[quote style=”boxed”]”A good night’s sleep can do wonders, let your idea settle, even if you want to get started straight away.”[/quote]
Henk Jan Bijmolt graduated in 2001 from the Hanzehogeschool in Groningen with a degree in Commercial Economy. During his study he was active in the internet industry, and after his graduation he launched Travelmap.nl, a travel portal where visitors can find their ideal destination, as well as thousands of pages of travel information. After a few years he established the affiliated network Cleafs in partnership with Sebastian Monteban (who is known for Worldticketshop.com), which they sold after five years to the German affilinet (the Sedo Group).
Henk Jan has years of experience and knowledge of internet marketing and web concepts. His particular strengths are that he is critical about what he does, creative, extremely motivated, and entrepreneurial. Henk Jan would like to travel across the world, and expects that by next year he will have visited more than fifty countries in total.
With Suggestme, he has returned to the roots of his original passion – travel. Therefore, even in the current competitive market, he has the energy to take on the challenge of launching a unique city map service.
What are you working on right now?
We are currently working on Suggestme 2.0 and planning to launch on the 30th July 2013. From our initial launch we received more than 100 reactions from users, and we are using these to create a better version of the site. We are also working to improve the content of the travel suggestions, so that they include more information, better social data processing, and upcoming events. In addition, we are currently adding another 5 new cities to the site. Although that may not sound like a lot, but we believe that quality is more important that quantity. Indeed, all the hotspots that we find through social media are individually checked to confirm that it is a place worth visiting. We don’t intend to become a database of all the restaurants or shops in a city, but feature only the best and most unique hotspots. To ensure this we visit all the live cities ourselves! Finally, from the end of July, users of the site will have the possibility to choose to receive their own personal city guide printed onto an A3 map, which will be sent to them at home.
Where did the idea for Suggestme.com come from?
I am myself an experienced traveler. I really enjoy traveling to destinations all over the world and have worked for 10 years in the online travel industry. I think it is particularly fun to visit unique highlights that aren’t visited by most tourists. It is therefore mostly not sufficient to use a traditional, paper travel guide to find these new hip hotspots. They quickly become outdated, and for me they take up precious room in my rucksack- I travel light! This resulted in the idea to make a travel guide with up-to-date hotspots and tips from locals and fellow travelers, and Suggestme is the result. The site is now constructed in a way that the discussed hotspots on social media are checked every few hours. It is truly unique that travelers can always create up-to-date travel guides and don’t need to spend an evening in the hotel when there is a cool event happening on the corner! An additional benefit of having your own personal current travel guide is that it provides appropriate information that interests you, rather than a paper guide full of suggestions you will never visit.
How do you make money?
The personal guides that travelers can create on our site are free when you choose the PDF variety. We are currently working on premium options through which crucial revenue can be generated. Travelers will be able therefore, from the summer onwards, to collect their highlights on a super cool A3 city map which will be printed by us and sent to them at home, or to friends or family as a present. The remaining, and most important income will be generated later in the year through the mobile app. Travelers will then be able to easily open their personal travel guide on their mobile phone and navigate through a city.
What does your typical day look like?
I spend my day busily searching and collating with the content team to provide the newest, coolest travel suggestions. In addition, I am responsible for the promotion of Suggestme, and busy making an awesome infographic from the our social data for each city. We work in a team of 8, and are all working hard to make Suggestme a quality brand for ‘of the moment’ travel guides.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Due to the fact that we have our own programmers, we can quickly change and adapt the site for small ideas as well as larger ones, and immediately test to see if it works. For larger projects we have a new launch every 2 or 3 months. After every launch we try to gauge users’ reactions. Finally, we have made a business plan with planning for the next two years and what we would like to, and intend to achieve in that time.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
What you can do with social data! In many fields including investments, shopping and travel all sorts of start-ups have appeared with really cool tools that use data ‘from the crowd’.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My first company 12 years ago was a webdesign company. I was paid only once per project, yet clients expected that I would solve conflicts with new browsers for free, as well as as always be available to make small updates without any payment. After a few years I decided that I wanted to have my own cool concept and not continuously create things for others without appreciation.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We would have started with the Suggestme mobile app earlier. We have been working for a year on the desktop version and delay has therefore emerged in the development of the app, while our product is perfect for mobile use. An advantage of this, however, is that we have created a good desktop version that is quicker to test and optimize than the mobile version. With these learning experiences we are are now going to start with the mobile version. Hopefully this will be completed by the end of the year.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
If you can underpin why the world is waiting for your idea, don’t deviate from it! Also make sure you are appearing at the right time. With Suggestme we have received many positive comments about the idea of a travel guide based on suggestions from social media. Yet, two years ago we would have probably been too early with such an idea, but now people want it!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
You can sometimes be too enthusiastic about your ‘baby’. This can be dangerous and blind you towards the disadvantages of the idea. A good night’s sleep can do wonders, let your idea settle, even if you want to get started straight away.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The internet of ‘things’ will become big business in the next few years. I would love to buy an ankle bracelet for football that analyzed how many meters I have run, how often I shot at goal, and how often I received the ball, as well as which tactics worked well, and so on. I think that the first balls with computer chips are already on the market
A few weeks ago I was in Boston and I though it was fantastic how many developments you can see there in the areas of technology, health, bio, apps, and internet of things, among a few.
