Gaby Gomes Branco, an industrial engineering student at TU/e and a co-founder of Maps Untold, meets me in the Innovation Space of the university. She is very busy nowadays, as well as her colleagues: together they are working on Maps Untold – a new platform that helps people to find travel destinations, routes, and experiences that match their personalities. Branco and her team are doing the last preparations to bring Maps Untold to Slush 2018 startup event in Helsinki.
“Last year I went to an exchange to Saint Petersburg with 20 other international students,” says Branco. “And one night we ran out of things to do so we started looking for more activities. We used Google for it (that took us one hour!) and eventually we went to some place, but as soon as we arrived there, we realized it wasn’t for us – it was overpriced and it wasn’t students-related. And then I started discussing with another exchange student why there isn’t anything that lets people find the locations and have experience matching their personalities – and that is how I came up with the idea of Maps Untold.”
First Branco was developing the idea with a German student but that did not work out, so she teamed up with Dennis van Ravenstein and Max Adaloudis – they all study industrial engineering and their developer has a background in data science.
The Spotify for travelling
Branco compares her platform Maps Untold with a travel Spotify: “On Spotify, you get a daily mix and you can change it – you can add entries, but you can also delete entries to make it really personal. On Maps Untold you can get a recommendation but you can add or delete the locations – you can customize the recommendations in the way you want. Or you can start making your own travel “playlist” and begin with your flight ticket and your own hotel, add a lot of locations and activities in it and then share with your friends!”
How does Maps Untold provide the recommendations for its users? Branco says: “We look at your personality, at your attributes and we see which ones are the most important. We get the attributes from a social media login, but we are also working on a personality test that you can take instead of logging in with social media. You can add details about yourself in your account later as well.” People are afraid of sharing their personal information online, but in the case of Maps Untold, this kind of information is necessary for providing better recommendations. Personal data that enters Maps Untold is not going to be shared with the third parties, used for targeted ads (like it happens on Facebook) or for any other commercial activity.
Nonetheless, Maps Untold is a commercial startup. Branco explains how it works: “For every ticket, every tour, every transaction made on our platform we will receive some percentage of the amount paid, but that will not be taken from the consumer – it will be taken from the B2B side. That means that when a tour operator sells his tours on our platform and you buy one of the tours because it fits your personality, we get some percentage of the price from the tour operator. So it doesn’t matter if you buy the tour at our place or at the tour operators.
Our second business model is based on the fact that Maps Untold is a software company (matching technology that we are using is the software, not a social network of any kind). That is why we will sell B2B software. We are now working on the travel agency tool that can be used by travel agencies and travel counsellors to be more efficient and provide more personal service to their consumers. Besides, this service will be faster. With us, travel agencies just will need to take a personality test with the clients on the website and get the recommendations that one can look through and book – so everything can be arranged in about three days.”
Millennials are the target audience of Maps Untold. “We are millennials, so we can relate,” says Branco. “The first group of people who will test and try out our platform will be the members of the international engineering student organization – they are millennials, too. We did our research and we found that millennials are one of the biggest groups that are travelling. In addition to this, millennials are likely to stay fewer days in one place than other groups of people, they want to do city trips during smaller vacations – like 3 days in Paris, for example. So we start with millennials and our next target group might be young parents.”
Branco is Portuguese, so she took her friends to Portugal lots of times. After those trips friends told her that they had experience totally different from a regular travelling because Branco knew every one of them well and could choose the places which were really great for them. “It really motivated me to go on with the idea of our startup,” says Branco. “We want to give people the feeling that it is their home, even if the place is unknown. That’s why we called the project Maps Untold.”