just approached it in a different way. The second is, we’ve also we looked at it in the sophistication you would like any product, like we saw it as a product ourselves. So we put as much data as we could pull out of social media, we connected to Instagrams API’s, we built dashboards for social media to see how things were performing. So unlike most people, which who are, are most companies who are posting, you know, one time a day or two times a day on one account, we’re posting 10 times a day on 100 accounts. So we had 1000 posts a day that we were able to extract insights and data from and you know, we had engineers working on this product, people working on this, and not just, you know, what I think a lot of companies did in the early days is put some marketing intern on their social media account. And so we were able to extract insights for how things changed. And then as we detected algorithm changes, I think this is a piece that most people are afraid of us social is if you figure something out, and the algorithm tweaks, it’s like, seen as a negative thing, we saw that as the best opportunity. Because if we detected something, we would shift everything in a split second, and go towards a new path. And so basically, every time there was a change, we saw a new inflection point of growth. So that was what really got us to be able to, you know, as a, you know, a few people build this, you know, you’re saying in the early days of this, you know, couple million followers, and then we hit a really inflection point during the pandemic. So, which I’m sure we can get into because it impacted travel so much. But when the pandemic hit, first thing we did, I’m sure, like everyone, we knew just as fast as we could, we just tried to cut as much cost and try to make sure we were going to survive, and we did, we spent a day or two renegotiating contracts and extending our burn. But on day three, we realized this could be the best thing that has ever happened to us. This is a very competitive industry, that spends a lot of money on marketing and a lot of money trying to get attention. And for the first time ever, all that is about to stop. And you know, the travelers behaviors and desires, then they’re not going to travel but everything’s going to be put on pause, and it’s arguably going to shift so we we did a really deep dive onto you know, I remember it was like day three of realizing this thing was going to be a big deal. Andy and I got on the phone and we said, You know what? Let’s make a really bold bet right now, instead of just trying to hunker down and outlast it like everyone else. You know, if this thing lasts forever, we’re gonna die anyways. So we might as well swing for the fence. And we very quickly dove you know, back to our roots where we talk to as many users as we can did all of our own thinking and we said, how is trial going to be different? How’s it gonna be better? How’s it gonna be worse, like, what’s going to change and ultimately long term? We concluded that nothing will really fundamentally change. Once we get past whatever that period we didn’t know, at that time, it was gonna be six months or two years. But once it gets back, people are gonna always have the desire to see the world and how they want to see the world is not going to change. So we didn’t want to do any COVID hacks like virtual tours and things like that. And so when we looked at that, we then said, now’s the best time to double down on our thesis, organic attention is the most rare and valuable thing. Social media has influence on travel accelerate, no one is going to travel for a period of time, but they’re going to all be on their phone, dreaming about travel. So we basically put the entire company, you know, the engineers, the designers, the people who are not typically part of our social media growth, who put everyone on it. And we just said, everything else is on hold, we’re just gonna go hardcore and do this. And, you know, in a year, we went from 2 million to 20 million followers. And we just realized the fact that every one of our competitors, you know, we’re not running paid ads, everyone was quiet, we had an opportunity, when we had probably more captive audience and more attention than ever, just to build out build out that asset. And, you know, it is a huge testament to, to our investors, you know, you and the other investors, you know, while everyone else was, you know, thinking that though the world was ending, which, you know, in many ways it was, we had a plan to play offense, instead of defense, you hope that investors support you during the tough times. But you know, we had runway, we could survive, but we were like, No, we don’t, we want to go harder. And you guys were like, we Yeah, let’s do it. And so, you know, have a huge amount of gratitude for for that, you know, we had, we had people who are willing to take contrarian bets. And we, as a company, were willing to take a contrarian bet. And we went all in on social during that time, as well. And even though that was a big part of our story, from the beginning, it just accelerated everything at the time, it was a shock to the system.
That was when that hit, I mean, for everyone, but then your business is also potentially on the ropes. I remember LPS calling me and saying, you know, many investors that had been fortunate to meet you saying, I feel so bad for Konrad and Andy, like, you know, they have such a great business. And this is just, you know, gonna tank it. And I said, you know, hold that thought these guys. You know, I think the other travel companies that we’re so reliant on all this booking revenue, I thought that they were in a much more challenged position, because you guys took quick action to, you know, right size, the costs, and then get more aggressive on the growth. And now you come out of it. And everyone’s trying to acquire customers online. And that’s gotten more difficult with Apple, and you guys have your baked in audience, I mean, you have a captive audience 30 million plus, on Instagram and other social platforms, you can’t replicate that sort of power and that sort of access, and that type of channel for such a high value, high ticket, repeatable purchase that people are going to make, I mean, until the metaverse is, you know, all consuming and 50 years, there’s still going to be a lot of travel.
