Get More ROI with MOI: Moments of Inspiration

We’ve posted previously about the importance of putting the user experience first when innovating – what we call #outovating.  Putting customers first is also an imperative with marketing. Generating demand means engaging users at the precise moment when they are inspired.  It drives purchases regardless of seasonality.

The days of relying upon linear thinking in travel marketing are flying off into the sunset like the venerable 747 (we’re gonna miss that bird!).  Our always-on society means inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time. The traveler’s path from inspiration to booking is not only getting shorter – it’s disappearing.  Those who understand and capitalize on this trend will get the lion’s share of the bookings.

Today’s travelers go from inspiration to action in a flash – so they can get right to the experience. Image: Jakub Gorajek

For travel retailers (at least those in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s long been assumed that the first three months of the year are when most travelers plan their trips.  The next three is when there are more bookings and the summer is when most people take their trips.

As a result, many marketing strategies have logically timed certain campaigns accordingly with appropriate objectives: drive awareness and engagement during the planning season and then have more commercial offers promoted during the prime booking season.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Not anymore.  As we’ve seen so often in online travel over the past 20 years, technology has changed everything.  In this case, it has upended the traditional view of customer’s journey to purchase. Instead of thinking about “journeys” or “paths” or “funnels”, we as travel marketers need to think in terms of moments and mindset.

We can’t think of a traveler as being in a particular phase anymore.  We have to think of what is happening in that instant and what they may be thinking about and what would be of utmost value to them – in that moment.  Impossible as it sounds, it’s a necessary shift in thinking. When you get it right, magic happens.  They book. Call it a Moment of Inspiration. MOI.  Yeah, it’s pronounced “mwah” 🙂

Just what is a Moment of Inspiration?  It’s so obvious as to be overlooked. It’s an instagram post, a descriptive book passage about an exotic location, a conversation with a friend, a great meal.  Most of these things you can’t really make and you can’t really be there or time it. In the book example, you could probably target Audible or Kindle readers for specific titles but you’d have to get pretty creepily close to know when they read it to get the timing right.  To do MOI right, you’d literally have to be everywhere, which is obviously cost-prohibitive.

So if you can’t be there, why not try to create your own MOI?  You may be doing that already by promoting price-driven offers, special events or themed campaigns.  Such tactics might produce some near-term results but it’s not a sustainable marketing strategy.

Creating MOI requires us to think like the customer, to put ourselves in their shoes.  It’s similar to thinking about what keywords to use, but with a greater focus on behavior.  By their very nature, keywords embody a specific need. This rational approach works well when the customer has a specific product in mind, but with an open ended query like “where should I go on my next trip?” it fails.

The ideal MOI solution is experiential and immersive without being too deep – that is, it elicits an emotional response without requiring the user to either think or do too much.  The best produced ads or well-crafted stories do this. But it doesn’t need a big budget. Think of an alluring instagram post or drone footage from a unique POV.

Our approach at TripTuner is like a promotion disguised as a game but with a practical relevance that leads the customer down their own “path” to booking.  Rather than relying upon historic activity or psychographic data or externally-generated personas, we put the user in control of their personalization. Customers create their own Moments of Inspiration.

How do we know it’s working?  Here’s what we found from our licensing partners – the results were somewhat surprising: TripTuner usage and bookings for our partners increased during summer.  At first blush you might not expect this from an inspiration tool.

But it makes sense because the gap between inspiration and booking is shrinking fast.  Travel planning season is typically during the first few months of the year, but when someone is inspired and thinks, “I want to go there,” they can and they do.  We make it easy for your customers to go from inspiration to a booking right away — with a single page, highly relevant and totally engaging user experience.

So while Inspiration may be seen as a nice-to-have, TripTuner has been proven to improve order value — by as much as 25%.  Offering travelers a turnkey way to dream puts the emphasis on experience, and less on price.  Which is a better long-term strategy than relying solely upon offers, right?

Learn how you can get more ROI avec MOI.  Get in touch.

Until then, #stayTTuned!

#Outovating: Innovating From The Outside In

Our blog mixes inspirational tales with posts on the business/tech side of travel.  Titles are usually a dead giveaway, but subjects may vary.  You’ll see both sides – that’s a good thing.

Where does innovation come from?  According to one popular theme – reinforced by TV shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley – new technologies and products come from a group of hoodie and jeans clad wunderkind techies cranking out code in a dark, dank garage.

