Top – building the dream team remotely

In October 2019 a team of six engineers came together, remotely, to create, an AI-powered travel platform generating cheap travel packages.

We caught up with ‘the instigator’ CEO and co-founder Andre Sousa to find out what it was like building a company remotely.

Where did the initial idea for an AI powered travel site come from?

In the summer of 2019, my wife and I were planning a trip around Asia. I was going to meet her family for the first time, also going to visit some family in Thailand, and was to attend a university summer course, about business and innovation, in China.

We spent so much time planning this trip, finding cheap flights and trying to figure out where were the good places to visit. To me, with my engineering background, it didn’t make much sense that this process hadn’t been automated yet.

During the summer course, we’re to create a business idea and go into a competition with Chinese start-ups. I pushed the idea of creating a platform that would automate the planning of holidays, but the idea was to help Chinese travellers come to Europe. I pitched this idea in this competition, and it was so well received that we ended up winning the first prize.

When I got back to Denmark, I grabbed the phone and talked with some colleagues that are very good engineers – that’s how I started getting this core team of engineers.

How did the team come together?

During my education, I’ve always been very focused on working in student teams – getting together and voluntarily creating something together – engineering-related in our case. So, I had a good network of engineers that were good at getting their hands down and dirty and creative. I leveraged my contact list.

Our co-founding team is six people. We just decided to all go for it and run this company.

Three of us were in Demark and the other three in Portugal. We built the product remotely during the pandemic, and the whole team only met each other for the first time at last year’s Web Summit. After those few days together the Portugal team decided to move to join us in Odense, Denmark.

Explain how the platform works

As a user, you can say that you are in Ireland, can fly from Dublin and are free to travel whichever dates. Then based on very little constraints we’ll create really good packages for you. We figure out what the best flights are to the coolest locations and book trains, buses, and accommodation.

We’ll suggest places to you that are totally unexpected and allow you to travel, as we say, ‘more for less’.

How did you find building a company remotely?

In certain aspects it was extremely efficient. But I think you need to have a lot of discipline and a lot of faith in the product because you don’t get attached to your colleagues so easily, compared to being able to bond with them over beers and BBQs.

We kept the discipline of meeting online every week to check the progress of the company and that helped a lot.

What challenges did you find building a B2C business?

When you introduce a product with such a high amount of technology, and you are working with so many novelty factors, and on top of that you need to make sure that your front end and everything is spotless – getting that recipe right takes time.

On the consumer side of things, expectations are so high. Maybe 10-20 years ago you could have horrible web pages and people would still interact with them but these days the level of requirements is really high, so you need a perfect platform.

What does the future hold for

After two years of bootstrapping, we got our first investment(€350,000) and now we’re just keeping our heads down, and working towards our vision of ‘travel more for less’.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.