There is practically nowhere on earth that has not been blogged about, photographed or commented on, and it is easy for travellers to feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available online. Danish entrepreneurand and keen traveller Louise Brandstrup Zastrow recognised that journeys are often deeply personal experiences, and that an online tool that enables people to create their own personal guidebook could fill a gap in the market.
“The travel sector is oversaturated, so we built a platfom to tackle this,” explains Louise. “This tool helps you organise and handle data, and to make something that is highly functional.”
Louise has a background in multimedia and graphic design, and in 2011 decided that the time was right to strike out on her own. “My first business was more like a freelance consultancy, and one of my clients was a high-end Copenhagen restaurant,” she says. “During this time I was travelling a lot.”
It was during a trip to Myanmar that the concept for Travel Kollekt began to take shape. “This trip took a lot of planning, and I found myeslf getting annoyed at having to navigate around social media platforms. All the data and info I collected never really turned into action. I realised that there was maybe something I could do here.”
Louise launched her new venture in 2016. The online platform has a collect function where article links, photos and other snippets gathered by users are collected. The tool organises the information into a book, while specialist writers add context. The final product can be read as an ebook or printed as a physical travel book.
“It is clear that users are really engaged, because they sometimes contact us with very specific requests,” she says. “For example, they want to order gift vouchers for friends, or want to know if we can add a new category. This sort of interaction makes me extremely happy.”
Getting people to understand her concept was a key challenge at the beginning. “Many people were not ready to talk about physical guidebooks,” she says. “But there has been a recent backlash against tech, and this has changed the conversation.”
Louise also accepts that starting your own business can be daunting. “If you’re already employed, then this can be a hard decision to make,” she says. “I would advise people to do a calculation and look at the facts. For example I made a spreadsheet, and saw that my fear that I couldn’t afford to quit wasn’t actually true.”
Louise suggests that women are indeed sometimes judged to different standards than men, and that one way to change this is for more young female entrepreneurs to just go for it. “It is ok to be passionate about work,” she adds.
Continuing the journey
Louise’s team is currently made up of 2 full time staff including herself; 4 tech freelancers; and a PhD student. Her business was also the first of 2 Danish female-founded companies to enter the Next Media Accelerator programme, a Hamburg-based initiative for early stage scalable startups. Participation in this programme enabled Louise to hire her first employee.
Looking to the future, Louise hopes to raise more funds in order to further develop the tool and achieve cooperation with a few strategic partners. “We have local writers in place in more than 5 countries, and our focus right now is on Scandinavia. We are also already supported by TourismX, an innovation programme run by Wonderful Copenhagen,” she says. “But everything is set to roll out, and we hope to hire more people in the near future.”