There is a lot of noise out there in the market, particularly when it comes to people finding each other based on similar interests. Nobody, as of yet, has really hit the nail on the head and owned the space.
Australian startup Roam has created what it believes is a new and better way to connect with people based on common interests, no matter where they are or where they want to be. Although at face value it may seem as if it’s doing the same thing as other TravelTech applications, it is in fact more similar to a dating application in terms of the technology and user experience, minus the whole “dating aspect” – though I am sure some users will probably engage in activities like that when using it.
Roam was founded by Justin O’Donnell and Tim Mullen who used to work together. The idea came from a lot of the business travel that O’Donnell used to do where he would find himself sitting in a restaurant by himself or just ordering room service. He wanted to make platonic connections to hang out with in those situations, as opposed to trolling a dating site. When O’Donnell discussed this will Mullen, he found that he had also experienced the same thing when travelling for business and personally.
“It could be that you’re sitting around on a Friday night and all your friends are busy or maybe you’re just new to the city that you’ve moved to,” says Mullen. “You just want to find some other people to go and hang out with and not in any creepy dating way ’cause you never know using some of the other tools what their intentions are. That’s why we created Roam.”
“We also spoke to a lot of people as part of the process [of building the app], digging to find what challenges and frustrations they had. A lot of interesting things came out of those conversations, like the fact that people were using the likes of Tinder and other dating apps to find friends. And we thought ‘that’s kind of a counter-productive way to do it’. It’s quite awkward when you’re a guy and a girl or you’re searching for the same sex and you start to match and then you have to say to them very quickly ‘nah i’m just trying to find a friend to hang out with’.”
One of the advantages Roam has over its competitors in the TravelTech space is its simplicity; it is minimalist in its features and has purposely avoided making things complicated. Many of the failures Startup Daily has seen in the TravelTech industry is from when founders try to put too many features into a product too soon. It ends up confusing the user and then the company has to put time, money and resources into educating those users about those features, which ends up being pointless because by then, they have already lost the customer.
To date, Roam has been self-funded by O’Donnell and Mullen. Although the intention is to continue bootstrapping, there are early-stage discussions starting to happen around the need for investment to take the product to the next level, as well as exploring strategic partnerships that could help leverage the user growth.
Roam is not monetised at the moment, however plans are to make available targeted travel offers and experiences. This type of monetisation makes sense and is the logical route for companies playing in this space to take, however if it’s not executed well, it also represents a risk to the company. Mullen did tell Startup Daily there were other avenues of revenue that were being explored, but Roam was not ready to discuss them just yet.
The density of users across particular locations should also play a major role in the monetisation strategy. Right now, the gender split on the app 60 percent male and 40 percent female, and users are aged between 18 and 34. The top three locations from which the users come are Australia, London and Hong Kong.
For the next 12 months, the startup will focus on the product and user experience. .
“Those things will be keeping us busy for the next three to six months,” says Mullen. “We would like to kickstart some marketing activities around the next three months to actively push ourselves out there. But until that point, we are just making sure that the user is really dominating everything that we do.”
Featured Image: Justin O’Donnell and Tim Mullens. Source: Provided.