Yeah, absolutely. And that was our view is that we have, we wanted our audience to be an asset, we didn’t want to pay to acquire a customer every time, every time they’re making a booking. And that’s the beauty of social media is the you know, Instagram alone has 2 billion users, about half of them open the app multiple times a day. And on average, the Instagram user spends an hour a day on the platform, your kin that’s and when you think about and this is why I’m a such a huge believer of social commerce, and how that’s going to disrupt how we purchase. If 75% of people say that they are heavily influenced about the products they buy based on what they see on social media. So you’re telling me that you can see your audience multiple times a day for free, and talk to them for free and help them and add value and be there at the time, they’re ready to make a very meaningfully sized transaction. And it just blows my mind how companies are not focused on social media as one of their most important channels. And it’s only going to get bigger. And I think if you look at just phone usage, especially if you look at a lot of the Asian markets that I think are a few years ahead of us. They’re using a few apps to do a lot of things. And they’re using apps more and more but using fewer and fewer apps. And that’s you know, what I think is what most people are sleeping on Instagram is I think Instagram is going to be a much bigger competitor to your Internet browser than anything else. You’re going to start finding products, purchasing products, reaching out to customer support, doing all kinds of things on Instagram. It’s not just seeing cool videos and talking to your friends. And I think we’re in the early days of that I think social commerce is going to fundamentally shift how, how we access the internet and how we look at ecommerce. And fortunately, travel is one of the largest e commerce categories in the world. So I think we’re, we’re excited about the place that we’re in. Why Instagram, why the focus on Instagram, not that you don’t focus on other social platforms. But clearly you’ve doubled down on Instagram. And that’s the main why that over Tiktok or Twitter. Yeah, we and so we are everywhere we want to play we anywhere someone has their attention we want to be and so we have some of the largest Twitter accounts that are travel related, we have replicated a lot of our strategy on Tik Tok. So we have a big audience. But I have a big thesis of how Instagram is the better platform for that social commerce. And just if you look at the behavior, so tic toc is one of the most engaging products out there. It’s very good at entertaining people. But if you look at how that entertainment is done, it is much more of a passive consumption. So people go to tick tock to check out and be entertained. And tick tock is really good at therefore you page to entertain them with what that person wants to see. And they sit on that home screen, and just watch a bunch of really great videos and then move on. And a lot of people compare to talk to Instagram. But I think tick tock is really a competitor to YouTube, to Netflix to Hulu to, to sitting on a couch flipping channels passes. And that is much more disruption, Instagram, you are connecting with brands you are discovering things you are searching for things you’re starting to purchase, things are chatting with people, you know, when we just looked at the behavior, and also when we get a video that goes viral on Tiktok. So we get a few million views. Effectively, nothing happens, you get a few million views, you gain a little bit of followers, but you just got a few million views. And that was fun. On Instagram, when you get a real that goes gets a few million views, you gain 50,000 followers, you get 40,000 clicks to your your website, you have more morning long ongoing engagement and benefit. And so that is because people are on Instagram to discover. And that is the difference. And so, you know, and then with Twitter, like you know, like I said we have, we have a big audience on Twitter. But Twitter is mostly for journalists, publishers and VCs to chat about things. And it’s not a place of the same kind of it’s a discovery of ideas, not necessarily the same kind of behavior for travel. The one channel that I think is or the one platform that I think really is a search based experience that I think also has a lot of potential for travel is YouTube. But we just haven’t figured out a way to systematize in the scale that we are trying to do on YouTube. YouTube is much more based on like actually creating more like creator led niches about a specific topic. And so we haven’t been able to replicate our strategy much on YouTube. But I think Instagram is going to be the the the main most important Super App for consumers. And so that’s why we’ve really doubled down on it. So Conrad, you recently rolled out the first hotel booking platform within Instagram, you know, walk us through how it works and how it helps consumers. Yeah, so as you know, as we talked about with our social commerce thesis, one of the things that Instagram did recently was allow Instagram messenger to combine with Facebook Messenger. And so that unlocked for us the ability to have a direct conversation and chat bot experience with 35 million people that allows us to do a lot of really interesting things. And so one of the one of the things is, so we’ve built this hotel booking platform, any customer can get basically send us a message with the word Hotel. So you can just you know, for free if you’re listening, DM the word hotel to the account hotels at sign hotel, or any of our destination accounts. And we will send you back a private booking link that will give you every hotel in the world for the most part. But what it allows us to do because it’s over a direct message, we’re able to give you really exclusive hotel deals that cannot be publicly advertised on other hotel booking platforms. So you can save up to you know, typically 30 to 60% off your hotel by just booking through that. And so from an industry perspective, what’s really fascinating is that the entire industry, all the online travel agents are bound by price parity agreements. So there’s huge margins in hotels, but you have to publicly advertise the exact same rate as everyone else. The key nuances in that is publicly advertised privately. You can do whatever you want, as long as you’re an OTA and The Merchant of record and so on. because this is a private channel, we’re sending you a DM with a booking link that is can’t be shared can’t be indexed by search engines, we are able to offer you those exclusive discounts. And so as you search for a hotel, you’ll save lots of money by booking through us. So one to one versus one to many the experience of the world, they have to operate at the best public price. But you can offer sort of the closed membership community level rates, it’s one it’s being able to do one to one at scale. So that’s one is we’re able to, we’re just able to do that. And then the second thing is, because we’re building this organic audience growing at 2 million per month, we are able to, to not spend a lot of money to acquire each customer. So therefore, we have even more margin and more that we can pass on to the to the consumer.