They work tirelessly towards launch, arguing over coffee and microbrews about how to make their product hella awesome. At launch the product meets reality. Often it fails because it was developed in an internal bubble, with little regard for how it will be received by customers.

outovating IMAGE - chris-barbalis-98731-unsplash

Innovation can only thrive outside the constraints of internal structures and biases.  (Milan vertical forest image by Chris Barbalis)

The history of new product launches is littered with the rejected carcasses of seemingly brilliant yet ill-conceived ideas (RIP Pets.com spokes-puppet).  Old skool marketers will also recall one of the greatest blunders of all time, New Coke.  Wha?  Yes, back in 1985 Coca-Cola executives thought they’d mess with the formula that made their soft drink a global phenomenon.  It was one of the worst marketing blunders of all time – largely because they completely underestimated how their customers would react.

ALEXA, WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

Contrast that with Amazon, where new product ideas are vetted by how attractive they will be to consumers.  Each idea basically starts with a one-page press release.  This forces the erstwhile inventor to answer the very difficult question: why should consumers give a damn?  It’s a great place to start and one I suggest every product manager or inventor puts to use.

That’s easy to do for a small startup team, but what about the VP of Marketing or Product in a large organization?  Internal biases can be hard to avert. There’s also pressure from in-house technology departments. Filled with experts in their space, they understandably want to be seen as innovators in creating whatever their internal customers need.  But they may be limited by existing infrastructure or processes. Market or investor pressure to show returns on existing products is also a factor at startups or large organizations.

Take Facebook, for example.  The core consumer value proposition of being the easiest way to connect and stay in touch with “friends” has rightfully earned it over 2 billion monthly active users.  Their ad-driven business model has proved highly profitable.  But in its quest to continually develop more precise user targeting, it opened users up to exploitation as in the Cambridge Analytica debacle (the New York Times breaks it down well here).  Often the relentless drive to monetize a core technology and user base dilutes the original concept.  The end user pays the price.

SOMETIMES KPIs ARE TBD

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) metrics are often identified to determine whether or not a new project is deemed a success.  Usually it’s a single metric, based on careful consideration of how it supports a strategy like attracting travelers in the dreaming phase, before they’ve selected a destination (shameless plug: this is what TripTuner is designed to do).  That’s good, because there are an overwhelming number and types of metrics that may be reported upon these days. Not all of them may be relevant or worth tracking. However, when testing a new innovation user feedback and behavior may reveal benefits beyond what was originally intended.  

When we launched TripTuner, users told us that it served up solid personalized options (“It’s like it knows me!” tweeted one) and that it was sticky, if not addicting (“so freaking obsessed” tweeted another).  That led us to believe engagement metrics like visit duration — which were often several times more than an average website – were most important. But if we hadn’t paid attention to some other benefits like booking search clicks, we would’ve missed out on one of our most important value propositions: the ability to take travelers from inspiration to booking in a personalized, low-pressure way.

PHASED AND CONFUSED

With the evolution of A.I. powered multivariate testing, multiple A/B tests on new features may be done simultaneously.  That’s great when making a tweak to existing functionality. But when evaluating the benefit of a new feature it’s important not only to view a wide ranges of metrics (to uncover unexpected user behavior patterns), but to also ensure we’re comparing similar phases of the purchase process.  

We found out that a client of ours was comparing product clicks generated on TripTuner (upper funnel) with clicks on a specific discounted product (lower funnel).  It wasn’t apples to apples, but it did highlight the fact that our user-centric approach was generating purchasing demand – a functionality that didn’t exist before.

#OUTOVATING: ARE YOU IN?

Breakthrough innovations require that we get out of our internal bubbles and view things from a fresh perspective – the consumer or end user’s view.  As we develop and deploy new technologies like machine learning and other artificial intelligence techniques, we need to be aware of how our own personal biases influence the product and ultimately the consumer.  

We have to design — to innovate — from the outside in.  We’ll call it “outovating.”  Not sure it’ll catch on but I’m going with it.  Looks like it was used five years ago but today only produces 3 results in a Google search.  When’s the last time you’ve seen THAT?

Stay tuned.

If you could travel for a year, where would you go?

One of the #RTW98 series of posts looking back on the ‘round the world trip that inspired the creation of TripTuner 20 years ago. It’s a story of personal growth and change, with impressions of fascinating places and people around the globe. If you’ve ever considered extended travel, taking a sabbatical or gap year or just wondered what it may be like, this is for you.

If you had an entire year to travel anywhere around the world, where would you go?

