Inspired Challenge acts as a platform for adventure travellers to indulge in philanthropic activities during their trip.
The UK-based company lists a set of adventure travel challenges (climbing, safari, trekking and cycling) for various destinations across the world. Each of these challenges are linked to one or more "projects" - where traveller engage with the local communities during the trip.
Every adventure travel challenge has a price associated with it, but an interesting aspect of the model is that the project associated with the challenge has a minimum fund-raise amount.
Once users book an adventure challenge online, they can create a crowdfunding page (provided by Inspired Challenge) to raise money for the project.
If the minimum fund-raise amount is not achieved by a user, then a fixed fee of $150 is charged to donate a minimum amount to charity.
Any money collected via the fund-raising efforts goes to local communities at the destination, providing services such as improving living conditions, environmental conservation, clean water and education.
The travel itinerary for the consumer has at least one day where travellers spend time with the local communities to see where money is spent and also to take part in the local project activities.
Inspired Challenge was founded by Matt Fenton, formerly of TUI; Afzaal Mauthoor, who is also founder of the Philanthropy Club; Leonardo Gubinelli, earlier worked at Expedia; and Pippa Kennard, an advertising and tourism professional. The team is also supported by three interns in their London office.
The company has its foundations in a trip to Tanzania in 2013 by Mauthoor who saw first-hand the scale of the charity travel market and the sheer numbers of people who scale Mt Kilimanjaro to fundraise for major charities at home. During conversations with locals, Mauthoor wondered why little of that money made it back to local hospitals or schools in Tanzania.
"Inspired Challenge travellers get to see their sponsored project first-hand during their trip but this isn’t about traditional voluntourism and unskilled teens building shaky schools, it’s about building an understanding and connection with the local communities and realities into the entire travel experience, as well as a chance to see how the funds they’ve raised are being spent."
Q&A with Gubinelli below:
We started out bootstrapped and recently won backing from two angel investors. In December 2014, we’ll be starting a second round of seed fundraising.
Estimation of market size?
Broad. We’re targeting the experiential travel, responsible/philanthropic travel and the adventure travel markets; basically anyone interested in a beyond-the-norm holiday, charity work and immersive adventure travel.
The adventure travel market alone has grown at around 65% year on year since 2009 and is estimated at about $263 billion.
What companies do you consider competition?
Charity travel is a well established sector of the UK adventure travel market but is fragmented across a handful of major players like Charity Challenge and Global Adventure Challenge as well as several niche operations.
Revenue model and strategy?
Our B2C model targets individual and group travellers and we earn a margin from each booking.
We’re also developing a B2B product based on strong interest from firms and corporations who can see the employee engagement and personal satisfaction benefits of working with our experiences.
What problems does the business solve?
The existing charity travel market has a number of key flaws:
- They focus almost exclusively on raising funds for major UK, US or European charities with nothing for the destination communities
- They tend to place prohibitive minimum limits on the amounts required (in effect having people pay well over the odds for a holiday)
- They tend to offer adventure experiences that are divorced from the local communities and people
But there is an industry-wide upsurge in interest among travellers for more immersive or "experiential" travel, and also experiences that in some way "give back" to the places they visit.
Our crowdfunding solution makes raising funds easy (and fun) and enables travellers to raise awareness about a cause they’re passionate about, but it also creates a more direct flow between donation, travel experience and the community project itself. We’re essentially cutting out the middleman in charity travel so more of the funds end up where they’re most needed.
Through the platform our travellers can track and monitor their donations, see exactly where the money is going and raise awareness of the people and projects they’re supporting.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The first three co-founders - Afzaal Mauthoor, Pippa Kennard and Leonardo Gubinelli - came together over a shared passion for responsible travel and the idea of creating a crowdfunding platform to drive social change through travel. We then brought in a CEO with some much needed experience in the shape of Matt Fenton, who helped us develop the concept into a market-ready product.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Increasingly travellers are seeking genuinely unique travel experiences, more hands-on and proactive, but at the same time a more respectful, non-exploitive relationship with local communities.
The idea of a "trip of a lifetime" is evolving away from pure hedonism or outright luxury and towards more meaningful, even "transformative", experiences.
These are exactly the kind of people who should be travelling with Inspired Challenge.
On the other hand, companies can really change the way their CSR and employee satisfaction is achieved, by grouping their employees into areas of interest and passion and sending them off to make a change in the world whilst boosting their motivation, engagement and creativity.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
The experiences we’re creating for people lend themselves to travellers sharing their profound and impactful stories. We’re baking this storytelling element into the product itself, giving each traveller a platform to showcase their cause and their experience with text, photos and video, all broadcast to each traveller’s social media audiences - much like Kickstarter is used not only as a fundraising tool but also as an awareness building and PR mechanism.
We’re also running the Inspired 50 campaign, a showcase of the most exciting role models for the millennial generation, including some of the most inspiring adventurers in the UK. We also work very closely with the Philanthropy Club, our main charity partner, which plays a huge role in spreading our message on adventure philanthropy.
But a lot of the heavy lifting with customer acquisition will come from an ambitious content publishing & marketing strategy, SEO (targeting the obvious adventure, destination and charity-travel keywords), plus all the usual inbound marketing techniques, email, re-targeting, etc.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
Within three years we would hope to have established Inspired Challenge as a leading and recognised leader in the emerging trend in philanthropic and transformative travel.
One of our main challenges will be breaking out from the fairly niche appeal into wider mainstream travel markets. We see things like premium or higher-end tailored services as a potential solution to that.
Experiential travel is currently being driven by the luxury travel market, we think there could be untapped demand there for high-end, experiential travel that has a stronger connection to local communities and philanthropy.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
There is already a huge movement for responsible and sustainable travel, and clearly a massive audience and market for these messages and experiences. Our solution fills a gap that exists between the movement, the customer and the local communities and their needs.
The Inspired Challenge technology sits at the nexus of crowdfunding, social media, online storytelling and this huge, growing impetus for experiential and responsible travel.
We think we can revolutionise the way that charity travel operates, for the enormous benefit of both the travellers and the people & communities who (should) benefit from the fundraising.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
Apple. We connect seemingly unrelated points together to build strategies that are far stronger than the sum of the parts.
When "crowdfunding a trip" is typically seen as an activity to support somebody's personal travel, Inspired Challenge's concept of raising money for philanthropy activities and merging it with a traveller's trip is interesting.
From a donator's standpoint, the question of - credibility of fund-raising activity - is addressed as a user can only raise funds after paying for the adventure travel trip.
Overall, Inspired Challenge is a well integrated crowd-funding travel concept that's powered by technology.
The scalability of the platform may have to be considered, mainly because every adventure challenge itinerary in created by the company as opposed to other crowdfunding platforms where travellers can publish their trip-to-be-funded.
With the likes of sites such as Trevolta also emerging, Inspired Challenge's Achilles Heel could simply be "crowdfunding fatigue" in the wider marketplace.
Vine video about Inspired Challenge