Combining her passion for travel with her business background, Aigerim Shorman co-founded Triptrotting, a fast-growing travel community. She wants to inspire people to explore the world and to create a more inter-connected global community. On Triptrotting, people from different cultures and backgrounds connect with each other based on common interests and personalities, and, as a result, realize that “at the end of the day, we are all just humans.”
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- “The greatest failure in life is not to try.” – Gwen Thomas click to tweet!
- Triptrotting was all the buzz and expected to win first place in an upcoming event that would have meant $10,000, a mentor and a space to set up shop. Instead, they came in 2nd place and walked away with $2,000, bummed out. However, a different mentor approached them afterwards, and within months they received over $330,000 in funding. Hmmmmm, sometimes 2nd place ain’t so bad…
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- What do the customers want? Okay, we’ll give it to them! Such a simple concept, but so rarely employed. Find out two ingenious ways Triptrotting implements this concept.
- Triptrotting is in over 165 countries, and growing every day. Are you traveling any time soon? You may want to listen close!
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John Lee Dumas: Hi Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, Aigerim Shorman. Aigerim, are you prepared to ignite?
Aigerim Shorman: Yes. I am!
John Lee Dumas: Alright! Combining passion for travel and a business background, Aigerim cofounded Triptrotting, a fast growing travel community. She wants to inspire people to explore the world and create a more interconnected global community. On Triptrotting, people from different cultures and backgrounds connect with each other based on common interests and personalities. As a result, they realized at the end of the day, we are all just humans.
So I’ve given a little overview, Aigerim, but why don’t you take it from here and tell us who you are, what you do, and the correct way to pronounce your name?
Aigerim Shorman: [Laughs] Absolutely. You actually nailed it. It’s Aigerim Shorman, and I am cofounder and CEO of Triptrotting. We are this awesome global community of – well, we call them “citizens of the world.” We have people from 150 countries to [southern] cities around the world. I’m a traveler myself. I’ve been to over 30 countries. I lived in I think five now? Four or five countries around the world.
So definitely, I think through my own experiences and our entire team, we’re all very international. We just realized that the more we travel and the more we met people from other cultures, that we are all at the end of the day the same. We have so much in common and by interacting with these people from other cultures and learning about local cultures, you understand that and you kind of become friends with people from all over the world and all types of backgrounds and nationalities, religious backgrounds, etcetera. So we decided to create a community where we could all do that.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. I really consider myself very fortunate because after college, I spent four years as an officer in the Army, active, and then while I was in the reserves, I was able to actually travel, and not really just go for like a couple of weeks here and there, but I really took that opportunity to immerse myself. I lived in Guatemala for four months. I went to India and Nepal for four months and just really immersed myself in the culture. When you’re doing that, you really get to meet a lot of people that live there, but you also meet a lot of people that are just like you and they’re traveling long term in these countries. Is that some of the cool experiences that you love while you travel?
Aigerim Shorman: Yes. That’s exactly right. I mean, I think it is a big part of the travel experience to be able to meet other travelers from other countries as well, as well as locals. I think it’s also important when you travel, you can always kind of serendipitously meet people, but one of the things that we’re trying to do is actually connect you with people that share something in common with you. So like let’s say we’re entrepreneurs obviously if you’re listening to this podcast, wouldn’t it be cool that anywhere you went, you can actually find local entrepreneurs, or if you are very interested in, I don’t know, skiing or wine tasting, meet other people who share those same interests. So you’re not just meeting anyone, but you’re meeting people with common interests, which makes your experience that much better.
John Lee Dumas: I love that idea because really, when you’re meeting like-minded people in these different areas, it’s just enhancing the overall experience. So I definitely love that mentality. We’re going to use that to move into the next topic, which is our success quote. Now, EntrepreneurOnFire is all about getting the motivational ball rolling. We want to get Fire Nation pumped, Aigerim. So what do you have for your success quote for our listeners?
Aigerim Shorman: So my success quote, and I’ve had it since freshman year of college. It was something that my professor made us say at the beginning of every single class. That was “the greatest failure in life is not to try.” That’s one of the things that has always ignited me, and any time when I doubted something, I wasn’t sure if it was a good move, whether it’s to start a company or once you start a company, to do certain things. You realize that, look, the worst thing that can happen is it didn’t work, but the greatest failure is just not to even try because you’re fearing the failure.