The Google car also sounds like a fantastic concept. A car that could drive me to Amsterdam Airport would be fantastic, and I would share this with others who needed to drive home from the airport at the moment I arrived. I believe that in the next 10 years shared ownership will break through, and would be ideal in our current world (this also answers question 12, as I describe above).
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
It would be cool if possessions (such as cars, boats, fashion) were no longer status symbols, and that status was gained by the contributions you make towards a better world. This is the century where we need to demonstrate what we can do as people. The choice is whether we should remain egotistical or see ourselves as one planet? We are now aware how big the universe is, and we need to work hard to harvest the earth, instead of plunder it. You often see now, that instead of young people choosing to work for large corporate organizations, they choose to work for young start-ups; to create something new and unique.
Indeed, from personal experience we are aware that traveling broadens your view of the world, and insight into other cultures. With Suggestme we are trying to be part of the wider world. Every once in a while we have brainstorm sessions to come up with new ideas how we can unite different cultures during city breaks. I have thought of the possibility of having an international New Years Eve Party with maximum five people from each country, represented by a color or theme.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I think it is really special that the 3 owners of Suggestme all have years of experience in the travel industry and a real passion for travel. In addition, it may be of interest that you will never see banners, or big adverts on our site. We want users to have a good experience of the site instead of extra income.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
My personal ‘tool’ is to go abroad at least once a year. In the US I visit similar companies, mostly startups. I dare to share my knowledge and often receive good feedback from people who think a differently to me. At home, you never discover these things. Go to another environment, another culture, different people think differently. Choose consciously to travel alone, then you meet lots of interesting people. I also sometimes visit start-up congresses or internet business conferences. It is also useful to get the confirmation that you’re on the right track!
Alongside this we use successful eyetracking and Axure wireframing tools to make our own site better, as well as asking users for their feedback and suggestions. We also love to check how popular our brand is compared to other brands, by using http://www.veams.com
https://followerwonk.com/ is cool to dig deeper into your Twitter followers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would definitely recommend “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, as a book that every entrepreneur should read! It is all about the process and pitfalls of thinking and will undoubtedly result in you making better decisions!
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@ericries – He tweets abouts how startups should think.
@springwise – For new business ideas
@tnooz – Bloggers about the travel media industry, real experts
@RobertCialdini Discusses the ‘proven science’ for business success.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
We have been mentioned by some celebrities on Twitter, and that always makes me grin and feel very proud. On the other hand we have also recieved postcards from some of our users who have had a great time on their city trips as a result of our travel guide, which is really fantastic.
Who is your hero, and why?
Graham Hughes – he has visited all the countries in the world without a plane.
I would love to meet him and discuss culture for a day or two!
What would you like to ask our readers?
To visit suggestme.com, and send your feedback to us (www.suggest.com/contact ). What do you think of the way the site works? Do you have city suggestions that we have missed? What do you think the site needs? We would love to hear your suggestions.
What is your next travel destination?
I would love to visit Reykjavik during the summer months and Saint Martin (the Caribbean) for Christmas. I have just booked a trip to San Francisco to go to a TechCrunch event, as well as to visit Silicon Valley, meet new people, learn new things and discover the city.