Amazing. So Konrad, you recently announced your $10 million dollar series A led by accomplice and corzan. With participation from us that new stack and math? What are the major objectives going forward, you know, that you’re focused on that will allow for a strong Series B, you know, in the next 1218 months? Yeah, so we, you know, we went through this long journey where we were completely focused on building the audience, you know, we thought that customer acquisition was the hardest part of travel. And therefore, we’re exclusively focused on building that, now that we’ve built the largest audience, you know, that Har, we just understand really well, we’re going to continue to invest and lean into that. But now our entire focus is on converting that traffic to booking really great hotels at really great prices. And so our entire, you know, the point of this round, and the point of the you know, what we’re building up to the next round, is focused on revenue. And it’s converting converting that audience to booking hotels. And, you know, one of the things that we’re seeing is like we’ve, we effectively have built in product market fit, because people already like booking hotels, and they want to do it for a lower cost. So that has proven proven really well. But the second thing is because our customers are coming at us from a relationship and a trust perspective, because they’ve been engaging and following our account. And because they’re coming at us from a person who doesn’t just need to book a hotel. But there’s someone who really cares about travel and is looking at places that they are dreaming about and wanting to stay at really great places that they find on Instagram, the average booking that we’ve found is four times higher than the average booking on booking.com, or Priceline, and, you know, five or six times higher than the average booking on a site like hopper. And so we’re getting really great customers, we’ve been live on this platform for two months, but already 20% of them have booked a second hotel. And so you know, we’re just leaning into providing, you know, basically helping people find the right hotel that they want to, you know, stay and post on Instagram and get a great deal for them. So, you know, we’re just going to continue to grow the audience and now convert focus on converting them to bookings. I wonder why the selling price for hotels is so much higher with your audience, you know, versus the general audience. Yeah, I mean, if you think about it, if you are the type of traveler who really cares about travel, and you’re planning your trip, and you’re searching on Instagram, and you’re you’re getting visual inspiration, that makes sense that you care more about where you want to stay, and then to the way that we’ve really articulated our product is we help you travel better. So instead of saying, Here’s a $250, hotel room, like, Let’s go save you 30% and stay there cheaper, we’re saying still stay in $250 Night hotel rooms, but get a $500. And hotel room at the same price is at 250. So we’re really trying to show people what they can get that is even better with at the same budget. And so, you know, people people really care about their experience. And I think hotels are such a big part of that. Awesome. So are you actively promoting this new booking strategy to the existing audience? Are you letting them come to you, you know, how are you getting the word out about this? You know, one to one access to the best rates in the industry through Instagram? Yeah, we’ve, we’ve, you know, we’ve built a real expertise on what creates viral content, and how to create content at scale. So we are creating probably 600 pieces of original video content a day, or sorry, 600 a month and and we’re just promoting, you know, sending us a DM sending a send one of our accounts a DM and we’ve worked with 1000s of creators around the world and so we’ve pulled a lot of them into into the process and they’re capturing
In really great content and all of their hotels, and we’re able to do it in a really organic way and just promote the fact that, hey, if you want to save 30 to 60% off, just send us a DM. And I guess it’s not that surprising a lot of people who really like travel, want to save 30 to 60% on their hotel and are DMing. Us.
Amazing. Konrad, you and I have a shared philosophy around finding ways to do everything. 10x Bigger 10x faster? How do you help your team think of ways to sort of uncover how to do both?