John Lee Dumas: So Aigerim, take us down to the ground level there. How have you applied this quote to your life?
Aigerim Shorman: Pretty much in everything I’ve done. I actually went to community college first before I transferred to a four year university. I transferred to USC from my community college, and that’s where it started where people were saying that there’s no way you can go to USC. A lot of people were kind of doubting it and saying it’s very expensive. I kind of just said, “You know what? Like I’ll apply and we’ll see what happens.” Like let’s see if I can get in and let’s see if I can get a scholarship. That was like the first time when I really applied in my life. I got in and I got a free ride, or almost a free ride, which was amazing for me because that was something that I kind of proved out this quote that like the greatest failure in life is not to try. At least let’s try it.
Then everything I’ve done since then from the types of jobs I have done to starting the company, it was always kind of looking at it from this perspective and saying, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Hey, I had a great experience out of it. So pretty much in everything we do and in the day-to-day we’ve been running Triptrotting, we always say whenever we have new initiatives, new ideas, we say, “Okay. Let’s try it. Let’s see what happens.”
John Lee Dumas: I love it. Who can we attribute that quote to?
Aigerim Shorman: It’s my late professor, Gwen Thomas.
John Lee Dumas: Gwen Thomas. Alright. We will make sure to link that up in the show notes and quote them. So Aigerim, we’re going to transition now into the next topic, which is failure. As an entrepreneur, we have journeys that just are riddled with failure, which is a good and a not so good thing, but it’s really how we define it. We can define it as a challenge, as an obstacle to be overcome. Can you take us back to a point where in your journey with Triptrotting, that you failed and you had to overcome some obstacle that really presented a challenge?
Aigerim Shorman: Sure. I mean I think every step of the way, you kind of face different obstacles in entrepreneurship, and it’s just being able to keep the tenacity and keep on going is very, very important. I think we’ve had a lot of barriers in kind of the journey of our company that we had to overcome. I’m trying to pick one. One was, for example, we actually very early on, and I think the most important ones are the earlier ones because you really feel like the whole world is kind of working against you.
So the first one was before, we were actually doing it just part time. We competed at the Seed Competition, like a businessman competition at USC, and we actually placed second. The grand difference was dramatic. I think it was like first place got $10,000 and we only got $2,000 in grant money and kind of just fell down on that everyone thought we were going to win and we’re just on fire, and when they announced that we only got second place, which was great still, but it wasn’t something that – like I think we had such high expectations and there were a lot of things that came with the first place like free space, free mentor, etcetera, etcetera, that we didn’t get, and we felt really a setback. We felt really down for a while because of that.
We didn’t have enough money to keep on running this, we couldn’t hire people. So at that point in time, it felt like, hey, this might have hit us pretty bad, but at the end of the day, we realized that because of that competition, we actually met quite a lot of people who ended up – one of them ended up being one of our first investors for my DL app. So in retrospect, as long as you keep on going and you keep on kind of working hard and proving to people that regardless of what happens, I’m going to get up and keep on going, people will start kind of believing in you and backing you up.
So that’s what happened, and we, I think nine months later, got a sweetheart of $30,000 in seed funding. So that kind of worked out pretty well and it came through this competition. So connections with the competition.
John Lee Dumas: Yes, and who knows what would have happened had you won first place. So it’s just such a great lesson that you’re sharing with Fire Nation. Just to keep your head down and to keep plugging because every situation you’re going to encounter is an opportunity if you look at it that way, and you just can’t let the little things get you down.
I can remember so clearly, when I just launched EntrepreneurOnFire back in the day and I was getting everything together as far as logos and just websites, I brought this logo to one of my friends and I was like, “Oh man, look at this. Isn’t this great?” He was like, “Ah, I don’t really like it.” I’m like, “What?!” And I was just like, “Oh my God! I want to quit! I don’t want to do it anymore.” It was like one of those situations where such little setbacks at the beginning can seem so momentous because it’s all you have, but when you look back at it, they’re really just small bumps in the road that you need to, as entrepreneurs, look at and use to propel you forward and to make you better because you should be looking to fail every single day.
Aigerim Shorman: Yes. Yes, definitely.