It’s a wonderfully tantalizing question.  Try it out on yourself or a friend.  Usually, people will reel off a few bucket list destinations or experiences dreamed up over time: see the Grand Canyon, climb Kilimanjaro, search for the Komodo dragon.  Me? I’d like to snorkel with whale sharks in the Seychelles.

Dig deeper and you’ll sense a person’s appetite for adventure, their passions and a glimpse of their worldview – very helpful in today’s polarized society.  I love exploring new places, so it was easy to create a wish list for my jaunt around the globe.  The more foreign, exotic and different they sounded, the better.  Kelimutu? Cool.  Ouagadougou? Sign me up.

Whenever a place caught my attention, I scribbled a star in a pocket-sized Hammond world atlas I kept with me at all times.  With the flip of a page I could jump to anywhere in the world, wherever I was: on my lunch break, before going to sleep or waiting for a flight.

travel, round the world

More potent than a medal or trophy, more permanent than fame or fortune: the enduring memories of an epic journey.

NARROWING THE OPTIONS 

Destination inspiration and info came from late-night forays into the stacks of guidebooks, magazine clippings and maps that turned my home office into a travel war room.  Potential paths were traced, erased and re-drawn in color-coded dry erase markers on a laminated Mercator projection map.

Trying on different themes like the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” helped narrow down the list.  Only one of the seven – the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – still existed.  So I added some “Natural Wonders” like South America’s Iguassu Falls, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Rough itineraries emerged as I learned more about each place and what it was really like to travel around the world.  I couldn’t just “Google it” — this was way before Tripadvisor and the advent of online travel.

Fortunately, a few friends had done it before.  David suggested traveling in a westerly direction to mitigate jet lag.  Courtney pointed out that I could pack light by routing my journey according to the seasons – seeking the Southern Hemisphere summer during the U.S. winter months and vice versa.

My travel writing teacher and author L. Peat O’Neill prepared me for the trade-offs of extended hard-core, off the beaten path travel.  It would take weeks, even months to traverse South America, Africa or Asia without flying.  But flying would quickly deplete my limited funds.  To circle the globe in a year, I had to allow for long, uncomfortable bus rides.  Something I would grow used to, then abhor as the year progressed.

REALITY CHECK

After a few months I “narrowed” my wish list to some 75 places around the world.  Giddy with excitement, I took the list to a travel agent, Anita.  She quickly set me straight.  Scanning my hand-written list, she shook her head and stopped multiple times to chide “there’s no airport there.”  Which to me meant, “you can’t go there.”  I was crushed.

It was mostly true.  To this day, many of the world’s spectacular locations like Polignano a Mare, Italy are not found on major travel web sites.  Mainly, it’s due to economics.  Not enough demand.

As a result, many fabulous destinations are excluded from the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) that most travel agents and web sites still rely upon for presenting destination options.  My frustration with this reality inspired a core pillar of TripTuner’s value proposition — the ability to show any destination of the world, period.

Sensing my dismay, Anita suggested some of the RTW (round-the-world) itineraries sold by airfare consolidators.  But none came close to my ambitious plan.  Many were regional in focus, like a Circle The Pacific fare.  Others were a random assortment of big city routes (New York – London – Bangkok – Sydney – LA) that were a far cry from my eccentric itinerary.  No single airline could do it, either.

BOOK IT!

To my delight, Anita found an RTW business class ticket with the Star Alliance (which includes United, Lufthansa, Thai and others) for about US$5,800 –  a great deal, even then (check here for current offers).  Given my ever-changing itinerary, it’s no surprise that I bought it just 11 days before my departure.

A travel agent is still a a great resource for booking a complex trip, but nowadays there are helpful online tools like AirTreks that map out actual segments and quote pricing on RTW itineraries.  Before you buy though, remember you can accrue upwards of 35,000 miles for a single RTW ticket – with potentially significant bonuses when booked with an airline or other credit card.

The Star Alliance ticket best matched my patchwork wish list of destinations.  Its flexibility was pretty amazing compared to today’s nonrefundable fares and stiff change fees.  For no fee I extended my hang in Buenos Aires after a mutual friend introduced me to Doug, who let me crash in his plush apartment.  Months later in Africa, a border skirmish forced me to scratch a Lufthansa flight from Asmara, Eritrea, which I changed to Cairo, Egypt for just $75.

My final itinerary included 8 major stops across 5 continents over 11 months.  Heeding Courtney’s advice, my first flight in February from Washington DC took me to Sao Paulo and South America’s summer warmth.  Jet lag was minimal because it flew directly south.

