Traveler Interviews | Gogobot CEO Travis Katz
Travis Katz is a travel junkie. He earned his solo, round the world trip badge in his mid-20s, and his China and Pakistan badges in the days leading up to September 11. As the former head of international operations at Myspace, Katz added more stamps to his passport, while growing the company throughout the world. Now, with 54 countries under his belt, Katz, 39, is focused on his most ambitious project to date: Gogobot. Named partly because Katz liked the rhythmic nature of the words together, Gogobot launched publicly in December with the simple idea of putting the love back into travel planning.
We were already big fans of Gogobot when Katz agreed to do the interview, so we were really excited to have the opportunity to talk to him about his new startup and world travels.
So, without further ado, here’s Travis!
I think the travel sector on the Internet is totally broken.
I lived in London for a couple of years, and my wife and I use to like to do a lot of weekend trips. But we found ourselves going through the same pattern every week, which was ‘OK, let’s go somewhere we’ve never been, like let’s go to the south of France,’ and we would look at a map and see the south of France has like 10 towns. So, what’s the difference between the towns? Which should we go to? What should we do when we’re there? We’d get up on a Saturday and jump on the computer and start doing searches. And, we would find ourselves 8 hours later, the sun had gone down and we had wasted our entire day and still had no idea what we wanted to do.
Even if we could find one person who has been there, then it would be probably be okay.
I’ve got hundreds of friends on Facebook, but I don’t know which one of them has been to where I’m going. So, I could post out a question on Facebook and usually I would get some answers back, if that person happens to see my post. But, even if I get answers back, they don’t come in a format that’s very useful to me. So, we were thinking about how do we make it easier to tap into the collective knowledge of all your friends and all the people you are connected to or are following on twitter to get personal advice and help you plan a trip.
Today, if you post a question on Twitter or you post a question on Facebook, you will get answers.
People will definitely answer you, and you usually get good suggestions from people, the problem is that they don’t come back in a format that’s very useful. They’ll get buried somewhere in my tweet stream, and then I have to try to find them. Then, for every suggestion, I have to copy and paste it out of Twitter into Google to figure out: What is this place? Where is it? If I can find the address, then I have to paste it into Google maps to figure out where it is on the map, and if I’ve got tons of suggestions, that’s totally crazy.
Planning a trip should be about a discovery process that’s fun and exciting.
What we do on Gogobot, we let people type in the name, and we’ll actually match their suggestion to a name in our database so you can see the address, the phone numbers, the operating hours and photos in a nice organized, visual fashion. Part of what we wanted to do was to make planning trips fun again.
Right now, we’ve been really focusing on building a curated community of people who are really passionate travelers.
We’re really focusing on talking to the travel community and people who love travel and people who are passionate about travel, because I think those folks have better ideas of what they want the service to do. I think if we can make the people in the travel community like what we’re doing, then I think they’re the ones that their friends listen to for ideas about where they should go and what they should do.
I was born to start this company.
I understand how to make the social part work, and how to make it help people find and connect with others like them. And, I live for travel, and that’s my passion and that’s what I like to do and that’s what I think about. My wife is a super traveler too. We actually meet in India. We were on the same camel safari together in Rajasthan.
Kids definitely put a little bit of a damper on your style.
I used to like going into places that were probably a little bit dangerous. And, I had crazy things happen. When I was in Pakistan, I was on a bus that jackknifed off an overpass and smashed down into a ravine. A number of people on my bus got killed…I was OK, I was in the back; always sit in the back. The people in the front were the ones that were killed, and the people in the back were all fine. But it was a truly terrifying and tragic experience. I do like the idea of real adventure travel, a little more of risky travel; but I have had lots of sort of near death experiences, which in your 20s, near death experiences can seem sort of fun and exciting. And then when you’re in your 30s, its like, ‘Um, I don’t know if I need the near death experience.’
I think I would probably head to Zanzibar, if I could go anywhere right now.
I haven’t been to Zanzibar and I really want to go there. It’s suppose to be just amazing. I look at photos of Zanzibar on the site and I think, ‘Oh my god, that’s just awesome.’
*Photos courtesy of Travis Katz and Gogobot.
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