Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Successfully (and Happily) Navigate Airports with the tripchi app!

When was the last time you enjoyed your airport experience? The answer for most of us, is a resounding... "never." Chandra Jacobs, CEO of Boston-based mobile app, tripchi, thinks it's time for a change. We spoke with Chandra on where she sees mobile headed, and thoughts on trailblazing this exciting trend!

Update: tripchi successfully funded their indiegogo $10k campaign. To read more on the journey, check out Chandra's thoughts!

What is your "elevator pitch"? What problem are you trying to solve? Airports – the word just conjures up so many negative emotions – lines, delays, unhealthy food, and overpriced merchandise. As frequent travelers ourselves, we understand these issues firsthand. We are a team of 4 people passionate about travel, technology, and solving real problems.

And there is no bigger problem that exists in travel today than the "airport experience," or rather, the lack of one. But it doesn't have to be this way. Airports should be a fun part of the travel journey, not a necessary evil - especially since people spend just as much time in airports as they do on the plane itself.

And that's why we created tripchi - to turn that airport frown upside down!

With tripchi, part of the excitement of the travel experience will be the time spent at the airport.

tripchi is a mobile app that helps you make the most of your time in the airport. tripchi not only directs you to the nearest airport vendor or locale to fulfill your needs, but goes one step further by serving up recommendations of things to do, sending targeted, cost-saving offers and specials based on your flight information and interests. Whether it's dining, shopping, charging a device, finding a lounge, meeting up with other travelers, or exploring interesting things the airport has to offer, such as special exhibits, tripchi has you covered. Our recommendation engine includes a personality capture, a learning algorithm and data mining so that our deals, offers, and recommendations are relevant to your needs.

How did you get started? Our team is composed of 4 people passionate about 3 things – traveling, using technology to make life easier, and applying analytics to personalize our products. Many of us have lived that George Clooney "Up in the Air" life style, feeling like we spent more time in airports and on the road than we did actually in our own homes. We have always wanted to find ways to make the traveling life LESS BAD, but also make it BETTER!

We’ve been working together for about a year on this company, and my co-founder and I also have another company together, which demonstrates the commitment the team has for one another. We are also extremely fortunate to have the co-founder of SkyMall on our Board, as well as the CEO of a large software development company.

We started building the business in 2012, but the idea really got started long before that. After years of frustration in airports, we realized something was missing. This something is Airports 2.0—the age of the “destination” airport that people enjoy visiting, because it’s built around the customer experience, with Food & Beverage, and Retail concepts that reflect the local culture as well as global passenger taste. As airports are gradually evolving towards this concept, tripchi is building the technology to guide you on the journey to the new “experiential” airport.

Where do you see the mobile landscape in five years? For one, I see mobile really changing the nature of how travel transactions are conducted. For instance, no longer are people just doing all their trip planning and booking on their desktop - this is increasingly switching to the tablet format. Secondly, people want personalized real-time recommendations in everything they do - this is no different in travel. Mobile is the only channel that can deliver the info consumers need when they need it. Finally, the interconnectedness of all of us through mobile, digital, and social is changing the face of communications as well as how we experience and see the world. Now we can crowd-source real-time information from our social network and leverage the wisdom of the crowd in everything from travel planning to travel experiencing. Mobile is the enabler in all of these cases, and will only become inreasingly more relevant as the years go on.

Any wisdom you can share for aspiring female tech entrepreneurs? Just do it. If you are a wantrepreneur, the best way to figure out if the lifestyle is for you is to give it a try. This doesn't necessarily mean uprooting and drastically changing your entire life. You can find a middle ground in the beginning, such as having a full-time job to pay the bills while developing your business plan or concept on the side. Eventually you will have to make a choice, but this is a sustainable practice in the short-run, and it will give you a taste for the types of lifestyle and personal. sacrifices you will be expected to make when you're an entrepreneur. For more on this, check out my article on "Can a girl have it all?".

I would also say that the desire to do a startup can come over time, and you're not necessarily "born with it." You can acquire the desire and really the need as you mature, and easily be a viable entrepreneur even if you're not 25 any more! In fact, most entrepreneurs are in their 40s (average age), we just don't typically hear about them since it's not as cool or sexy to be an older 'trep. And once you catch the bug, you'll never be able to let it go. You will HAVE to do a startup - you won't have a choice because the desire will burn and nag at you and consume you until you actually make it happen. You can read more about my views on whether we really have a choice or not when it comes to building our startups here.

What kind of company culture are you trying to create? For most companies, this is the progression of how culture begins. Culture typically develops somewhat unintentionally after the first-order Maslow’s-hierarchy-of-needs “practical founding matters” are addressed. In the beginning, culture tends to develop tacitly and organically, as a semi-understood but still nebulous group norm, and is not usually discussed or codified until it absolutely has to be—that is, until there is a problem caused by the group norm (or in some cases, autocratic assignment) that has developed which brings the discussion on culture into the forefront.

For tripchi specifically, I am trying to create an intentional culture based on principles of transparency, gratitude, and commitment - however, I am still all for letting cultural Darwinism take its course and allow the company culture to take shape and evolve based on the needs of the founders, growth of the team, and fit to the customer.

You can read more on my thoughts on developing a company culture on my Women 2.0 blog.

What do you think is the most interesting trend in mobile right now?I think I covered that in question 1 - certainly these are the most interesting trends for me since I am focused on the travel vertical. Another interesting trend is augmented reality and how that will change our travel experience and color interactions we have across all ranges of the spectrum, from planning a trip, to booking a trip, to experiencing the trip, and to sharing the trip - there will now be another layer of added complexity that entrepreneurs, travelers, and marketers will have to take in to account.

Do you have a quote or phrase that inspires you each day? 
"Burn the ships."

This phrase “Burn The Ships” comes from a historic conquest in 1519, when Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan, with one and only one objective…seize the great treasures of the Aztecs (not that I recommend pillaging). How did he motivate his men to face a much larger army? By removing all options of failure. By burning their own ships, the commitment level of Cortez and his men was elevated and conquest practically guaranteed.

I apply this to my own life to motivate myself and ensure that I am "all in" in everything I really care about and set out to do. Because when you set out to do something, really do something, you should set out to do it well. The best way to ensure you will succeed is by removing all options of failure and "rip off the bandaid" or stop relying on whatever crutch or doubt or excuse you had been propping yourself up on around why you can't, shouldn't, or won't do something. Said differently, when failure is not an option, the only choice is to succeed.

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