Like many RTW tickets, I couldn’t backtrack.  From South America the only onward intercontinental option was a nonstop Varig flight from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg, South Africa.  So I had to ditch the idea of traveling in a westerly direction to avoid jet lag.

Pro tip: stay loose – your plans will change, whether you like it or not.

South African Airways was not yet part of the Star Alliance, so I had to rely on local carriers to cover immense distances within Africa: Air Namibia to Windhoek; Air Botswana to Maun; Air Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls and on to Lake Kariba.  Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa to Abidjan and back.  Egyptian Airlines and its cattle boarding system (no seat or boarding group numbers) got me to Cairo.  In between there were buses that drag-raced on two-lane roads, Cessna flights into the bush, elephant-dodging pontoon boats and dugout mokoro canoes.  Hey, it’s all about the journey, right?

The Star Alliance ticket kicked back in with the Cairo to Frankfurt flight and a brief culture-shock stop in Europe before heading to Delhi, Bangkok and Bali.  After maxing out my visa over 2 wonderful months in Indonesia, it was on to Sydney, then Auckland and back to DC via LA.

UNKNOWN CERTAINTY

With the most important logistical task checked off, my mind returned to the emotional reality of leaving Ingrid.  Paradoxically, I’d fallen in love with her while simultaneously planning a year long trip.  That’s a long time to be apart, and surely we’d both change during my absence.

We couldn’t control or foresee what would happen.  The unspoken reality was that it would likely be the end of us – we had no delusions about that.  But deep down we both knew I had to do this trip, to pursue this incredible dream.

For our relationship, it was a journey into the unknown.  The odds of us staying together weren’t great, but we were committed to finding a way to make it work.  It was a parallel analogy to the individual journey I was taking.

Thousands of miles would separate us.  But virtually, spiritually, we were together.  Even more paradoxically, knowing that gave me the confidence to go.  As my friend Neil once counseled, “the deeper the roots, the wider the branches.”

We took a metaphorical deep breath, held hands and leapt.

But not without a little insurance…in addition to my ticket, I bought her a round-trip to Sao Paulo for a rendezvous 6 weeks into my trip.

For the time being, another emotional hurdle was cleared.  Turning to more practical concerns, I wondered: how the hell do you pack for an 11-month trip around the world?

Stay tuned.

Why I Quit My Job to Travel Around the World 20 Years Ago.

20 years ago last month, I boarded Varig Flight 855 from Washington Dulles to Sao Paulo on a trip that would change my life forever.  It was the beginning of an epic 11-month adventure around the world, the dream trip of a lifetime that inspired the creation of TripTuner and reinforced a desire to live life on my own terms.  Yet as I boarded that flight, I thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

This is the first in a series of #RTW98 posts looking back on that trip: the mechanics and logistics as well as the inner journey, with reflections on how life may have changed in the exotic lands I visited.  Like many journeys it is admittedly #allaboutme – very personal. But if you’ve ever considered traveling around the world or taking a sabbatical, you’ll find inspiration and tips for your own jaunt. If you’ve done it, I welcome you to relive that unique magic with me.

RTW98-1 Grootfontein

Sometimes life presents you with a choice between two diametrically opposed options, both of which are right.

SPARK

Since childhood, I’ve loved to travel.  But the thought of traveling around the world – and quitting my job to do it – never crossed my mind until I experienced the corporate world.  After 6 years in an intense sales job, I was ready for a change. It wasn’t a dream job, but I loved the independence, social aspect and challenge of sales.  Not to mention it was lucrative – it helped me pay off student loans, buy professional DJ gear and visit Europe and the Caribbean every year. The feeling of being debt-free was empowering, sparking thoughts of jumping off the cutthroat corporate treadmill.

While many of my colleagues bought homes or luxury cars – something our managers explicitly encouraged – I saw it as a trap.  I was young, single and not ready to settle down. The thought of a 30 year mortgage was unfathomable for me. I mean, I couldn’t even figure out what I wanted to do in the next 2 years of my life.  But I knew it wasn’t about getting tied down by debt or a materialistic lifestyle.  So after a particularly good year, instead of buying a Porsche I bought a 10 year old Saab, maxed out my 401K and saved the rest.  For what, I wasn’t sure.

What I did know is that I wanted a change and some time off.  Time to figure out on a deeper level what I really wanted out of my life.  Time to see what life was like outside of an all-consuming U.S. corporate culture that occupied not only most of my waking days, but also my mind when I wasn’t working.

