Australian entrepreneurs Teresa Truda and Zia Word pivoted
the focus of their app to Chinese outbound millennial travelers after they were accepted into
Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai-based startup accelerator.
Chozun is based on a cryptocurrency - the CZN token - that
is used to perform transactions, reward interactions and manage loyalty in the
Describe both the
business and technology aspects of your startup?
Chozun is a travel destination experience, loyalty and lifestyle ecosystem powered by a cryptocurrency that's backed by blockchain and smart-contract technology.
The ecosystem exists to make sure travelers are
matched to the best personalized local experiences and services using
proprietary artificial intelligence and data science and allows users to build loyalty across
multiple verticals as well as globally.
What inspired you to
create this company?
We were inspired to create our company because we were
frequent travelers ourselves and had the pain points we are now solving. Teresa actually came up with the initial idea when we were both on a work trip
to the US and found we were wasting too much time looking for things to do,
places to go ‐ trawling sites, reviews but being inundated with noise.
We wanted an easier solution that told us what to do when
traveling, based on how we liked it, not others.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
We decided before diving into building the company to
validate our idea and identify if others had our pain points when
traveling. We did this really manually
through asking people to text us initially!
We found that others, in fact a
majority of travelers, suffered the overload of noisy and irrelevant information
when trying to find what to do and where to go in destinations.
journey, we also learned that there was a huge opportunity to improve loyalty
for millennial travelers. Given we are our audience, we were inspired and
passionate to make a change and revolutionize travel.
Give us your SWOT
(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company?
- High user retention
- Strong: well-bonded,
highly experienced team
- Just over $1 million in revenue
technology and development of proprietary protocols for use on our blockchain
- Inventory already on the blockchain and crypto-driven loyalty
- Need more resources to keep up with demand
- Incumbents rapidly coming into market
- Ability to tap into more than 225 million
Chinese outbound travelers
- Spending is increasing year-on-year, focused on
ancillary spending (not including flight and hotel). Average spend is $306 daily. Spending has been increasing steadily for the last five years. Indeed,
from our own data we have seen an increase in 2017 on spend
- Outbound Chinese
travel is in its growth stage, expected to reach maturity in 2021 (rising by
- Omnipresence: increase the platforms on which we reach customers
- The travel space has recently become very hot, and this has brought about
a number of new potential competitors coming in and the want for existing
players to broaden their technology reach
- Expense of key opinion leader marketing could get costly
What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate
from both the customer and the industry perspective?
When searching for what to
do and where to go in a destination, there is a lot of noise and irrelevant
information across multiple touch points, which makes it both time-consuming and
painful to find things you will love.
There is little context to travel
discovery. We aim to be almost the Netflix of destination discovery and booking. Authenticity is often lost - with fake reviews and non-transactional
feedback. Traditional loyalty programs do not serve or appeal to the millennial
Traditional "points" get lost. Brands are unable to keep millennial travelers
engaged and find it hard to identify niche tastes within travel.
high costs, slow supply chain and lack of focus make the travel destination
market bloated, inefficient and expensive. The industry needs to stay ahead and
more effectively service what will be the highest-spending group of travelers
by 2020 (millennials, and further to that. Chinese millennials).
So you've got the
product, now how will you get lots of customers?
Initially, it was through word of mouth and making corporate
partnerships to deliver our service to big companies with many employees that
then used our service in a leisure capacity as well. We organically and
sustainably grew our customers, by taking the approach of having quality customers
that we could rely on to give us honest feedback and spread the word about
their Chozun experience.
Now, our upcoming initial coin offering (ICO) is a great way for us to attract
customers and brand advocates. We
already have a product in market, and the ICO will enable potential customers
and ICO investors to make the journey from bystander to advocate much more
quickly than the traditional cycle since they have a vested interest.
We are also working on some huge partnerships to to allow
other brands and companies to plug into our loyalty program and CZN.
We are working with a number of global and niche
influencers, doing some really neat events and online activations we know
haven’t been done yet, and we can’t wait to share it with our existing and new
Lastly, we intend to keep listening to our customers,
finding out what they want and endeavouring to delight them at each part of the
customer journey. Long-term ‐ building our ecosystem and community to truly
make it valuable and exciting will drive word-of-mouth growth.
Tell us what process
you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size
of the addressable market?
Before we even began to build anything, we gathered a group
of friends and colleagues and asked them to text us when they wanted to find
what to do or where to go on their travels. Since they all traveled a lot, we
became inundated with texts. This helped us validate not only do we have a real
pain point, but what are the kinds of thing they want?
From there we built a
clunky prototype and beta tested in market for a few months. Before embarking
on the journey with crypto and blockchain, we asked our existing customers if
they saw a need for it and if they wanted it - overwhelmingly a 98% positive
How and when will you
We currently make money as a small cut from transactions, but
as a general rule, we negotiate a discount and are able to pass on that discount
However, going forward we will be using our crypto to make money from
the transactions, meaning the fee is greatly reduced - though we still have the
ability to make money. We also work with brands who buy into the crypto and pay
a fee to set up unique and exclusive events within our upcoming loyalty
What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the
founding team, and why do you have what it takes to succeed with this business?
Teresa, Will and Zia have all worked together for over seven years in various
iterations. Teresa and Zia created an e-commerce shoe store they sold in 2015.
Teresa has been in tech for 12 years and worked with huge global brands. Zia
has been in tech for over 12 years, including being part of a startup that sold
to Sony, working on a cutting-edge travel entertainment platform. Will was part
of successful startup Venuemob.
We have started, built and sold businesses
previously and have worked in both tech and travel across Australia, the UK, China,
Asia and the US.
What's been the most
difficult part of founding the business so far?
The realities of running a startup are something we feel
isn’t spoken about enough. The biggest difficulties for us have been the times
when we didn’t think we had enough runway to carry on (emotionally and
We’ve needed to accept that we don’t know everything and
part of the journey is that we were and are always still learning.
Always challenging ourselves with the question: "How are we
going to continue to make this particular business a sustainable business?" And
making sure we have the answer to keep pushing, progressing and growing the
business alongside our passionate team.
We only had our own savings and a small investment from SOSV
through Chinaccelerator, and since then we have managed to expand to 22 cities
and create a sustainable model from which we can now enter the rapid growth
stage. The journey has been a tough one and will continue to be, however we’ve realized
to every challenge, there is an outcome that can drive us to a better solution.
startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be
one of lucky ones?
We think making something sustainable is a great start. We
have had very little outside investment so far. Of course with the ICO, that’s
about to change, but we’re ready.
Alot of travel startups raise money too
early to be super aggressive before really working out how that is sustained.
That, as well as our proprietary technology, our passionate audience and the
amazing features and evolutions we have planned for our company create the
special sauce that elevates us above the rest.
PhocusWire Startup Stage
To learn more about our profiling of new travel
companies and how to apply.