Congratulations!! Voyaj was designed December’s Startup of the Month in the Pitch Lab.
The online platform was founded by Yasmine El Baggari, a young passionate entrepreneur. You can read more about Voyaj in this article.
We are very glad to discover this beautiful startup to whom we wish the very best of success.
- Yasmine, how would you explain the Voyaj concept?
Voyaj is an online platform that matches people, worldwide, to provide them with meaningful experiences – opening hearts and minds. Our mission is to foster respect for our diversity through meaningful connections, person by person, to take part in the solution for a more peaceful, caring world.
- Why have you decided to lunch this platform?
When I landed in America in 2010, from Morocco, my goal was to visit all 50 states. In 4 years, I visited 35 states and stayed in 52 American homes. I made so many friends along the way, and gained great understanding and respect for America. The warm hospitality and open-mindedness of the American people impacted me greatly. I attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, a school that let me design my own major and supported me from the beginning. My journey inspired me to bring my own experiences to others and launch Voyaj.
- How is it different from existing travel platforms like Airbnb and couchsurfing?
Voyaj’s center piece revolves around the cultural exchange experience. Accommodation is just one of the many means this can be done. Voyaj travelers can choose to spend few hours up to few days with their hosts based on their availability. Voyaj offers an engaging social interaction model that neither platform provides. Voyaj emphasizes shorter term visits, and differs from Airbnb and Couchsurfing by emphasizing economy, security, and rich cultural experiences.
- What is your business model?
Matching fee every time you are guaranteed a genuine connection.
- What are the next steps before the launch of the platform?
The first version of our platform will be ready on January 22nd and we will start testing. Currently, my team has four people with a diverse set of skills and background. I am currently in Morocco to plan a trip for Americans who are coming to Morocco through Voyaj.
I am back to Massachusetts the end of this month for an accelerator that will last for 4 months, we will be focused on these areas:
- Validate the business model and go-to-market strategy.
- Form the right strategic partnerships with “win-win” financial metrics
- Recruit team members to handle business operations so I can thrive in my zone of expertise (vision, fundraising and strategic partnerships).
- Continue building the platform, and hire a CTO to lead the development of a scalable global travel platform.
- Develop the fundraising materials and raise a series seed round of capital in May
So far, what we accomplished in 2014 include:
- Acceptance at an accelerator program in Massachusetts (January – April)
- $59,000 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hampshire Award
- One of the 100 Most Influential White House Travelers and Travel Bloggers
- Voyaj receives Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
- Contributor to National Geographic Travel and Yahoo Travel to share key lessons of a Voyaj-like experience
- Roundtable with Vice President Joe Biden to present Voyaj
- Interviews with major international newspapers
- Sponsorship by Turkish Airlines and US Embassy (free airline tickets)
- Positive acceptance from speaking and spreading Voyaj vision/mission in MENA, United States, and Ireland. Interest from investors for Round A (once seed fund is closed, and growth occurs)
- Voyaj wins two pitch competitions (awards + prizes)
- Tech and operations team in place – Business Plan and structure established.
- A dedicated management team based in San Francisco, Boston, and Morocco
- Partnerships with major universities and organizations
- « 1,100 Likes Milestones » Achieved within 2 weeks on Facebook (with Zero Marketing –> Organic Growth): https://www.facebook.com/Voyajinc
- How can the New Workers contribute to the development of voyaj?
I would love for the New Workers to be one of the first tests of the Voyaj app once it’s launched.