John Lee Dumas: So Aigerim, we’re going to transition to the other side of the coin now. We started with the failure and you shared a great failure and a challenge that you had and how you overcame it and a lesson that you learned. Now, let’s go into the aha moment. You’re a very exciting and passionate person and I’m sure you’re inspired every single day with little aha moments that are improving Triptrotting and are propelling you forward to the next level, but take us back now in your journey to when you really had that clear, shining aha moment. What was that moment? Take us through that.
Aigerim Shorman: You’re right. There’s definitely a lot of aha moments and there are some bigger ones and smaller ones. One of the things was kind of a discovery sort of aha moment. So we first launched our site, it was just focused on one-on-one connections. So you go on the site and you can kind of – it’s almost like a directory of people, local people you can connect with.
What we kind of noticed over time is that people, instead of meeting just one-on-one, our users started creating events and activities where like a couple more people, 10, 20, 30, sometimes 300, 400 people would show up. We just kind of looked at it and said, wow! Like these people are doing it on their own. On their own initiative, they were organizing through like Facebook events or event buy. That was kind of [Unintelligible]. We’re like, wait a minute. Like if that’s what people want, then why are we not giving them the tools to do it easier on our site?
So we actually ended up creating the whole activities platform, activities and events platform in our site, as a result of this aha moment that was basically driven by our users and our customers. I think that’s a very important learning lesson for entrepreneurs, is you have to listen to what direction the users are taking your product because sometimes we might have this great idea that we love, but we realize over time that maybe that’s not how the end user sees it and they might actually give you that aha moment. So you have to be open to it.
John Lee Dumas: That’s such great advice. Eric Ries said it really well in The Lean Startup when he just said, “Listen, you need to launch with a minimally viable product because if you are spending so much time in-house just creating what you think the customer wants and trying to perfect everything, you may be really shocked, surprised and disappointed when in fact you do launch and you realize that’s just not what the customer wants. So when you can launch as quick as possible and just start getting feedback, you can adjust on that to what the customer wants.
It’s great that Triptrotting is a company that really is flexible that can implement some of these strategies. I love that bootstrapping mentality. Can you give me one other example where you actually implemented something that customers gave you as a feedback that you thought was really exciting and insightful?
Aigerim Shorman: Yes, and there’s so many. One of the things that our users always asked for was being able to search for, for example, not just specific locations, but being able to search for people by name or by university or by a certain level of affiliation. So we actually did launch that and it’s part of our product relaunch. Right now, we’re tweaking that, but that was one of the things that we just realized that that was a great use case and people always want to – like if I went to USC and I only want to meet people from USC, I can just go in and type that in and find people from that specific network.
John Lee Dumas: That’s a great example. Let’s move on now to your current business. You’re rocking and rolling. You have a lot of things going on with Triptrotting that are very exciting. I love your website. I love the explainer video. It’s very clever. It makes you laugh. What’s one thing that’s really exciting you about Triptrotting right now?
Aigerim Shorman: I think it’s really seeing people use our site and having people – so like seeing how it changes someone’s life and someone’s experiences when they’re traveling. That’s what really is exciting, and really kind of seeing what type of – like since we launched activities and events, what type of activities and events people are interested in, and really starting to focus on providing those type of experiences to our users.
John Lee Dumas: Aigerim, have you had an I’ve made it moment yet?
Aigerim Shorman: It’s funny because I feel like you never really have that moment [Laughs] in entrepreneurs because there’s always a next step. I think the big like milestone for us, for example, was raising our most recent round of funding, and it was a lot of work. It took us probably a good six months. A little under six months. For a split of a second, like when you just closed that round and you’re just like, “Oh my God! Like yes, I already closed out at TechCrunch. We raised it,” and like it’s literally a split of a second moment, and then you just turn and you’re like, “Okay, what’s next?” It’s like you realized you only took like the first step in this very, very long road.
John Lee Dumas: That’s definitely the case for a lot of entrepreneurs. I always stress to Fire Nation, it’s so important to have those goals, and when you reach them, it’s also important to step back and actually appreciate the accomplishments that you’ve had because this is all about the journey, Aigerim. So I really hope that you’re enjoying the journey and not just always putting your head down and bulldozing to that next goal.
