StartUs Presents: Outbound

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Today's interview features Outbound, a travel app used by tens of thousands of users in over 140 countries. Co-founder Ryan Hanly explains their success!

Describe Outbound in 50 words or less.

Outbound is a social network for travellers. But it has a number of other fantastic features which make it a really complete travel app – like our WiFi finder and Noticeboard. Outbound’s aim is to simply make travelling easier and to help travelers connect. Hopefully you’ll make some lifelong friends along the way.

Who are the people behind Outbound?

Outbound was the brainchild of two avid travelers, Mark and me. We noticed there was no efficient way for travelers to connect with other travellers when they arrived at a destination. And also no way to communicate with travelers in the location they were heading to. Facebook just wasn’t cutting it!

After much procrastination, it was a chance meeting with a group of backpackers on the Gold Coast that provided the final motivation to actually create this concept. They loved the idea and insisted that we actually do something about it. And from that, Outbound was born.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

Mark and I were really big travellers, so we saw the need for this. In fact – we couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. So rather than sit and wait for someone else to do it we decided to jump in! It’s been a really fulfilling experience, despite the enormity of the process and the hurdles you have to overcome.

To take something from an idea, to a concept and then launch is amazing and it really fires your motivation to see it being utilized the way you imagined it would. Taking the initial steps to pursue our idea were really the hardest, but the fulfilment from seeing a dream become reality is well worth the hard work.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Outbound provided the first real travel community on a mobile platform and has become the app every traveller MUST have! Outbound has expanded to become the complete travel app, encompassing both the social aspects and also solving the problems travelers’ face everyday. Outbound now includes booking platforms for accommodation, travel and tours/activities and also assists with finding WiFi, guided tours and crowd-sourced reviews. If you are travelling, you have Outbound on your phone. It’s the one-stop shop for all travelers’ needs.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

We measure our success on user feedback. That is imperative to our success both in the short term and long term. We would rather fully satisfy a smaller number of users, than not satisfy a large number. We are playing the long-game, so we need to find our product-fit, ensure we have it right and then the success will come. To scale without getting your product absolutely right is a recipe for disaster. So to measure success purely on a metric like downloads is inherently flawed.

So we are really utilising user feedback to refine the concept and its feature development going forward. And our success will continually be defined by the user feedback we are receiving – which so far has been overwhelmingly positive!

Also we just got accepted into the muru-D accelerator program – which is another step towards success for us.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

The average day is anything but average! It is usually very long! But it usually involves an early stand-up meeting to discuss the daily/weekly goals and measure our progress against a few benchmarks. The priorities change depending on where we are during different cycles, but feature development/innovations, strategic planning and user acquisition (advertising and marketing) are fairly common agenda items! From there its about knowing what your role is, what you have to do and just getting it done. We are all pulling in the same direction, so it makes it easy, as a founder, to really let people do what they are best at doing. The trust in the team is there. I like exercise, so I try to include a half hour of something in there daily and I usually finish the day with a hearty glass of red!

Already pivoted? Did customers use the app like you imagined it in the beginning?

There are a few dimensions to our app, so certain aspects have pivoted. Travelers are using the social aspects as we expected, chat messages are flying between users, but certain features like the WiFi finder have really taken us by surprise. Users have really taken to that, so we are looking at expanding on it.
We are just investigating the use of other features and working out whether users don’t like using them or whether we need to educate them more (upon opening the app) on how to use them. It’s a constant fine tuning process!

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

At present bootstrapped, but we are currently raising a round and have part of it secured. We would encourage any would-be investors to get in contact! We have a long term approach so significant financing will be a part of our future, but we want to ensure we have everything in place. We don’t want to get too big, too fast and then fall in a heap. Growth needs to be strategic and planned – and we are in that process at the moment.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

The team around us defines who we are and the success we will achieve. It’s relatively easy to come up with an idea these days, and also easy to build it. But do you have the persistence to see it through? Stick with it through problem after problem? And have everyone in your team pulling in the same direction? That team culture is really what defines most companies and is generally the difference between success and failure.

There are far better ideas out there than ours that have failed simple because they didn’t have the right team to execute. There are a million new ideas, that’s the easy bit. The hard bit is still being there in 5 years time.

What do you look for in team members?

Belief. It’s that simple. If they believe in the concept and the direction, you don’t have to worry about them working hard because you know they will, because they want to. They see what you are seeing and want to get there as much as you. This is especially important when your team is still small, like ours. This culture is really important. We have a common vision, are unwavering in our belief and that permeates through everything else we do.

Why would a talent join your team?

Because they have the vision to see the potential in what we are doing. We can’t offer the pay packet that larger companies can, but we don’t want talent that just works for money. The bigger picture is really important at the stage we are at, and everyone in our team is really aware of that. We are playing the long game, not the short game. So we need talent that is onboard with mindset.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

Definitely launch. You work so hard for so long, so to finally see it come to fruition is truly gratifying. Although you feel a great sense of achievement, a friend of mine really put it in perspective. He said “You have finally made the starting line…” and he was absolutely right (despite being a little deflating!).
Despite all the hard work, it is really only preparation for game-time. And that time is after you launch. So although the feeling of launching was immensely satisfying, we really did sit down and say “Right – it all starts from here.”

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Persist. There are plenty of great ideas out there that fail, and it is primarily because the founders can’t stick with it and see it through. For mine, this quality is one of the most important for all founders. You need to be resilient and steadfast in your approach, be ready for failure and be able to pick yourself back up. There are always times when you feel like giving up, but you need to have the resilience and tenacity to push past where all others would stop. For mine, persistence beats genius every day of the week.

Will it all be worth it?

Absolutely. It already is. Outbound is currently being used in over 140 countries within 6 months of launch. To have created, what is essentially an international brand, and a product that tens of thousands of travellers are using daily is absolutely staggering. We have really exceeded even our own expectations and that makes it worth it.

This project has been the most satisfying thing I have worked on and it’s still a long way from reaching it’s full potential. The next 12 months will be unbelievable for Outbound and I can’t wait to see what eventuates!


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