Goodbye TouristEye!

Javier Escribano
Feb 3, 2017 · 4 min read

TouristEye was shut down yesterday. The domains got redirected to the Lonely Planet Guides app and the apps were retired from the stores. This didn’t come by surprise, it was already planned since the moment when we were negotiating the sale to Lonely Planet 3 years and half ago. Anyway, it’s a sad moment.

I started working on the alfa version of TouristEye at the end of 2008. Ariel Camus and I decided to go full-time with it on the Autumn of 2009. Diego Jiménez joined us and we launched our first version on the summer of 2010 (look at the review in Genbeta, thanks Alkar!). The review summarized really well what we were trying to achieve:

“El punto fuerte es la aplicación móvil para iPhone y Android, a mi parecer. El contar con una guía personalizada, planos y lugares de interés incluidos, en nuestro propio teléfono y sin tener que acceder a internet para usarla me parece una idea sublime”

He also said something that, I believe, has defined all products that I’ve worked on:

“Todo el funcionamiento de la web es extremadamente intuitivo, simple de usar, a prueba del más torpe”

The funny thing is that 7 years later I realize what a poor job we did. We were so naive, we thought we could do better than others, we thought we could build something without talking every week with users, we thought we just needed to launch new features, we though we could build a company without generating income from the very beginning… If only I could go back with the knowledge I have right now.

Don’t let this confuse you; I’m extraordinarily proud of our journey and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Building something from scratch, working with a great team and investors, growing it up to 1 million travelers all around the world and selling it to the top travel brand in the world is something unique. But I’m made of ambition; and the closure of my best project to date is an emotional moment.

What would I have done differently?

So many things!

  • I would have interviewed several users every single week
  • I would have focused on selling activities instead of just providing content
  • I would have focused on specific niches (specific regions and languages instead of all the world)
  • I would have reduced the number of features and the naive thought that algorithms are the solution to curation
  • I would have focused on mobile
  • I would have been even more ambitious
  • I would have hired even better teammates, paying more

However, it’s not fair as I didn’t have any experience then at all; and right now I have 7 intense years of it. But I believe the list is interesting to remind myself of past mistakes and for many startup founders who are making those same mistakes currently.

Welcome Lonely Planet Guides!

I encourage you to try the Lonely Planet Guides app, which replaces TouristEye. It has been on the market for quite some time and it has been built by my former team (Spanish power!). They have iterated a lot and they keep adding content to it; so if you want to dream or plan your next trip it’s a really good app to use.

I really like how they have transferred the printed content of the book into the app (I love its font!), including the map of the neighborhoods; and how they have applied some of the TouristEye learnings. They still have a long way to go, but hopefully they will catch up in the coming years.

Can it be done again?

Every couple months someone contacts me asking me feedback about his idea to create a travel guide app that blah blah blah. All of them fail on the same promises: how are you going to acquire users? how are you going to make money? how are you going to differentiate yourself? They all reply with the same naive answers that I gave 5–7 years ago. Don’t do it until you have excelled the answer to those questions and you have proven them right! Seriously, don’t do it; find another sector and travel as a hobby.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

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