Once I was open to the possibility, inspiration flooded in from everywhere: magazine articles, conversations with strangers (like DC taxi drivers) and tips from friends.  My college buddy David was on his own meandering mini-sabbatical at the time.  His legendary email descriptions of the ochre walls of Petra and sunsets on the Bosporus were welcome distractions to my day — rays of light in my grey-walled, grey carpeted cubicle.  His example begged the question: why couldn’t I do the same?

AWAKENING

In retrospect, the decision to go was a natural evolution of changes that were already in motion: a yearning to do something different, more creative and more meaningful beyond making money.  Before going anywhere my mind was already traveling, exploring a richer world of culture and creativity that was previously unseen through my 9 to 5 lens.

A travel-writing course helped me see the world differently, by noticing details and using sensory descriptions to tell a story.  It was a far cry from the logical position papers I’d written as a political science major in college.  It also sparked an interest in writing poetry and in Pablo Neruda, whose memoir further heightened my wanderlust and provided a theme for my travels through South America and his native Chile.

On weekends I DJ’d at Felix, a James Bond themed bar and restaurant in Washington, DC with an international staff.  Rohit, a London mixologist (before that was even a thing) was my supremely positive spiritual guide.  Sidi, a waiter from Mauritania who would sneak away to dance joyously whenever I played Khaled (no, not DJ Khaled); and Tree the entertainingly eccentric Vietnamese sous chef.  Mixing with this international crew conjured heady visions of faraway lands, fueling my wanderlust.

CURVEBALL

Everywhere I turned there were signs encouraging me to go.  On the flip side, there was little reason not to go. I’d saved enough money, had zero debt and had the brash, youthful confidence that I could do anything. Nothing held me back.

Then I met Ingrid.

An accomplished modern dancer, she broadened my artistic interests and drew me in with a calm demeanor that tamed my “always on” corporate mindset in a direction I wanted to go.  It perfectly mimicked the personal transformation I was experiencing. But as we grew closer I didn’t dare mention my grand travel plan for fear of losing her. Why would she waste her time with someone who was about to leave for a year?

After trying to avoid the subject for awhile, the plans for my trip came up over dinner one night. No longer able to contain my enthusiasm, I shared my desire to explore the wonders of the world, solo, for an entire year.  But I also shared my concerns about burning through savings and halting the professional momentum I’d gained.  “But you’ll be a psychological millionaire!” Ingrid exclaimed.  Wow.  Wasn’t expecting that.  Instead of cutting her losses, she actually encouraged me to do it.  She understood its intrinsic value.  “Keeper!” I thought, as in the old Foster’s Beer ad.

Ingrid’s support accelerated my planning and pushed me even closer to taking the plunge.  It lifted a huge emotional weight off my shoulders, and alleviated my concern that it would damage my career.  In the end, one year wasn’t such a big deal.  As a college graduate with 7 years of successful sales experience, I’d be OK.  Right?

FEAR, GO!

On November 15, 1997, Islamic militants seeking to overthrow the Egyptian government killed 70 people (including 60 tourists) outside a temple in Luxor, Egypt.  It occurred just as my plans were taking shape, and brought to the forefront a fear that I hadn’t confronted yet.  The Pyramids of Egypt were on my list, but this was about more than just one destination and unfortunately was not an isolated incident.  I had to face the fact that I would be alone, traveling in remote parts of the world where anything could happen.

The attack prompted friends of mine to share their own cautionary tales. A co-worker recounted the story of his friend who was murdered while traveling to a developing country.  My friend Tom told me about a fellow hotel guest who ignored the front desk’s advice not to go out for a run after dark.  He returned naked.  Even his clothes were taken from him!

Any one of these stories was enough to make me reconsider my plans.  But as noted travel expert Wendy Perrin reminds us, one is statistically more likely to perish from a car crash or drowning in a bathtub than from terrorism.  Such data provides a rational antidote to doubts, but can’t by itself overcome that primal emotion of fear.  In the end, it was a deeply held spiritual belief in positive outcomes that propelled me forward and sustained me on the road.

I decided to go.  With the world as my canvas, I was free to dream up an epic itinerary.  With so many options though, how could I choose where to go?

Next up in the #RTW98 series: crafting the itinerary.

Stay tuned.

INFOGRAPHIC Traveler Tastes for 2018: To Chill or seek Thrills?

