The Birth of an Adventure
Our pilot leaned the plane to the side and took a sharp turn right before lowering the machine to an unreal 100m altitude. The sparsely distributed dry bushes of the Australian outback rushed past us, as we maintained an impressively constant distance to the 4x4 track to the left of us. Australian bush-pilots are artists more than anything. As the track crossed a river I managed to take a quick picture, while Dag marked the coordinates on his Garmin: “Great spot for a camp”
Dag Rogge is the expedition leader of the Land Rover Experience Tour and together we were scouting the red continent for the wildest offroad tracks we could find. Our strategy was as simple as it was exciting: We chartered a small plane and told the pilot to follow the gnarliest trails into the desert. We were recording the trails and compared them to whatever we could muster from old military maps and google earth. Every expedition starts with a lot of different pieces that we try to connect and shape into an experience of a lifetime.
On one of these flights my headphones were broken, leaving me cut-off from our pilot and Dag (the noise in small aircrafts makes it near impossible to talk without a communication system). I was on my own. For hours. I didn’t have a GPS to mark points that I thought looked interesting. All I had was my phone, so I scrambled through my apps looking for ways to imitate what I would normally do with a standalone GPS-Device. Now, this was not my first rodeo, so I had few applications that I played around with in the past. Using four to five different applications I managed to do pretty much everything, that Dag used to do with his Garmin. One App had detailed offline maps, one accurately recorded the route, one placed photos on an map and let me add notes to it. I was very impressed what I could achieve with a smartphone cruising 100 meters above one of the most remote places on earth — with no tower or signal even close.
Now that I was aware of what the hardware was capable of, I started thinking about the potential that arises if you combined it with the right software. Before we even landed I had already written pages of ideas and possibilities. How far can we theoretically push this? Can we turn a smartphone into a fully capable GPS-Device? Can we maybe even take it beyond that and create something entirely new?
These questions nagged at me for weeks and months after the scouting expedition. I took them to my more technical partner in crime Cristopher Speer and we discussed back and forth what opportunities and challenges this idea could entail. We had a closer look at models like Runtastic or Strava: Seeing what current fitness apps could create from a single run, we could only imagine what you can create from an entire trip!
It was clear that we had to take things further, so we decided to take a deep dive into the rabbit hole.
Mid 2015 we threw the first sketches at a whiteboard and let things flow. Chris saw the entire thing from dramatically different standpoint. His travelling style is very different from mine (He is not exactly the pushing-the-limit/exploring type) He was less interested in having a detailed recording of his route, but loved the idea of using other peoples’ routes and itineraries. He enjoys the assurance that someone already approved this track and he knows what to expect. Different travellers have different needs. Some set new trails, others prefer the beaten path. If we manage to connect these two dynamics in an effective and scalable way we can create enormous value for travellers.
To build a vast pool of exciting trips from around the world, we had to build a suitable and welcoming home for these memories, first. We knew we had to build something that inspires travellers to capture their trips and trust us with their most valuable experiences. A place where you proudly watch your travel portfolio grow. A place where you dwell in nostalgia and fidget in anticipation of where you go next.
The idea for Atameo started to take on shape. It didn’t happen “over a beer at the pub”. It was a long process of continuous developments, tests and iterations. The one things that is clear today, is that we are not there, yet. I am sure the idea will continue evolve and mature. Each tiny change is as scary as it is exciting, but there is nothing more thrilling than seeing it come to life.
Originally published at Atameo.