In the past 10 years, we curated surf accommodation & real estate. We created a community of nearly 100.000 followers. The brand had exposure to 100 million eyeballs. Google Ads are now 100 times more expensive, and social media no longer feels very social. Facebook is making it way more difficult for organic posts to reach our fans. We benefited from being early, the clicks on Google were dirty cheap, and we experienced organic growth on Facebook by producing quality content. The past few years, we noticed how the social media era is waning: we’re all shifting away from public posting towards private and small group messaging. The biggest stumbling blocks for the industry have been identified as growing trust gaps in terms of the sources readers believe. How valuable are reviews from strangers?

We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. When travel does return, it will look different. But, a crisis brings you clarity about what is truly important. We are building a privacy-first location-based app to share magic places with real friends.

(Yves Van den Meerssche)

Problem


If you have found something unique or your trip was so unforgettable, you can easily share it with your friends on social media, but what happens when, many months later,  they actually end up visiting that place, will they remember that incredible restaurant you posted on Instagram, and if they do, will they know where to find it?  

Why did you pick this idea to work on?
Five-star systems are good at identifying and weeding out very low-quality places, they do a poor job of separating good from great. We want to get trustworthy recommendations from our friends and add these places to our own map.

Solution


Our app makes it easy to publish photos, tags, and notes about the places you love. We change the user experience by surfacing content on your timeline, based on your current location, places recommended by friends, and tag-based filters. Simply call to make a reservation, get directions, or catch up with real life friends to plan your next trip. Bringing the social back to social media. A tool for shared experiences.

Privacy-first location-based app experiences. Visual storytelling + recommended places = LTL Maps
LTL Maps
App for travel-loving creators. LTL Maps has 18 repositories available. Follow their code on GitHub.

How do you know people want this?
If anything good comes from this post C19 era, it's that people want to connect with real life friends, and explore the places that are nearby as much as they want to discover the rest of the world.

What are you going to do next?
Figma designs are now converted in React Native. Our (ex-Samsung) dev started to develop the backend with MongoDB startup support. We started with the design for the Apple Watch App.

How does your product work in more detail?
Turning our power users into brand ambassadors. LTL Ambassadors produce visual content to capture the spirit, the very essence of the travel destination. They let you explore the exceptional places that have been hand-picked.

Innovate with the trust machine
We envision a robust multi-sided distributed marketplace that can host tokens which represent everything of value: physical goods, fundraising and equity, real estate and creative productions.

What problems/hurdles are you anticipating?
The challenge will be to leverage existing social platforms for discovery & distribution, while giving a compelling enough value proposition so that power users move to a narrower, premium community like ours.

How to hard-code developer rewards through a LAO?
How to assign a share of the user value-add through Sidechain or Chainlink?

The benefit of user privacy comes at the cost of running the algorithm on the device. Federated learning lends itself to applications where privacy is a concern.

It’s time to ditch Google Analytics
The centralized collection of usage data by Google is something users have no control about if Analytics is installed on a website. We feel strong about the fact that we can apply principles of “Privacy-Aware Design”. We do not want to subject our users to such privacy risks.

Are you open to changing your idea?
Yes, we’ll iterate when needed. Amazon started with selling just books. Based on feedback, our idea of tokenized co-ownership seems to be a great match for this post C19 era, and we have been documenting that old idea on a new page.

LTL tokenized co-ownership model
With blockchain technology, we have the ability to remove the barriers for individuals to become rent-collecting property owners. We are keen to break down the barriers between the land-owning elite and the rent-paying workers of the world. Sound like a plan?

How are you meeting customers?
Best way to talk to customers is travel. Tourist hotspots are easy to find, but the fun part is discovering unique places. We curated 1000+ places in 100+ destinations. We will go on the road to meet our customers. (+Zoom/Slack)

GTM, KPI’s & Funding

How will customers and/or users find out about you?
The most efficient and effective marketing is our own product, plus happy customers, plus recommendations.

What makes new users try you?
There’s no better way to explore a new location than with advice from people who have lived or traveled there before. We connect people with experienced insiders.

How big an opportunity is there?
Curating maps for one group of people at a time. Our maps will tap into any passionate community. Example: the global surfing industry, including travel is on the order of $10 billion per year with 50 Million surfers. We will scale to other communities like ski, yoga, wine, etc ... People who wants to explore world capitals and exclusive mountaintops to hidden beaches and off-the-beaten-path escapes.

How many users are paying?
We have a freemium business model. Our app is free to use but we also offer a subscription-based model to offer exclusive travel content & premium features.

Who is going to be your first paying customer?
We will use recommendations from the people we already follow on social media and invite them to join. Ask them to add their favourite places, chat with them and ask them to invite their friends.

