Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

A Winning Pitch: Travelance at Startup Weekend, Cartagena

A couple weeks ago I attended a Startup Weekend in Cartagena with a new idea I wanted to pitch. I travel a lot yet try to work online too and, while it’s mostly been a positive experience, it’s not without its pain points. I hadn’t really had much time to work on the idea but I had reached out to a few people to get their opinion. They were interested in the idea and offered some useful, early feedback.

On Friday evening, after listening to several pitches in Spanish, I pitched my idea as “TechTravelLife.com.” In less than one minute, I explained that the freelance economy was growing and had created a new kind of traveler, a tech-focused traveler like myself. This kind of person has the ability to live and travel abroad while earning their income working remotely on development, design and other tasks. This kind of “tech traveler” was not currently being served by current booking and travel guide sites. “TechTravelLife.com” aimed to make it easier to book hotels and hostels based on internet quality and other criteria for long-term travelers. It would also help to make it easier to find places to work while you travel (co-working spaces, wifi cafes, etc.).

After pitching in English, I was fortunate to have one of the mentors translate and briefly re-pitch the idea in Spanish and so my weekend began on what came to be called “Travelance.”

After passing the voting stage, I managed to find a few people to work with me and we spent the weekend working on the major components of the project: the business model, potential market, the value proposition, an early prototype in Drupal and, of course, the final pitch.

While this Startup Weekend in Cartagena was different than some weekends I have attended in the past, it was still a fun and hardworking weekend where a wide-range of people got together to work on their ideas and accomplish as much as you physically and mentally could.

Like the original pitch, we presented in English and Spanish but this time with a bit more style and polish. I was fortunate to have a bi-lingual teammate who was able to to make the translation not just understandable but lively and funny.

I am happy to say that we even managed to be one of the winning teams that weekend. And, so the adventure continues. If you want to know more, read our “pitch” below.

Travelance.it (Pitch and Presentation)

Personal story: For the last several years Iʼve been travelling and working. While I have done some traditional, location-tied jobs, most of my work nowadays is done online and completely independent of where I am. I work online for clients all around the world. Iʼm fortunate because this kind of work allows me to travel and live abroad in some pretty amazing places.

Unfortunately, traveling and working abroad in new and different cities is not without its risks. In spite of all the booking info and reviews, itʼs a gamble if the place you go will have reliable and fast internet connection. What about places to work like co-working? Or even coffee shops with wifi?

Thatʼs why I started Travelance.it, a city-by-cite guide for traveling professionals and digital nomads who need more than just a place to sleep, they need a place to work productively.

Global Trends: One of the major trends in the global economy is the rise of the freelancer and freelance marketplace. There are several major sites offering ways for clients to find contractors for various online work. Elance and Odesk each have several million registered workers. In the United States, itʼs predicted that by 2030 the labor force will be made of over 40% freelancer representing 60 million workers.

This represents a new shift toward location independent, remote workers. While not all freelancers are location independent, there are over 40 “jobs” that are, including designers, developers, sysadmin, writers, and even online poker players.

Trouble of Working Elsewhere: In spite of the rise of this potential to work and travel at the same, itʼs not without its risks. As a freelancer, you may not have to work a 9–5 day at the office but you have some particular needs that differ from the traditional “vacation-style” traveler.

Some fears include: poor or unreliable internet connection? Where to find a temporary office space or co-working? What about internet havens, i.e. cafes, libraries, etc where you can get emergency internet? What about meeting cool people in your specialty? Meetups, etc?

How Travelance is Different:

We want to make it easier and simpler for freelancers & tech travelers: - to find their home in a foreign country, - a reliable workspace and - to discover a local, global community of new friends and people with shared interests All of this while traveling, living & working abroad!

So What is Travelance?:

A website for traveling professionals (freelancers, business people, designers, internet addicts, etc.) who need to stay connected but love to travel abroad.

We provide editor-managed, city- by-city “travel guides” to hotels, hostel, co-working space and much more.

Weʼre not just another travel booking site; weʼre your personal guide to awesome travel for the international worker.

Business Model: So, how would we make money? We foresee three or four potential revenue models. Initially, we will try to partner with one of the major booking sites like Booking.com and provide more tailored recommendations for places to stay that meets the tech traveler criteria. Weʼll earn a commission on each booking (generally 6–8% of booking)

Iʼd also like to explore the lack of a booking platform for coworking spaces and potentially partner with co-working spaces to provide them with additional sales channels.

Finally, since part of our service will be providing great info for a specific travel audience, weʼll also be looking at display advertising as a revenue source. Potentially by providing great content we can monetize the site too.

Slides: https://speakerdeck.com/markwk/pitch-for-travelance-dot-it-awesome-travel-for-global-freelancers

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