Tern is an artificial intelligence-powered
travel planning system that provides personalized recommendations in minutes.
Tavishi Gupta, a former Microsoft software engineer, founded the company in July 2022.
What is your 30-second pitch to
In an era where we can buy a TV
in 10 minutes (Amazon), make a complex meal in 20 minutes (HelloFresh) and even
sell a car in 15 minutes (Carvana), it still takes 8-20 hours to plan a great
trip. Tern is an AI-powered app to reduce this stress of travel planning, which
impacts 141 million Gen Z and millennial travelers.
Tern’s goal is to make travel
planning stress-free and enjoyable. We want to empower the next generation of
travelers by providing a one-stop solution that solves for every phase of
planning in just a few clicks.
Describe both the business and
technology aspects of your startup.
Tern will reduce the stress of
travel planning by providing personalized recommendations using the
cutting-edge GPT-3 technology, significantly shortening a process that
typically takes 8-20 hours to five minutes.
Tern's intuitive user interface
allows travelers to personalize their travel plans based on their preferences.
The itinerary is created in our collaborative travel-specific editor - built
closely with travel planners - replacing Notion, Google Docs and Google Sheets.
Tern also enhances search results with Google Search links and Google Maps
links, making it even easier for users to centralize their findings and
research further. While Tern does not currently help with bookings, it is the
starting point for any travel planning instead of searching for "things to
do in X" on Google.
In the future, Tern will enable
travelers to discover more things to do through a Tinder-like swiping of lists
of other travelers, friends and bloggers. Travelers will also be able to
combine their own discoveries and social media inspiration with Tern's
recommendations and arrange their decks with Tern’s travel-specific and
collaborative itinerary builder.
As the product grows, we hope to also help travelers reminisce about their
trips and become a hub for all things travel: booking, planning, sharing and
reminiscing. Tern will be available on our
website (travelwithtern.com) and is mobile-friendly, making it accessible on
both laptops and mobile devices.
Give us your SWOT (Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company.
- Strengths: We are a product-led
company, obsessed with producing high value for travelers. Being a group with
deep technical knowledge, we are able to maneuver through how we can produce
user-friendly and simple experiences as we build complex travel-specific
- Weaknesses: We are a group
inexperienced in building communities. However, we are fast learners and have
growth experts in our corner to help navigate the early days of the product.
- Opportunities: Post-pandemic,
87% of Gen Z and millennial travelers are using social media for inspiration.
Moreover, there is a rise in the number of digital nomads, who are taking
multiple small trips every month. This is an incredible opportunity to map
social media as well as provide these growing niche of travelers the tools to
- Threats: With GPT-3, the
landscape of all tech verticals is changing drastically, and there is a
possibility some of the value propositions of Tern become commonplace. However,
we aim to be an end-to-end solution for travel planning, and our
travel-specific editor is a complex part of the product to build. So we are
confident we will be able to navigate the value proposition as we continue to
iterate toward the larger goal.
What are the travel pain points
you are trying to alleviate from both the customer and the industry
Gen Z and millennial travelers
are a lot more spontaneous and want ways to integrate their social media
inspiration, friends and family recommendations and their own finds into their
travel experience. However, since this process takes hours of planning, many
choose to either not take that trip they desire or cut back on sifting through
their saved inspiration or asking more friends.
Travel tends to become more of
an overwhelming process than that enjoyable desired vacation. Tern aims to
steadily fill these gaps in planning and significantly speed up the process of
thinking of a place to go to visualize what a trip to that destination can look
like. We want to empower this generation of travelers.
So you've got the product, now
how will you get lots of customers?
Our current users have come
through referrals and social media posts. Since Tern is meant to be
collaborative, we already have organic growth mechanisms implemented into the
We are also establishing
relationships with influencers to spread the word and are actively posting on
social media. We will also start highlighting best itineraries and profiles as
part of our content marketing campaigns. Moreover, once the core product is
ready, we will do a full launch with a trusted marketing agency.
Tell us what process you've gone
through to establish a genuine need for your company and the size of the
We surveyed 100 other Gen Z and millennial
consumers to learn that 75% of them feel very frustrated by group travel
planning, and 90% want an efficient end-to-end solution. This scales up to the 141 million Gen Z
and millennial travelers just in the United States.
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Moreover, we have been getting a
lot of sign-ups on our wait list since the end of last week when we announced
our upcoming beta launch to our personal network. Multiple people have reached
out to get earlier access for their upcoming trips, as we are only giving the first
100 users access on launch and will stagger the next cohorts. We have also
seen a spike in referrals, which enable travelers to skip five people in the
wait list, and have been featured in a travel newsletter as a potential
“game changer” for both lazy and experienced travelers.
How and when will you make
Tern will be free to use
initially. Eventually, we will implement a freemium model so consumers can
still benefit from using Tern’s free platform, but the AI features would be
paid for after a few free trials. However, we hope to give our first few
hundred early adopters any benefits we can as they help us create the ultimate
tool for travel planning.
What are the backgrounds and
previous achievements of the founding team?
Tern's solo founder, Tavishi
Gupta, is an ex-Microsoft software engineer and technical product manager, as
well as a two-time founder (previously raised $1 million for her startup Samply). She is also
a passionate slow traveler for the past two years, spending up to six months at
a time in more than 12 cities across the United States, Mexico and India.
How have you addressed diversity
and inclusion within your business?
We are a female-founded company
that truly believes in the power of diversity and inclusion. From our founding
engineer to our board of advisers, we are 50% female and come from diverse
backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion in ethnicity, gender, previous experience,
lifestyles - all of these matter to us as a company, as these diverse factors
reflect the world we live in.
Moreover, in the future we hope
to add accessibility filters to Tern, to enable a larger group of travelers to
use our platform efficiently. We already have preference options that include
families with children, where you can specify the age of the youngest child on
What's been the most difficult
part of founding the business so far?
The most difficult part of
building Tern has been the lack of funding opportunities available for solo
female founders. Tern is currently completely bootstrapped and has navigated
the highs and lows of the kickoff stages purely through perseverance and
determination for helping ease other travelers’ pains.
However, we are grateful to have acquired 150 users for our private beta
product, who significantly helped us build a collaborative travel-specific
itinerary builder meant to enable adding tickets, flight and stay information,
making the itinerary visual with in-app photo browsing and automagically
creating snippets of Google places, so travelers can view what places in their
plan are open with direct links to Google Maps. Moreover, this group helped us
further understand what the next big step for Tern needed to be.
Generally, travel startups face
a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of the
After extensive research, it
seems like what doesn’t exist in the market today is a super app that ties in
all these pieces together. The problem isn’t that the information doesn’t
exist, the problem is that it’s scattered, and there is no singular
workflow/place to plan and store all the information and inspiration.
We have come to realize that the value is in an integrated solution that covers
all steps of a traveler’s journey - from inspiration to the end of their
travel. With any missing piece, the solution will continue being incomplete and
therefore, unsuccessful. At Tern, we aim to be this end-to-end solution.
A year from now, what state do
you think your startup will be in?
We want to launch the full
vision of the product in the next three to four months. So in a year, we hope
to have helped 50,000 travelers plan their trips. Moreover, we hope to have
expanded the product’s booking and reminiscing (photos, etc.) capabilities.
What is your end-game? (Going
public, acquisition, growing and staying private, etc.)
We will not stay bootstrapped
forever (we are already raising funds), so going public is our goal for now.
Along the way, we would consider an opportunity to be acquired by a company
aligned with our vision like Airbnb since they would massively accelerate
Tern’s mission to make travel planning easy and enjoyable for as many people as
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