TT Taste Lab - relaxing

As 2017 winds down we’re sharing some fresh traveler preference data to help marketers target the world’s top 10 markets next year. It’s not your typical list of up-and-coming destinations (you can always find those here). Nor is it a list of popular activities or themes. Those have been covered thoroughly.

Our goal is to capture traveler sentiment on a broader scale: to go beyond the what, how or where to understand the why. We’re looking for what truly motivates travelers — the intangible result they want from a vacation — beyond any specific event or criteria.

For many, it means a chance to rest and relax. For others it may be an opportunity to recharge through active exploration. To capture these seemingly opposite objectives, there is a Relaxing vs Active preference slider on TripTuner.com and throughout much of our partner network.

This infographic is based on 1st party data (anonymized and aggregated) from 1 million inputs on that slider across the TripTuner network through December 26, 2017. It shows how travelers in the world’s top 10 outbound countries (as defined by the UNWTO) rank in their desire to relax or be active when on holiday or vacation.

This data is unique in three respects:

  • Actions, not words: it’s based on what users do, not what they say in a survey or review.
  • Qualitative sentiment: by focusing on intangible criteria (e.g. relaxing or active) it offers deeper insight than a model based on quantitative booking data.
  • Captures nuance: preferences are indicated on a sliding scale (what blend of relaxation and activity is desired) instead of a binary preference (do you want to relax OR be active?).

It’s the first of a series of reports we’ll share in the coming year from the TripTuner Taste Lab. So stay tuned for more as we continue to mine an ever-increasing trove of first-party preference data.

 

Celebrating 6 Years of TripTuner

We are your source for travel #inspiration.

We’re passionate about travel, with broader ambitions.

We are your self-curation tool, in a world of overwhelming choice.

We’re Tedd, Pierre, Freddy, Jen, Laurie, Huu Da and a virtual army of supporters.

We are TripTuner: a self-funded, profitable #startup celebrating 6 years of fine-tuned #travel.

We’re inviting you to join us on this journey of discovery. You down?

TripTuner 6 Year Anniversary

What’s behind our smile on #WorldEmojiDay2017?

UPDATE: Donation made! Thanks to all of you who participated in your promotion and helped us bring smiles to children in need around the world.

Today our summer interns Madeline and Philip launched a social promotion with a cause, called #MyEmojiSmile.  It’s a simple request to like or share our social posts.  For each such action we make a donation to Operation Smile, which offers free surgeries (and other services) to disadvantaged children with cleft-lip around the world.  We did it because helping people in far-flung corners of the globe while bringing smiles to faces everywhere is core to what TripTuner is about.

The concept for TripTuner evolved out of a year spent traveling through developing nations around the world some 20 years ago.  To cope with language barriers, I often resorted to hand signals, pointing to signs or even making animal noises (to find out what meat lurked beneath an innocuous mound of curry on a roadside stand near Mount Kelimutu, Indonesia).  But the surefire way to smooth things out anywhere was always a simple, genuine smile.  In many places, it was also a modest way to bridge very sharp class differences.

My trip created a strong desire to somehow help less fortunate souls in distant lands through my business.  The demands of launching a bootstrapped startup however, provided a convenient excuse for neglecting that part of our mission…until a letter arrived that struck a nerve and compelled me to act.

At first it didn’t seem any different than the ask letters I received from Operation Smile before, or from other charities.  The text looked better than much of the computer-generated “authentic” handwriting you see these days.  It even had what looked like a hand-drawn flower on it.  But a phrase from Philipine of Madagascar caught my eye:  “My life before my operation was very sad and worst because some of my friends were always laughing at me” (because of her cleft lip).

I was eating lunch, so perhaps my mind was more open to appeals at that time but as a father, I imagined my daughter being in that situation.  It even brought back my own memories of being an awkward, buck-toothed kid in a new town.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s no comparison of my privileged childhood with this girl’s plight.  But that universal feeling of not being accepted resonated with me.  The fact that there’s zero chance Philipine or others like her could dream of having such a surgery made it an easy decision.  We were going to do something as a company.

Over that same lunch I learned about #WorldEmojiDay2017 – which is today (but you knew that, right?)  The image of a smiling emoji and the Operation Smile letter sparked an idea to help in a way that fits exactly with the type of company we want to be: one that makes people smile whether they travel or not.

So there’s still time for you to like or share our Facebook post.  Each time that happens we’ll add more to our donation…and any selfies acting as your fave emoji will get a bonus.  Thanks in advance for your thoughtful participation.   Well let you know how it turns out on our FB page.

Stay tuned,

Tedd