A couple who went to New Zealand for their honeymoon had one defining moment of their trip – taking a detour off a highway, they found a completely abandoned beach with a patch of land just big enough to accommodate two people, and water in every direction as far as one could see.
The odds of another set of travellers stumbling upon this exact slice of paradise are negligible. Not to mention that the limitations of memory would also make sure that the couple cannot relay the specifics of this experience to even friends seeking travel advice. But a travel app is here to change that – helping travellers chart their exploits in real time in the form of beautiful travelogues, and thus, create entire itineraries online based on the recommendations made by the community!
All this and a lot more is what Satyajeet Jadhav's HopBucket is bringing to the table to make planning trips completely automated and thorough!
Solving real problems
Satyajeet Jadhav, 28, did his BE from VIT, Pune, and earned his Master's from the University of Minnesota in 2012. He worked in the semiconductor industry, first as an IC design engineer at LSI Corp. (now Broadcom) and later at ARM Inc., in Austin, Texas, in a career spanning four years. “I am a big believer in the maxim – if you don’t measure it you can’t improve it. I love reading books and building software that solves real problems,” he says.
One such problem was playing music at parties; so, he built an app for it, JukeBox, which lets the guests play their favourite songs from their collection.
As soon as the idea behind HopBucket started taking hold of his mind, he knew he had his next exciting challenge. HopBucket was born out of a personal need. He says,
"When planning every trip, I noticed a pattern. I copy and paste ideas from the internet into a doc, ask friends for recommendations and update the doc, try to determine the feasibility of the plan, do some more research, and repeat the entire process several times.”
He later read that most people spend more than a month following this process and visit 40-odd websites for planning one trip. He found this process too tedious. Hea recalls,
“I also had no real way to know if my plan was feasible. So, I started hacking together a web app to scratch my own itch, and wrote the first lines of code which later became HopBucket.”
A feisty experiment
In December 2015, Satyajeet wrote and used the preliminary version of HopBucket to plan his trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. He used a trip uploaded by a friend as a reference, and hence, he struck gold for his business model in the swimming hole he stumbled upon, in the El Yunque National Forest.
With HopBucket, you can create a custom trip in few minutes, “Ask Friends” for recommendations, save ideas from other trips, manage your itinerary as you travel and personalise trips by uploading photos and sharing your experience.
Say one is planning a trip to Paris on HopBucket. They will see some itineraries for Paris and some suggestions from friends and other travellers, including reviews. One can then add some of them to their trip, also add the new restaurant that friend recommended and their AirBnB using the “Quick Add” feature, and while doing so, send out requests for recommendations to a few friends who live in Paris using the “Ask Friends” feature. One can store notes for each place too.
While travelling, simply hit the directions icon to be taken to your first location, upload photos once there, scribble your thoughts as the app pulls up nearby attractions, and suggest where you should go next. One can always quickly visualise the entire trip on a map, and the trip is also available offline.
Your photos and experiences charted on your itinerary are now a travel story, which can be shared with anyone across platforms using a simple link.
How it's done
HopBucket leverages the knowledge in its traveller network to help users plan the best trip.
“People tend to suggest the best places from their memories, which in turn leads to planning and creation of high-quality user trips,” explains Satyajeet.
The HopBucket trip manager pre-fetches all the meta-data like directions, open hours, phone number, website, your notes, etc., for every place in your trip so that there is no need to spend any time searching for the most mundane details while travelling.
They are trying to gamify the trip creation process by grading trips according to their content. The best trips feature as editor’s picks and also show up in search results across the platform.
“HopBucket is free to use and will continue to be. We plan to turn on advertising once we grow big. That advertising will be targeted and intelligent. Also, we want to exploit the opportunities offered by user referrals for businesses. We may also partner with affiliates to provide booking services through HopBucket,” reveals Satyajeet.
Letting his imagination travel
By August 2016, he had started testing the HopBucket website with real users. “We talked to real travellers asking them to test out the product. We were trying to establish a really tight build-test-learn loop at HopBucket. Most of what you see today has been derived out of real feedback from real travellers,” he says.
They recently organised a travel photography meetup in Pune, which was successful, and hence, plan to organise more such events soon. They also have a blog which brings them considerable traffic, where they feature stories from guest bloggers all over the world as well as stories from members of their community.
In October 2016, they launched the HopBucket mobile app on Android, and two months down were selected for FbStart, Facebook’s mentorship programme for mobile startups. As a member of the Bootstrap track, they are eligible to receive up to $40,000 in free tools and services from Facebook and over 30 partners – including Amazon, UserTesting, Dropbox, and MailChimp.
Come January 2017, they had crossed over a thousand Android app downloads, users and trips each.
HopBucket and the future of travel
For India, in 2015, the number of domestic travellers was 1.4 billion – up 11 percent from the 1.2 billion in 2014. International tourist arrivals in India in 2015 were eight million – up nearly five percent from the 7.6 million in 2014, according to government statistics. The numbers are much higher if you consider international travellers across the globe. Also, according to a TripAdvisor study, more than two-thirds of the people are “connected travellers” who look online for things to do. This is a huge market with an associated spend of more than $500 billion, for HopBucket to tap into.
They plan to release their iOS app soon and also plan to add some more tools. They will also be hiring more aggressively in the first quarter of 2017, Satyajeet reveals, before signing off.