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a big part of our, of my philosophy, where I think that humans just have a real tendency of thinking in a linear way. And so whenever we figure out, whenever we have an idea, or an initiative that we want to launch, we always I’m always pushing the team to say, Okay, what would this look like, if we did a 10x? Bigger? Well, what would this look like, if we did it 10 times faster? You know, and so, you know, we’re thinking that this would take four months, what would have to be true for it to take four days, and it expands the way of thinking and of course, the reactions are always, oh, that’s impossible. But then some really creative ideas start flowing. And there’s two questions that I love asking to help extract this too, is I say, if we’re rolling something out, I’ll ask my team. Alright, what would you do if I just 10 extra budget? So I gave you, I gave you a million dollars, and I gave you know, 100? People? What would you be doing differently that you’re not doing today? And then they you know, usually that says, Well, if we had 100 people, I mean, I guess I would do this, this, this and this and and often you find out that many of those things could be done by like, oh, cool, we can hire an up worker for nothing, and then be able to accomplish that. And then the second question is the almost the complete opposite of that, is I’ll just ask, what is one way we could spend $1,000 That would make your life easier on this, and, or help you do this faster? And usually, they’re just these little ideas that just get the ball rolling, and then it ends up going into the first question of, you know, if I gave you you know, 10x the budget or 10x, the resources, how would you, you know, how would you 10x The results? And so I find that those two questions have really prompted if, you know, if the first question of 10x, bigger, 10x Faster, doesn’t work, those two usually help bring it out.
Love it, love it. Man, we we recently had an internal project, kind of a big project that was scoped to take eight months. And we asked, you know, what would have to be true to get this done in a week? Yeah, and everyone had to lift a little bit on the team. But guess what, we got it done in a week. I think I think projects always expand to the time that they’re given. And again, you just have to, it’s a muscle that you have to to exercise. But to get people to not think in a linear way really changes those assumptions and make things like that possible. Lovely man mindset. So Konrad, you’ve been a founder and a C level executive at a venture backed startup before, give us some some lessons, you know, from your previous endeavors that have helped you guide trip Scout to this level and may serve as advice for the other founders out there that you know, aspire to build a huge startup with 10x objectives and raise a big series A from from great investors. But the number one thing that I’ve learned is to really understand what is the single most important assumption that you’re making, in your business that you need to solve for first, and it’s gonna change at every chapter of the business. But, you know, I, early on, I had the tendency of wanting to like, take on everything, like I knew to build a successful business, we had to have these five components figure it out, but realizing what are the things that you know, you can give yourself credit for, or investors will give you credit because it’s been done? Or it’s understood, or there’s a playbook? And what is the one thing that you will never get credit for, and that you have to prove to yourself and your company, Oh, way around that. So for example, for us, you know, in the very beginning, we knew that we had to find a way to acquire customers and keep and engage and retain customers and convert customers to bookings and transactions. But we knew that travel is one of the largest ecommerce categories, people spend, you know, $2 trillion a year on travel, there’s very established monetization methods to do that. And so, when we started, the one thing we knew we would never get credit for was customer acquisition, because that was the hardest. That was why there was a graveyard of travel startups. So before we even thought about raising a dime, we went all in on solving for that and having a really clear thesis and a really clear answer with data. And you know, then at different chat
There’s that changes. So I think the number one, the number one thing is just keep yourself hyper focused and obsessed over that most important assumption. And I, I find a lot of founders also do the productive procrastination, they do all the other things that are needed for a business and avoid sometimes that one single assumption because that’s often the hardest, most uncomfortable, most unknown piece. The second is, I think, in the early days, especially really do the unscalable. You know, when we gave our personal cell phone number to the first 250,000 Customers like, that kind of stuff, like talking to your customer, or your ideal customer, and just really trying to listen and really trying to extract why they’re doing things like I, you know, when when I was helping people plan trips, I would just, I would ask, I would try to get deep into the psychology, I would ask them why they were doing something, and then why why was that important, and then really trying to understand what you know, their job to be done was, and I think that is probably the most pivotal piece. And, and I think third is keeping, I think a lot of times, especially in the venture backed world, people use your team size as metric of success. And I think scarcity, usually provides way more creativity and innovation. And then as the teams get bigger, you, you, you just have so much more stuff you have to deal with, that you don’t have to and it’s a really small team. And so I think keeping that team very lean, very small, and having the internal, like everything that’s really core, you have to have someone internal owning that. But all the jobs that are done. Underneath that, you can leverage a whole network of global contractors and freelancers and up workers. And, you know, I think in the very beginning, we probably had, we probably had two millions, $2 million worth of payroll that I ended up getting for, like 10, or $20,000, by just leveraging Upwork to do so many things in the very early days. And I would never say outsource the core, like, I would never outsource understanding your customer. But then, you know, building the outreach, finding the list talk, you know, scheduling, like you can outsource almost everything as long as you own the core expertise. And so those three things, at least for now are were you know, my my big pieces of advice.
