Vanessa Karel

Founder of Greether

Vanessa Karel, is a second-time Founder, serial entrepreneur, writer, public speaker and full-time hustler. She has dedicated her time into solving one of the biggest issues for women: Safe navigation and genuine connections through her travel startup; Greether.

The company targets two of the most important SDGs and UN development goals, which are to reduce safety risks for women and to increase income opportunities for them. Having only launched Greether for less than a year, the web app has organically grown users in over 90 countries and 450+ cities around the world. “We connect female travelers to verified local women Greeters they can book wherever they go so they can have safer navigation from a local expert, it’s like booking your local bestie”
She was recently named as one of the “100 rising Latinx Startup Founders to Watch” and volunteers as the Manager Director of Girls in Tech San Francisco, a Non-profit with a mission to bring more women into tech roles.

Where did the idea for Greether come from?

In 2020, I finally realized what had been lacking throughout my solo journeys, while traveling alone being stranded in Morocco in the middle of the pandemic. Which led me to founding a safety platform for female travelers around the world named Greether.

The platform targets some of the most important SDGs and sustainable UN
development goals, which are to reduce safety risks for women and to increase income opportunities for them through sustainable tourism. Having only worked on Greether for a year, the web application has organically grown users in over 90+ countries and 400+ cities around the world. We connect female travelers to verified local women they can book wherever they go so they can have safer navigation from a local expert “we provide travelers with their local best friend”

My goals are to empower women to help each other while discovering the world. I’m constantly advocating and finding ways to bring up issues that need to be addressed immediately, such as pay gaps, insecurity, and how to build sustainable tourism. Our long-term goals also include being a tool for women-led SMB owners through Greether by giving them a space and a way to be discovered through our marketplace.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I begin my day cuddling with my cat and having coffee with my partner. My calendar and my email decide what my day is going to look like. Lately I have a walking pad under my desk which surprisingly helps me get super focused. Whenever I am lacking inspiration, I tend to listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship or about a topic I know nothing about, it helps spark my creativity

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always begin by writing them, it is definitely the way I have begun every project in my life. I have hundreds of notes on my phone, sometimes I even send myself emails to remember something I thought of. I like going deep knee or not at all, so once I have something stuck in my head it’s really hard to get it out until I at least give it a try.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Women supporting each other, people investing in women and the feminist movement fighting for equal pay, equal rights and safe places.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Being disciplined, remembering why I started and having fun whenever I can! It makes me more productive, inspired and happy.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The curiosity you have to discover the world, new cultures and meet new people will eventually pay off. Keep being curious, open to learning new things and always believe in your ambition and fight to keep your vision alive.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Talk to strangers more often, it will surprise you how connected we all are, you might be a conversation away from meeting your next client, business partner, best friend or even the love of your life.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I keep reminding myself why I started this business, why it’s worth pushing forward and looking back on how much progress I made. It is so easy to feel like you aren’t moving forward when you do so many things every day, but they do add up. It’s almost like exercise, you don’t notice the results immediately, but eventually you start seeing results and the rest of the world begins noticing as well.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Asking for feedback even when the feedback is hard to hear, I try to detach myself from emotional reactions in my business so I can see the big picture, analyze what’s useful, understand where the feedback is coming from and how we can minimize friction.

As a marketplace with two types of users, both perspectives are very crucial. Not all feedback is useful but most of the time it can show you blind spots.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I can’t point at one exact thing, I fail every day in a thing or two but that is part of the journey of building a business. However, if there was something I could point out it would be when I used to say yes to everything, I used to go on meetings with anyone that asked for one, and I wasted precious time by doing that. I have become more selective and strategic, but it took a while to realize that not everyone, or everything deserved my time and attention.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An app that matches investors with startup founders for quick intros that’s done in the style of a dating app based on their criteria and the startups thesis. (Can someone actually build it and let me know!)

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Inviting a group of female travelers to a picnic, it was great to detach myself as a founder and remember why I began this company, have candid conversations with them that didn’t feel as if I was pushing our brand to them. It is very important to build community and to do it genuinely it’s a great investment that goes a long way.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack! We use it to communicate as a team. We have a daily channel in which everyone can write what they’ll be working on for the day. It helps me realize if someone should prioritize something else or if I can help them with anything.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini. Never have I cried as much with a book as I did with this one. The story is raw, sad, devastating but yet beautiful. It teaches you about the power we have to create family-like bonds with people who don’t share our blood and how important it is to keep fighting against war, radical religions and domestic violence.

What is your favorite quote?

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Key Learnings:

  • It’s possible to follow your dreams, it is possible for you to create change, no matter what you look like, where you come from, or what your expertise is but you need discipline and drive to make it happen.
  • If you start a business, make sure you are 100% passionate and in love with the problem you are solving because there will be many hard days, competitors and obstacles, but nothing is stronger than a founder who is all in, this makes you unstoppable.
  • Being a startup founder might be one of the hardest professional challenges you’ll ever endure, but it will also be one of the greatest learning experiences in your life.