Aigerim Shorman: Oh yes. Absolutely. I mean at the end of the day, it is all about the experience and the journey that you’re on.
John Lee Dumas: So Aigerim, we kind of like to pull the curtain back a little bit for Fire Nation because the word “entrepreneur” often is a mystery and people really kind of wonder what somebody like Aigerim of Triptrotting would be doing during the course of a normal workday. Now, obviously, you don’t ever have a normal workday where you’re doing the same thing every single day, but you do have common tasks that you’re always having to complete day in and day out. Can you just talk quickly about two tasks that you seem to do every day that take up a good portion of your time?
Aigerim Shorman: It used to be a lot more, is responding to emails. I think I’m trying to kind of manage that a little better now because there are so much inbound questions. I mean everything from partnership opportunities to your investors to employees to customers. So I spend a really big portion of my time just in front of a computer basically, responding to just emails and keeping the lines of communication open. I think it’s very important to talk to people to get input from outside.
So that’s kind of like it’s always there, but I guess it’s in every job [Laughs], you do that. I think what we actually try to do a lot more now also with Triptrotting is maybe like we try to spend less than an hour or so as a team just kind of brainstorming ideas or coming up with just like big picture things. Actually, it’s very organic. It’s not like we all sit down at like 12 o’clock and we talk from 12 to 1, but sometimes we just have those little aha moments we’re like, “Oh, hey, guys, what do you think about this?” or like, “I was just looking at the site and it’s really interesting,” or whatever it is. So like we try to spend some time every day just throwing out ideas out there and analyzing what we have and kind of keeping ourselves in check and making sure that whatever we’re offering our customers, our users, is the best that we can offer.
John Lee Dumas: Thank you for sharing that insight. Aigerim, we’ve got about five minutes left in this interview, so why don’t you just take a couple of minutes, maybe a minute and 30 seconds, and just talk about what your vision for the future of Triptrotting is?
Aigerim Shorman: Sure. Absolutely. At the end of the day, I think when I really feel like we’ve made it is when Triptrotting becomes kind of this brand name that when people think of travel and having this like really great authentic local experiences, they’re thinking of Triptrotting. So when I can go to anyone and talk to anyone who’s planning a trip and they just say, “Oh, I’m going on this trip. I booked my flight and I want to have a great experience. I’m going to go on Triptrotting and find people and find activities and events that will help me to have that experience.”
Really, our vision is to transform fundamentally the way people think about their travel experiences and bring that local experience to every single traveler. I think in 2012 there’s going to be one billion international arrivals. So one billion international trips taken in 2012, and that number is just only projected growth. So many more people will be traveling and being able to have experiences that we have had and we’re trying to offer our users I think [Unintelligible] the way people see travel. Also, as a result of this, the way people will see other cultures and other communities [Unintelligible] when we travel, especially for the first time, we have preconceptions about what the locals are like or what their lives are like. So the locals and foreigners. So by connecting the two, I hope as a result of this experience, they will be more understanding and a good friendship between different cultures.
John Lee Dumas: That’s a great vision. So Aigerim, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions, and you come back with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Aigerim Shorman: It sounds like a plan. I hope I can fold up to that.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] What was the number one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Aigerim Shorman: It was the job and kind of the surrounding mentality. I used to do [Unintelligible] banking before, and it was kind of like perceived that being an entrepreneur is when you just can’t work for anyone and you’re not good at what you do. I think that the group think of certain professions could be holding you back. That was one thing.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business advice that you ever received?
Aigerim Shorman: The best advice I ever received was actually from our mentors. One of our mentors through Idealab, Julie Hanna, she has given us a lot of great advice. One of it was you have to listen to what your users are saying, and it should read facts and keep it honest and provide what they’re asking for.
John Lee Dumas: That’s great advice. What’s something that’s working for you or Triptrotting right now?
Aigerim Shorman: We’ve been able to create a truly global community, and that’s something that I think a lot of startups are not able to do. Too often, they start kind of like one city at a time. Like L.A., San Francisco, New York, replicate, replicate, replicate. What we’ve been able to do is just light up this fire all over the world. I mean we have people from 150 countries and having this truly global community from Day 1 has been something that’s kind of set us apart and it’s working really well for us right now.