Amazing. Konrad, if we could feature anyone here on the show, who do you think we should interview and what topic would you like to hear them speak about?
One one podcast that I’ve been really interested in Layli is Sam Parr and Sean Parker is my first million. I think they have a really interesting way of looking at companies from a different perspective than I think the typical VC model. And I think, I think that’d be a really interesting conversation. Recommend Them.
Love it, Konrad, what resources you know, blogs, articles, or otherwise, if you found really valuable that you would recommend the listeners.
The book traction by the founder of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, said Aman, Oh, nice. I found that to be the most important book on early stage trying to figure out which growth channels will work for you. And you know, before we landed on the social media strategy, we systematically went through each one of those for for our space, I have found Strength Finders to be one of the most compelling things when building a team and structuring a team. We’ve had everyone in our in our company, we take the Strength Finders test, and what we do and we really architected the type of tasks that we give to people based on you know, both, you know, their, the way their body is wired and where they’re where they excel at and where they’re what they’re interested in. I just found that it is radically improved, just like improve just enthusiasm and performance and also decreased burnout. When you show up every day working on the things that you’re uniquely good at. And and people are coming to you at the things you’re uniquely good at as opposed to the things that drain you. Those two things I would say are, you know, come top of mind.
Konrad, do you have any tools or hacks that are a secret weapon?
I think our entire approach to social media is a secret weapon. I think our approach for scaling a global distributed remote workforce and before the pandemic, where I think now a lot of people are remote, but the fact that we built it natively from day one, and have been able to attract talent, we’re able to find the best person in the world for a specific job. At a cost that’s usually significantly lower than if we were trying to hire from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami. I think that has been one of our most key differentiators that we’re able to both build a team and build a culture that I think operates more effectively and at a much lower cost. Yeah, and then the third is, I just think, this relentless obsession with breaking down assumptions and preconceived notions that allowed us to, you know, effectively find a path to build an OTA you know, at an unbelievable speed, and for way less money than, you know, any of the other OTAs that had been built, and do it in a way that allows us to offer a much more compelling product at a much lower price, based on the nuances of, of price parity agreements. Now, that’s our current our current secret weapon.
Any final words on the vision for trip scout and where you’re taking it that we didn’t cover?
Yeah, I think the the final piece, you know, we’re, we’re extremely focused on on hotels right now. But ultimately, I think that the entire travel industry, no one owns the customer. So everyone is so fragmented, where a traveler goes to each specific company for you know, they go here to book an airline, and then you book here for hotel you book here for a product and, and essentially, no one has an ongoing relationship and, you know, core to our social media strategies that we think we built that relationship with people. And so ultimately, we want to have a hand in every single thing you transact with across the entire journey, if you not just book a hotel, but then you want to book a tour and experience or you want a rental car, or you want you want to buy shoes for your hike in Iceland, or you want to buy a trip insurance, or you want to get the new credit card that has a little huge points bonus, like anything that you should transact with, we want to have a hand in helping you make that decision. And we want to be the only company that has really connected the dots by starting, you know, everyone else started with a product, and then went to try to find a customer. And because we’re started with the customer, and then are adding in products that they want, you know, our vision has always been to, you know, we, with our you know, we have you talked in the intro, but we also have the number one trip planning app. And we’ve always wanted to be the Super App of travel. And we wanted to have a hand in every journey. And, you know, we just decided to go straight to Instagram for the hotel booking because you know, you can’t really compete with 35 million followers going at 2 million a month, and a compelling way to do close user group pricing. So but that’s still our vision long term. So we you know, we think that hotel bookings to make us a $10 billion company, but ultimately, having a hand in every part of their transaction makes us $100 billion company.
Amazing. And finally, what’s the best way for listeners to connect with you and follow along with tripscout?
Yeah, for me, you can find me go Conrad with Conrad with a case of geo kom or ad on Instagram is the best place to do that and then but I’m also on Twitter and everywhere else and then for for trip scout. The number one thing is to follow Hotel on Instagram so just add sign hotel and book your next hotel with us and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Well he is the modern day Marco Polo – Konrad Waliszewski, always a pleasure, my friend, you know, appreciate you sharing your thoughts on what has become just an incredible building story and I look forward to revisiting in a couple of years when you’re the dominant travel company in the world.
Thank you so much, Nick. Thanks for having me.
Take care man.

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