Journey of a Startup: Serai, a trip journal making app


In this series, we will cover the journey of an entrepreneur from an idea to reality and the framework in which decisions are made. Adit Parekh of Blume Ventures, an angel fund, shares the story of Serai, an app which integrates various social platforms to help create a travel journal. In this instalment, he talks about how the idea was conceptualized.

The basic premise was to create a universal travel graph by providing a simple, fast and collaborative platform to organize you trip journal. This is how our decision-making framework helped to create the current avatar of the app.

Step 1 was to entice users to start using Serai for archiving their trips and providing a simple user interface for efficient and simple picture import was important. There was a good technical hack to allow individuals to do multiple tasks while the photos loaded.

We used travel as a hook for individuals to use Serai as a repository of all their pictures. Additional meta information could be collected around places, activities, people and products the individuals interacted with.

We then studied the network effect i.e. minimum users for network effects to kick in. On an average we saw users creating 2 itineraries with 7 moments (synonymous to days traveled) and each moment had around 40 photos. Also each trip was co-created by 3 people.

Community: Past, Present or Future: Use the present as the starting point and have individuals archive their old trips. Start live recording current moments using an app, or allow individuals to leave messages for others to receive in the future (Evergram). Again we used the t-0 approach to seed the community to create active engagement when the app launches.

Social or Private?:

Life Blogging: Mulled over ideas on google glass integration or creating the app around the concept of life blogging (Bokeh) especially with the freelance sharing economy growing substantially with the likes of Uber & Airbnb.

The growth numbers for social sharing photo apps are quite high, but engagement is low and competition is very high – Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have already cornered the market.

So we focused more on private collaborative sharing with perhaps low interaction levels with the app (travel is note a daily activity) but high stickiness and use of the app.

The close community that expands out to only connected people is more important than just being social just to get more numbers).

Medium: Desktop or mobile first: Inorder to seed the community one needed to understand the usage or bet on the app trending. Findery (originally Pinwheel) spent around 2 years seeding the community before launching the mobile app.

Serai has spent considerable time in beta to better understand usage from users working on the platform. They have made Flikr, Facebook and other connects to have one sync all their pictures seamlessly onto the platform and have them grouped by timeline.

The plan is to build a few thousand sticky users (again the metric is number of collaborative albums) that would already provide a user base when the mobile is out. Moreover for publishing a journal from past data the desktop is the best medium.

An interesting hack was to have people create a travel timeline of their past trips and invite their co-travelers to join (thus increasing the engagement levels and the probability of getting all the photos in one place.

The next set of posts will talk about Target Market, Acquisition Channels Engagement, Metrics, Referrals, Flow, Context, Monetization, Expenses and Funding.

About the author

Adit is a Principal at Blume Ventures who focuses on mobile and SaaS space. He tweets at @aditparekh