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Name: Jan Doležal
What are you building, and who benefits most from it?
Being passionate about travel, my team and I created an app that turns every phone into a personal audio guide. SmartGuide is a digital audio guide platform where anyone can publish an audio guide for travelers. With the help of geolocation and AI transforming text to speech, it is now possible for tourists to avoid crowds and explore at their own pace with SmartGuide.
It is hard to say who benefits from SmartGuide the most because our services cover different target audiences and meet different needs. For example, a solo traveler can benefit by using our unique guide content, then the same traveler can become inspired by the content they’ve just listened to, leading them to become a guide publisher with the possibility for profit.
We also support local tourist organizations and destinations, helping them attract new visitors and making their life easier by digitizing their content and making it available to the masses. It is always a mutual cooperation among travel enthusiasts, destinations, travel businesses, and SmartGuide, which is the perfect medium for sharing this passion.
What is one of your startup’s most impressive accomplishments?
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While both startups and many successful, long-lasting businesses have experienced difficulties or even crashed due to COVID, SmartGuide has grown 700% during the pandemic. We have been expanding our team and are always looking for ways to improve our product. Yes, the travel industry has suffered because of the pandemic, but we have managed to use it as an opportunity to offer our users safety while still enabling them to explore.
What has been the biggest challenge so far, and how did you overcome it?
Again, COVID. The pandemic has challenged SmartGuide a lot. For the first time in ages, investors had to think twice before funding a travel project. We had to minimize cash burn and show results despite the uncertainty in the market to give investors confidence that we will be among the digital winners and come out of the pandemic stronger. These difficult times tested our resilience, but we’ve made it through.
What tool or app could you not live without and why?
Although we are a tech startup and use various technologies to manage the workflow, I still think that simplicity is the key, and I like to use Google Sheets for many tasks. It’s versatile and helps avoid using 10x more apps.
What marketing strategies have worked for you?
Building long-term partnerships based on trust and expertise during travel-focused business events. Analyzing our focus verticals and customizing the tone of voice and content for each of them. Finding a special approach to each cluster, especially smaller ones. Extensive outbound marketing followed by a highly structured sales process.
What’s the best specific piece of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
It is never too late to become an entrepreneur. If you have a certain passion and challenges excite you, go for it.
What does your company’s trajectory look like over the next five years?
In the next five years, we want to make both our content publishing platform and the app even more user-friendly and widely available. We also believe that the future will be augmented. We have built prototypes of the augmented reality guide, and as soon as the technology matures a bit, we will introduce new, immersive, augmented reality guide experiences.
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