Friday, February 27, 2009
What the Hell is Vyoo Anyway?
I've been sorta vague with what Vyoo is and does anyway. But since our alpha is live, our patents are filed, and our website says what we do, I might as well explain it.
I'm an avid traveler. It's really what I live for. It all started when I was younger and my parents dragged me to dude ranches in Wyoming, a jungle retreat in Costa Rica, and a whirlwind tour of Europe. I wasn't a fan at the time, but it certainly created a place in my heart that would later burn with a strong desire to continue traveling.
Traveling, for me, is really about the new experiences, people, and cultures that I'm exposed to. It's the exhilaration of waking up in Burma and wondering if I'll be able to order breakfast. Or heading to Guilin, China, wondering if I'm on the right bus and whether I'll be able to find a place to bed down for the night. Or in Korea, trying Sannakji, and hoping the tentacles don't stick to my throat on the way down, suffocating me. It's getting Cheese Fondue in the Swiss Alps, diving in Panama, visiting Auschwitz. It's relaxing on the beaches in Croatia, hiking in Cinque Terra. It's eating with a family in Bagan, with no electricity or running water for miles. For me... this is living!
Part of the difficulty with traveling is planning your trip. Sure, there are lots of guides out there to give you a hand. Lonely Planet, Frommers, Let's Go, Timeout, etc. But these guides suffer the same problems that most recommendations in life suffer (books, movies, hotel rooms, whatever). They're hard to trust. They're hard to determine if they fit what you really want. A lot of it is just settling. And boy do I hate to settle.
Guide books are great for giving overviews of cities. They're great for pointing out well known places or a variety of activities to choose from. But what about personalization? That's where they are lacking. And that's why finding a hotel from guidebooks is tough. Or a restaurant. Or finding which activities or tours you would find worthwhile. It requires fact checking. Cross-referencing.
I moved to Thailand before business school for about 6 months. When I left, I spent lots of time, too much time, trying to find a place to live - a service apartment, hotel, or hostel where I could spend a few months. In the end, I wasn't happy with anything - not knowing what part of town to stay in, what type of place to stay at, where I'd feel at home? I thought a lot about how to improve the process. I decided to start writing a travel guide for Thailand - that was much more focused on people like me. It would list the hotspots I frequented, the places I liked to stay, the destinations in Thailand I enjoyed. And what I did there.
I soon realized that this was a thankless job. Not only was it incredibly difficult for someone who wasn't a writer to write a guidebook, but I realized that it would be difficult to put me in a box and brand this book with a specific style and target audience. So I shelved it.
Fast forward to Las Vegas, 2007. I was sitting by the pool with my co-founder Rajiv during our Disorientation Week at Haas. We started talking about ways to improve travel services. And we started to work through it. And, I hit an epiphany, one night... why do we have to bucket people in groups - like adventure travelers or backpackers? Why not just match people together who share similar interests? But not interests like, "I like snowboarding". But the underlying traits that drive these interests? Thus...I began researching psychology, with the help of a good friend who is a psychologist. It turns out, psychology is a pretty good indicator for this type of stuff. And it works!
So that's what we've been working on. It's been a challenging process and I'm still not sure how the website will work... but I guess our users will tell us. For example, are we a destination site or do we just facilitate relationships? I'm not really sure.
There are a few more details that are under wraps. But that's essentially what we do.