Today's travel startup pitch comes from Mesmo, a new mobile-only networking app focused on connecting like-minded people before, during and after trips.
Rather than being a Tinder-style matchmaking effort, or a professionals-only LinkedIn replacements, the startup wants to be a flexible conduit for new connections and relationships across interests.This brings it into its own world, not trying to compete with ways to build a following nor with a pure-play professional networking platform.
So far the team has self-funded the app, which is explained in further detail below with the Vine and Q&A.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
I was thinking of smart ways to connect people looking for personal and business connections worldwide; to link users with common interests, be it to discover museums or theatres, find a new cool local restaurant, go diving together, seek new business opportunities, etc. How, I thought, could one app connect all these users seamlessly? This is how I came up with Mesmo.
What is the size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
The team is comprised of a) founder (myself) Alexis Balkin, b) the developer company www.blissapps.com based in Lisbon who built the app for us, have a staff of 23) and a small stake in Mesmo and c) a head of marketing, whose name we cannot mention at the moment due to their current job at a multinational corporation.
What is your estimation of market size?
It's a difficult size to estimate. The worldwide App industry is worth approximately $9bn, with a plus 30% annual growth rate.
Please describe your competition.
Although none have the exact same model as Mesmo, there are several other apps with some similar components: e.g. Weave, Badou,Tinder.
Mesmo is a mix of all of them but less shallow, more focused. Whereas those apps promote physical appearance, Mesmo connects users based on their preferred and/or common interests. Mesmo is also a visual app showcasing cities around the world with photos, many of them sponsored by official tourism offices.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
Our plan is to reach 50,000 free-of-charge early adopters. Once we hit this milestone, we will implement a “freemium” business model, where users will able to connect for free with approximately 10 other users. Over and above that, they will be asked to pay €0,99 (Euro cents) annually.
Our second revenue stream is advertising from our industry partners (hotels, restaurants, events, etc). We already have strong relationships with hotels, as users can already see from our hotel stay giveaways we are offering during the launch campaign.
Most of our users are acquired via word-of-mouth and some low-level advertising. Our user acquisition costs will be extremely low. This gives us an opportunity to minimise marketing costs, focus on establishing more business partners and improve our app through customer feedback.
We are also lucky to work with our developer partners, Bliss, who aren't charging us for any future updates.
What problem does the business solve?
Mesmo instantly connects people to make seamless smart business and leisure connections in their hometown, current location and future destination. No need to swipe right and pray for a match. No other app makes these connections so easily. Hence our catch phrase : “Connections that make sense”.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The initial idea was to develop an app with 5 interest variables and to make match searches for future travel destinations only. We later realised we could increase target markets by adding searches for the users' own hometown, current location as well as future travel destinations. We also added a variety of key variables to improve user experience. Now users can fine tune their search criteria from a choice of 22 interests. Interests can be altered in a matter of minutes depending on user feedback.
Why should people or companies use the business?
This app makes it that much easier to effortlessly make those connections that matter to you. For companies, we will direct business to their own site, thus cutting out the middle man.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We are pushing our social media, online and promo campaigns (like our hotel free stays) to get the word out and improve our brand awareness.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
We are targeting 20m+ users within 3 years. Most companies encounter similar challenges such as new competitors or existing ones that change or adapt their parameters. New Mesmo users will find it easy to connect with like-minded people worldwide. This, we believe, will propel Mesmo forward towards the high goals we have set for ourselves.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
When you search for good travel related connections (or business connections) on other apps, you often find yourself looking at dating profiles. We are much more than a dating app and aim to find ideal matches for all users: culture, art, business, restaurant, hotel recommendations, etc..
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
Though we only launched a couple of weeks ago, this company has been built by people in Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, and elsewhere. From the outset, our style is international, with an emphasis on the human touch. The company most closely aligned with our culture and style would probably be LinkedIn or Airbnb.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, even Airbnb; similar companies which attract users with their smart connect and chat features.
Describe your startup in three words.
Smart intuitive connections.
There is definitely a use case for mobile connections with people of similar interests while traveling. Not necessarily a "Tinder for travelers" that focuses on only a small subset of relationships but one that connects people around those common interests outside of the current traditional channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Those platforms require a lot of maintenance and participating, which is not always the best and most efficient way to meet like-minded people within a narrow timeframe. There also has yet to be a serious winner when it comes to the mobile connection space — for awhile there were startups like Path and Highlight attempting to redefine connections for the mobile era, but none of these ideas have ever thrived.
Starting with travelers is a smart move, as this demographic is often open to new connections in ways that others are not. Travelers of different kinds would also be able to use the app in their own ways, such as business travelers taking to it during a conference for "spontaneous structured" mini-meetups.
Especially compelling is the ability to schedule upcoming trips to connect with people in advance. That makes this a much more flexible tool for those interested in some of that structure to these more spontaneous connections.
The business model could also provide some solid fuel, given the way that many local hospitality businesses are seeking more warm leads for their businesses. This is especially lucrative because users enter upcoming trips, which can then be shared with local advertising partners looking to capitalize on the upcoming visit.