Editor’s Note: After this story was published in September 2016, the company Trip4real was purchased by Airbnb. Since then, Trip4real has been merged into Airbnb and no longer operates as a stand-alone entity. Read on to learn more about how Trip4real’s inspiring founder created such a successful startup. You can also read about other women entrepreneurs who transformed their lives through travel in the Forbes story “Quit Your Job And Travel: Tips From 4 Women Whose Vacation Led To A New Career.”
Imagine you’re in Barcelona, strolling the wide, tree-lined streets and listening to a local explain the Spanish city’s history and secrets. You walk past the Sagrada Familia cathedral and spot an endless line of tourists waiting to get the same glimpse of the famed architecture that every other visitor sees.
Instead of joining the non-moving line, you continue right past and are led to a private apartment to experience the modern architecture the city is known for — up-close and personal. You connect with the Spanish family who lives there and learn about their home, their life, their city. That evening, a local chef takes you to his favorite markets and helps you choose the best ingredients for the paella you cook together for dinner.
Sound better than your typical vacation?
That’s the idea behind Trip4real, a company that aims to connect locals and tourists and encourage micro-entrepreneurship. Founder and CEO Gloria Molins created the Barcelona-based startup after being inspired by her own travels and realizing that her favorite aspect was meeting with real people. This 33-year-old entrepreneur — who was living in Sydney, Australia, and working for Google — quit her job to follow her passion. Her goal: to change the travel experience for others by putting vacationers in touch with people who know a place best. Locals.
Others clearly see the benefit, too. The world-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià — the innovator behind Spain’s legendary El Bulli — was one of the original investors in Trip4real. When Molins approached him, he told her: “Gloria, your idea allows the city to tell its micro stories. I really love that.”
And Airbnb recently purchased the company for a figure somewhere between $5.6 million and $11.12 million, though Trip4real will continue to operate as a stand-alone business for the foreseeable future.
Currently in over 70 European cities, Trip4real provides a platform to hundreds of entrepreneurs in each destination, including Zenda, who will show you where philosophers and composers used to to meet in Rome, Paulette C., a photographer in Paris who will take you on a walking tour following Amélie’s footsteps and Vanessa F., who will teach you how to cook authentic Greek cuisine.
Here, Molins shares her thoughts about what it’s like to start a business that is disrupting the travel space and giving a platform to help other entrepreneurs who want to follow their own passions.
Laura Begley Bloom: Why did you decide to build a business around peer-to-peer travel?
Gloria Molins: I believe you only truly know a place when you connect with someone local and that traveling is about people, not just places. If we go back to the beginnings of travel, it was all about discovering, knowledge and a personalized experience. Mass tourism fosters superficial, impersonal, standard, low-quality tourism. Mass tourism trivializes the experiences and encourages stereotypes. Paris is the Eiffel tour and the Louvre, Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, Rome is the Coliseum. Everyone sees the same thing at the same time, explained by the same guide.
Begley Bloom: How do you find all the locals on your site? Or do they find you?
Molins: Loads of them discover our site and get really excited to list their offerings. At Trip4real, we’re entrepreneurs building a company for micro-entrepreneurs. If you think about it, each of the locals who lists an activity on our site and shares their passions, interests or hobbies is launching a small business. Besides this, we also do a lot of cool hunting to find the most incredible locals in each city.
Begley Bloom: Are people making a lot of money by doing this?
Molins: Depends on the amount of time they dedicate to this. We have people who have quit their job to start a living doing what they love and others who just do it sporadically.
Begley Bloom: Did any other companies inspire you?
Molins: Airbnb was my inspiration since day one. I discovered it in 2010 and thought it was a brilliant idea. So I said to myself — if this can be done with accommodations, it would be amazing to do it with local experiences when you travel.
Begley Bloom: What’s it like to be part of Airbnb now?
Molins: We are delighted to join the Airbnb family. Airbnb and Trip4real share a vision of a different kind of travel experience that is local and authentic. We have an exciting future together.
Begley Bloom: Do you travel yourself?
Molins: Yes, I have lived and traveled across five continents and took a year off to go traveling. I wish I could be traveling all my life. I love to look at a map and plan for a next trip, even if there isn’t a clear date for it. Just for you to get an idea: I’m now nine-months pregnant and while pregnant I have been to nine different countries.
Begley Bloom: What are your tips for starting a company?
Molins: I recommend putting in lots of passion, believing in your dream and trusting that life will take you wherever you want. Above all, surround yourself with an amazing team. As Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Begley Bloom: Things will obviously change now that you’re owned by Airbnb; did you find any downsides when you were in the startup space?
Molins: You don’t always have the commodities that the corporate world has. You have to work really hard and you have to love uncertainty, as you never know where the future will bring you.
Begley Bloom: What about money?
Molins: Being an entrepreneur doesn’t always make you “money” rich. It is more about doing what you love, being passionate and motivated daily. After a very good job in Sydney with a high salary, I had to invest all my savings to start Trip4real. I moved back with my parents for a while and had no salary in year one. After that, I had a salary and increased a bit yearly — but it was less than a third of what I was making as a professional before becoming an entrepreneur.
Begley Bloom: Were you ok with that?
Molins: Money was never my goal. I’ve been committed to building a new way to travel and creating opportunities for people to really change their life. This is my mission and daily focus.
Begley Bloom: What’s it like to be a woman in the travel industry?
Molins: I think most industries still have more men than women, and travel is not an exception. However, I have never had any problem being a woman — although we all know that our reality is a bit different and we need to work hard to help other women with work-life balance.
Begley Bloom: Why did you decide to base the company in Barcelona?
Molins: Barcelona is my hometown and after seven years studying and working abroad in places like Holland, Australia and the U.S., I decided to go back home to start my business. It made sense, as Barcelona has lots of travelers and amazing locals to show them around.
Begley Bloom: Do you plan to expand?
Molins: Yes, we’re expanding to Latin America and continuing to grow Trip4real to allow travelers from around the world to experience cities in a whole new way.
9/17/16 Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect the Airbnb purchase, which was announced after the publication date.
Additional reporting by Hannah J. Freedman
More Info: www.forbes.com