Polarsteps, is this the app that tracks your trip on a map, and where you can add your photos, videos and experiences to every location? “Certainly, that’s true,” says Koen Droste, one of the four founders. “But we’re going even further than that by adding a completely new travel planning feature.”
At the Accenture Innovation Awards (AIA) in 2015, Polarsteps made it all the way to the finals. In March 2016, the concept broke through and raised an investment of half a million euros. In August 2017, another € 900.000 was invested by a group of successful Dutch internet entrepreneurs. So, what is next for Polarsteps?
What was the reason for starting the ‘Polarsteps’ adventure?
“The necessity for Polarsteps lies in this enormous overflow of information. We want to help travelers make the right choice when planning, experiencing and remembering their travel experiences. The next ‘Travel Giant’ will be the company that succeeds in making this enormously fragmented customer experience clear and fun for the traveler.”
From what moment did you realize that Polarsteps was viable?
“After the investment of March 2016. That was the turning point. We were able to quit our jobs and fully concentrate on the platform. That summer we went through the roof.”
Why did you decide to enter the AIA with Polarsteps?
“The startup phase of the app pushed us to leap into further action on gaining more publicity. At this moment in time, we were working a day less for our boss and were also working on weekends to get the app finalized. We wanted to get more exposure.”
Koen, how does your success relate to your participation in AIA15?
“I found AIA a fantastic opportunity to pitch. That’s also how we ended up in the finale. In that starting phase, it was important for us to get on the radar in the Dutch investors landscape. Our pitch in a room of two hundred specialists must have contributed to that indirectly.
Which other parties have given you that exposure?
“Apple, among others. They recently announced Polarsteps as the App of the Day in eighteen different countries. Earlier, they also mentioned us at the WWDC conference.”
What are the challenges now, and what are you up to?
“The upscaling of the organization takes up more time than expected. Since AIA15, the number of users has significantly increased: from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands in December last year. In our support department, for instance, this is reflected in much more e-mailing. Our surfers must also meet other requirements. In addition to developing new features, we are therefore also constantly working to adapt our organization and technology to the increasing scale.”
What great innovative features can users expect this year?
“You are the first person outside of Polarsteps with whom I share this: we will be launching Top Spots this summer. As you said: Polarsteps is now mainly about tracking and sharing your route. But travel stories are much more than that. That cool pub, special campsite, or that interesting museum can also be part of it. You can add such places as Top Spots.”
What does that mean?
“This way, that one great restaurant that you visited can become a lasting memory and serve as inspiration for your followers. The launch of Top Spots is an important step for us in our ambition to make Polarsteps a platform where travelers can plan, track and remember their entire journey.”
What kind of trends do you see in the Polarsteps market in the coming years?
“I see that the customer experience of the traveler is incredibly diffused and fragmented. Before, during and after your trip, you will turn to dozens of websites. Expedia and Booking.com for your flight and accommodation, car rental and price comparison sites, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, Yelp to find fun and hip places on the go, and Albelli to make a photo album at home. With serious travel plans and everything around it, you can easily use thirty to forty online resources.
What is your golden tip for entrepreneurs?
“From day one, focus on the quality of your product and customer satisfaction. That is not the easiest strategy, but it does deliver sustainable growth. The high rating of Polarsteps and the fact that we still spend zero euros on marketing tells me that it works. Users also share their positive experiences. We simply prefer to invest revenue in the product, rather than advertisements.