A startup about off-line human experiences

Nowadays when we talk about innovation and startups is difficult to think of anything outside the fintech/just-tech circle. If it doesn't involve finances or technology there is no room for innovation and yet there’s so much to research, create and expand in terms of human off-line experiences.

Rug & Rock Adventures was born with the purpose of designing and curating extraordinary experiences, separated from the commercial high-street-mass offer. And when it comes to off-line-human-to-human-to-environment relationships, then innovation, passion and creativity are just anecdotes of what is needed to shape your project.

That’s the common cliché: chase your dream, your passion and make it possible. It’s true indeed. Nothing gets you higher than doing what you enjoy the most, especially if you are gradually making a life out of it and can fully dedicate to it. But in order to build your dream on earthly material grounds you usually need a business plan. And after you read loads about writing business plans, marketing channels, lean patterns, processes, customer empathy and a thousand topics more, then you are ready to put your business plan to a side and start facing reality. Reality is challenging and therefore beautiful. But standing in the dream while it happens (or not) can also be scary. They tell you that between an 80–90% of startups fails after 1–2 years and you don’t want to rush your project or break the principles that brought you here, but you know that rather sooner than later you need to make it sustainable.

As an example, our first on-line marketing efforts were strongly focused on AdWords PPC. We thought that that was mostly what on-line marketing was about. We put some money on Google and juggled with all sorts of keywords trying to intercept some rare lost user looking for “adventures in Morocco”. However we soon realised (luckily) that AdWords, although it was great to promote and address specific needs, wouldn't work as efficiently to promote offline experiences. Rug&Rock sells experiences based on a number of events, environments and people interacting all together. We sell situations, encounters, engagement. What we offer doesn't fit in a two lines advert, not even in a photo-ad and there wasn't really a common case of user searching to go on a very-special-type-of-experiential-adventurous trip to Spain or Morocco.

What we had to do was actually map our customers’ empathy: feel their concerns, their aspirations, their frustrations and how they get moved and emotional, how they think. Our customers were not searching for something specific to satisfy a specific need. They were just meeting other people, getting excited with the idea of learning rock climbing or jumping from a waterfall in Morocco and then they were finding Rug&Rock somehow and somewhere as the perfect plan, the great life-changing framework. And this is the point when the loop closes, having a customer coming to you and telling you “thank you for one of the greatest experiences in my life”. Then the dream comes true and you feel like all the work was worthy.

However, getting an excellent outcome for our travellers was not enough. We wanted to match this on the other side. We wanted to bring something to our destination communities, to the people we were visiting and to their land. And although we were experienced and we read and research deeply into sustainable travelling, the reality was bringing up more and new dilemmas. We explored the different dimensions of travelling and the impact of visitors in remote cultures, even if done in small groups and with state-of-the-art sustainable practices, like we do in Rug&Rock, but still we envisioned different outcomes, depending on how we were materialising our practices. It took some time and feedback from our local friends, especially in Morocco, to come up with a proper travelling formula that is based in what we coined as an ‘exchange of admiration’. We were promoting a two-ways engagement, not just bringing travellers to take pictures of locals doing “local” things. We wanted the locals to learn about our travellers, to exchange stories and both to feel proud of the admiration caused on each other.

And this is mostly how we went from a passion to an opportunity, from an opportunity to a business plan and from this straight to reality, a reality that you hope to shape and adjust to that dream but it also shapes you. A reality that eventually, with effort and little sleep ends up having an amazing impact on every element around your company.