BackpackMojo.com Wants To Pay You To Help Others Travel Better [Q&A]
The Expeditioner sits down (virtually) with Co-Founder Kevin Creusy Of BackpackMojo.com for a chat on how backpackers can travel better, what it’s like founding a startup and why Mars is the next Laos for backpackers.
Imagine a scenario: You have a measly 12 vacation days off from work and the possibilities are endless. Your plans are like an open book, a spinning globe, a blank slate . . . you get the idea. All you know is that you pine to leave the ho-hum predictability of the daily grind (regardless of how much you enjoy your job) and embark into the adventure-ridden abyss of backpacking.
So what’s the next step?
Do you peruse the dusty old shelves of the local used bookstore, kick it old school and open up the travel section of the city newspaper, or fritter away an inordinate amount of time on Wikipedia? French travelers Kevin Creusy, 23; Antoine Heber-Suffrin, 26; and Pierre Margueritte, 22; are the co-founders of BackpackMojo.com — a website offering trustworthy travel information from in-the-know intrepid backpackers.
In addition to featuring an adorable monkey as a mascot (who looks peculiarly like an ewok) the fledgling website serves as a platform for members of the “backpacking tribe” to both connect and confer on trip planning. A departure from the overused Lonely Planet model, BackpackMojo.com allows wanderlust souls to glean travel information ranging from the balmy climate of San José to the windswept tundra of Australia.
I had the good fortune of talking with Creusy, and was able to coax him to dish about why—and how—he launched the website, his advice to similar entrepreneurs and where we would teleport to (you know, if that was possible and all).
The Expeditioner: Tell me the basics about Backpack Mojo, and why you decided to start it in the first place.
Kevin Creusy: Backpack Mojo is a unique concept of self-edition platform for all kinds of travelers that enables them to create their own travel guides.
We came up with this idea while we were traveling in Indonesia. We realized that out of the 1,000 pages in a Lonely Planet guidebook, generally we just use a hundred of them, and waste all the rest. This was the first real observation we made. What came next was the thought that if everyone shared their unique tips and tricks about all the trips they did in the past, we wouldn’t end up on the same “travel guide road” and would have a much wider range of travel options at any time.
We started looking for a better way to share travel information a platform that would make it easy for all travelers to share their insights in an itinerary-based manner.
We really believed that well-organized, easy-to-access content would be a game changer in the e-travel industry.
The Expeditioner: Ideally, would you like Backpack Mojo to function more as a social media site or a travel site?
Kevin: Well, we are ambitious! We want Backpack Mojo to be the ultimate place of exchange for travel knowledge. So in that sense, our travel guides are a potent tool, but not the only one available on the website.
We also have a social media feature called “Tribe” that enables users to follow other people’s adventures by joining their groups. Once you join a traveler’s tribe, you receive his updates on your own “Tribefeed” and can communicate with him or her directly. It’s a way for travelers to stay in contact with each other on a backpacker-dedicated social network.
On the other side, Backpack Mojo is also the only site online today that can answer the question: “I am going to Japan for 20 days, what can I do?”.
An itinerary is often the fruit of a long labor on many forums, travel websites, as well as hours spent questioning friends. Our website automatically highlights the most relevant travel guides for travelers in quest of inspiration.
The Expeditioner: Tell me about the monetary compensation. I understand that backpackers can get paid for the guides they provide?
Kevin: Absolutely! In the near future, all travel writers on Backpack Mojo will have their own “author shop” on the website and on our mobile apps. Every travel guide written on Backpack Mojo can be bought by travelers searching for inspiration and unique travel tips. A travel guide is sold for 20€ (around $25) on Backpack Mojo, and out of this the author gets a 25% commission. This also allows readers to help support those authors’ travels.
Today, thanks to hours of hard work, we can deliver these travel guides within 10 days worldwide.
Our pending mobile app will also allow users to access travel guides, but the principle is slightly different. All travel guides will be free by default, but an author can choose to sell his travel guides for a price of his choice. Again, the author gets a 25% commission out of the price paid by the reader.
We focus as much as possible on being fair with travelers. This is also the reason why we chose to offer them their own printed travel guide once it is complete.
The Expeditioner: What other benefits do travelers have to using your website? Why is it better than using a guidebook?
Kevin: Well this is a tough question — we have a completely different approach to classic guidebooks. While they focus on giving the widest possible information about a country, we focus on specific itineraries and unique information gleaned from real traveler experience.
In a Backpack Mojo guidebook you will find very little information about the country itself, but a whole lot regarding the road you decided to travel. Specific tips and tricks, hotspots, and transportation information hold the most important place in our travel guides.
Furthermore, because of the huge range of destinations they cover, classic guidebooks have a hard time keeping their travel information relevant and up-to-date. A Backpack Mojo travel guide, because it’s created by a recent traveler, is a recent and reliable source of travel information. Regarding older Backpack Mojo travel guides, the date at which the author traveled is present on every page, a way for the reader to evaluate the relevance of the information he is reading.
The Expeditioner: What are the challengers to starting your own site?
Kevin: Definitely web development. It was necessary to build a team with both the skills and passion for travel to run such a complicated project. Once the platform was finished we only needed to spend a few thousand hours developing and coordinating the project!
Acquiring the techie-skills was a challenge for everyone, whether it was about community management, web development, or finance and accountability, every aspect was a challenge but everyone rose to the task.
The Expeditioner: If you could go back in time 5 years and give advice to yourself from the future, what would it be?
Kevin: Invest in Apple? More seriously, I think I would have chosen to take a more “technical” education. I would have loved to specialize in web and software development. This would have been (and would still be) very useful to Backpack Mojo.
The Expeditioner: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own online business?
Kevin: Start a business you are passionate about. It will require such intense devotion that, if it’s not the case, you might have real difficulty to find the determination necessary to succeed.
The Expeditioner: If teleportation existed, and you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be, and what activity would you be doing there?
Kevin: I would teleport to Mars and do a little backpacking there. I would probably try to hike The Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the solar system . . . if I had an oxygen tank and solar-suit of course.
The Expeditioner: Besides The Expeditioner contributing editors, who are your favorite travel writers?
Kevin: I won’t lie if I say that my favorite travel writers are all on Backpack Mojo. I start everyday of work by choosing a random travel guide and reading it. It is my own personal way to travel while I am stuck at the office.
There are of course many bloggers (EuropeUpClose, GoSeeWrite, etc . . .) and travel magazines I really like to read from such as The Expeditioner. As you might have guessed I spend almost all my free time reading about travel.
About the Author
Jenna Blumenfeld, (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble) hails from the wee state of Connecticut. Although her childhood dream of becoming a bug doctor — with a specialization in ladybugs — has gone unfulfilled, she is content writing about travel, cuisine and culture. A vegetarian, she currently resides in the food hub of Boulder, Colorado. Read more of her food-centric writing at NewHope360.com.
Posted on February 27, 2012 by Jenna Blumenfeld