This is not a meeting app, yet you meet people. This is not a travel app, yet you travel. It’s a matching app but not for romantic purposes. Meet Onsenvol (“we’re flying off”), a French startup to end lonely travel.
The need for a travel buddy
Many don’t want to travel alone. There are different reasons for this: fear of being alone in a foreign country, fares on a two-persons basis and/or the need to share the traveling experience.
Nicolas Barboni started the adventure in 2015. As a webmastering student, this was part of his school project. He devised an app to find a travel partner. As time went by, it appeared that this would go well beyond the realms of the school project. The startup was launched in January 2016 and the product first unveiled in May 2016. The smartphone app followed in September.
Not that kind of match
I see what you may think. Ok, this is a Tinder for traveling. Well, not quite. Don’t believe that the Onsenvol users just meet at the airport and get to know each other on the plane, for better or for worse.
People advertise their wish to travel and find a companion for the adventure. Then, if the interests match, they can set up their trip together and plan the whole expedition. By the time they meet at the airport, they should already be friends and will enjoy their trip together.
Unlike other apps that only address the needs, Onsenvol addresses both the needs (get better rates by traveling together) and the wishes (not be lonely). Many groups exist on Facebook to find traveling companions but none are organized like Onsenvol.
An active CEO
In a relatively short time, the platform has gathered 4500 travelers and hosted 3600 trips. Nicolas is very involved in online groups to develop his concept. So much so that Facebook temporarily blacklisted him believing he was a bot. But Nicolas will not be alone much longer as he plans to build a team rather than call upon outside agencies. He will target product development to improve user experience as well as growth-hacking to gain new users.
He is not worried about competition so far because other platforms are not quite like his. Some offer to find a trip buddy, but only for the duration of the plane/train/bus ride. Others just offer to share the luggage load. None find a real “travel buddy”.
The trip to Mars
Through partnerships with Liligo, Onsenvol is making its way as an actor of the tourism landscape. The startup is also keen on raising an eyebrow (or two). Following Elon Musk’s wish to reach Mars in a not-so-distant future, Onsenvol has already posted the trip on the platform. This is fair enough, I mean, who would want to go to Mars by themselves? (except Matt Damon)