What is your burn rate?
We have set up a life we don’t need to escape in stunning places like South Africa and France, keeping our cost of living as low as possible and staying away from debt. This keeps our burn rate as low as our cost of living.

How much does customer acquisition cost?
Depending on the channel we estimated our average CAC is below $25. Based on our rates our LTV is $50+, so at least 2X our CAC. Smart (referral) links have the potential to enable growth campaigns that can perpetually fund themselves.

What areas might you be able to expand into?
Smart (referral) links can be an enabler of our shift towards a more rewarding experience for those who make travel more enjoyable for others. Above all, we want to compensate our 70K fans for helping us grow. As a reference, Surfline has an audience of 7 Million, so within this small niche there is still room to expand. The past has learned us that eyeballs are not the best metric. Yes, our brand had exposure to nearly 100 Million eyeballs but really, it's just a vanity metric bought with social media & search engine ads (when they were dirty cheap).

What is your growth like? What is your user growth rate?
Let's reach PMF first, real PFM! Our growth rate should not be inflated by spending half of our funding into ads. It's not healthy for us. It will not improve our PMF. It will not delight users. We recommend the video with Chamath, if we could pick one VC that matches our culture it would be Palihapitiya. There's one ad, skip it, the part after the ad is well worth it!!!

How will you make money?
Premium $50 memberships. Booking with LTL is the same as booking directly, LTL does not add any commission fees and users will pay directly to the trusted sellers, be it booking.com or the official hotel site: the choice is the users. This process ensures the quality of service is handled by external agencies’ professional support. LTL has secured affiliate partnerships with travel companies in which we receive a cut of any booking that originates from our website.

Will you reincorporate as a US company?
If needed to get funding, for sure.

Have you raised funding?
No we are currently bootstrapping and proving we can survive this post C19 era.

How long can you go before funding?
With our burn rate, a very very long time.

Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
ASO Analysis & Marketing

In what ways are you resourceful?
Applying the lean startup mindset.

Underlying Magic

What do you know about this space/product others don’t know?
It all starts with LTL ambassadors producing high-quality content. They really understand our audience and will help them through their journey of finding places to live the good life. They don’t try to force you into booking a hotel room, instead, they make you want to simply go “Live The Life”. The app gives you the freedom to create your very own dream trip and plan it day by day. A platform for travel-loving creators to upload original content can be beneficial to those considering a vacation — while being rewarding for storytellers.

When pitching to investors, a common question is, “what if the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) enter your industry?” The principal innovation of crypto networks is their ability to grow network effects by enabling users to share in the value they create. With each new database entry, or user, the service becomes more valuable to each individual user, generating a network effect. Valuable crypto services now have the unique opportunity to redistribute that value directly to the users who generate it. Designed correctly, an effective distribution of a fee stream can further entrench network effects by giving users a direct economic incentive to contribute, generating more defensibility, which in turn, reinforces the viability of the fee stream in the first place.

Granted certain technologies have made life a lot more convenient, many consumers are growing more sceptical and even fearful of stored information breaches, data centre failures and non-secure networks. Monopolistic e-commerce players also have taken a sense of community away from shoppers, leaving local merchants practically at their mercy. From trust and security to efficiency and community, small startups could usher in a brighter, better future.

Team & Endgame

What’s an impressive thing you have done?
Providing innovative WebTV technology, years before YouTube. We got featured on Apple.com as a video-streaming pioneer in partnership with Akamai.

How did your team meet? Who’s your co-founder?
20 years ago at the Business School in Brussels. Katrien has proven her strengths in customer service, administration and project management. She established know-how about all aspects of building the brand, creating partnerships with hospitality brands, entrepreneurs and visual storytellers. She learned to pick the right tools to operate with excellence and efficiency.

Will your team stick at this?
We have a huge passion for design, code and travel content. We can not stop curating hotspots and developing a platform to share those experiences. It’s what we love the most and it’s what we do best.

Why will you succeed?
Doing the things that don’t scale. I.e. visit these places to produce visual content to capture the spirit, the very essence of the travel destination.

By adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning we have grown confident that we are now ready for a new chapter. The assumption is that we invested enough time into iteratively building services to meet the needs of early customers, so we can reduce market risks and sidestep the need for large amounts of initial project funding and expensive product launches and failures.

Who would you hire or how would you add to your team?
We are a fully remote team of 8 people spread across 4 countries. We now invite storytellers to join us to expand our collection of places to sleep, eat, and play. It is quite hard to find on-the-ground experts in all the regions our app would want to cover. We will be constantly growing and nurturing our freelancer hub.

Become an LTL Ambassador.
Writers who are enrolled in the LTL Ambassador Program are eligible to earn money for any stories that are part of the metered paywall. Writers are not required to join the Partner Program in order to send stories to the curators for review.