John Lee Dumas: That’s great. Now, Aigerim, you’re kind of cutting edge when it comes to technology with your website and all of these things. I don’t know about you specifically, but I am curious. Do you have an Internet resource like an Evernote that you just are in love with that that you can share with Fire Nation?
Aigerim Shorman: [Laughs] I do. It’s a little bit on the other side. I actually really love KISSmetrics. It’s this great resource that allows you to track your users, to track traffic, and I really just spend a lot of time on it. So KISSmetrics and Google Analytics are my kind of default two tasks. They are always open.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. KISSmetrics is good because it’s not tracking so much your vanity metrics that don’t really matter that much. They really track the metrics that matter.
Aigerim Shorman: Exactly.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best business book that you’ve read in the last six months?
Aigerim Shorman: I actually finally read The Lean Startup, which was very exciting. I mean, obviously, I’ve followed Eric Ries’s blog and everything, but I finally got the chance to read it. I think that was one of the best business books I’ve read in a while. I think being able to read it from a different point of view where you’re not just starting but you already started a business and kind of you can see what you can change and how you can do it better, and that was very cool.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! So Aigerim, this last question is my favorite, but it’s kind of a tricky one. So take your time. Digest it, before you come back and answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning and you still had all of the experience, knowledge and money that you currently have right now, but your business, Triptrotting, had completely disappeared, leaving you essentially with a clean slate, which is where many of our listeners find themselves in right now, what would you do?
Aigerim Shorman: I would spend probably the first two days just thinking about what are some of the biggest problems in the world, in this country, that I would like to solve, number one. Just like lay out on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper, what are the biggest issues that we’re facing, whether it’s environmental, education, or anything, technology-related.
Then once I kind of brainstorm that, then I think about, okay, given my skills set, given my experiences, which one could I be the most helpful in helping to solve those issues? Then also, which one I’m going to be the most passionate about. Hopefully, of all the different issues that we have, which we have a lot, you can pick one that you truly are passionate about and you have some sort of a background or experience that could actually be useful and make you a game changer in solving this issue.
The reason I say this is because too often we have startups that are just doing the me too model. Like I’m going to be checking in on top of a check-in on top of a check-in on top of foursquare, etcetera. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think we face so many big problems in the world today that like we need the brightest minds, trying to solve those problems.
So that’s why in the first two days, I’d really narrow down what I care about, I’d really narrow down the problem. Then I would spend probably a day or two kind of thinking about ideas of how I would try to solve it and forget about any type of boundaries. Anything is possible. Just what I would do to help solve this issue, if I could. And then once we have spent three or four days on that, then just look through your rolodex for anyone you know who might be in the same industry and just start talking to people. Go and schedule coffees, meetings and start getting ideas. Then as you go through that process, you realize that a lot of people – one, they would like your idea, probably, and two, they would make introductions and they would be willing to help you out. So that’s how I would probably kick it off.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! I’m going to make a bold statement because you’re actually interviewee number 53, but that was the best answer to that question.
Aigerim Shorman: Really? [Laughs] I’m glad I lived up to the question.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation will be impressed. So Aigerim, on that note, thank you. You’ve given us some great actionable advice, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Aigerim Shorman: Sounds good. Remember the greatest failure in life is not to try. So unless you go and try and do something, you would never know if it actually would have worked or not. So get off the couch, get out of the job that you don’t like, and just start from somewhere. It’s always scary and people never know in the beginning, but you’ll learn as you go. I mean Triptrotting started literally with me and my cofounder googling how to start a business. Like the first day, we sat down and we googled “how to start a business.” So start somewhere. Now, we’ve raised $1.5 million from some great VCs like Google Ventures and 500 Startups and we’re off to a great start and building an amazing global community.
As for the plug, I hope you guys will all join the Triptrotting community. We have amazing people all around the world who would love to meet the EntrepreneurOnFire nation. I’m sure you guys can benefit from our community and meeting and talking to people from around the world as well. It’s a small village these days, so it’s always good to have friends everywhere and talk to people.
John Lee Dumas: It’s so true, Aigerim, and this podcast is listened to in over a hundred countries. I mean this is a global community as well. I love that about my industry, about your industry, about everybody’s industry, and that’s just the world that we live in right now. Thank you so much on behalf of Fire Nation. We salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Aigerim Shorman: Sounds great. Thank you too.