Over the past year, as my wife and I trekked across the globe, I have used the Cool Cousin product, seen the Community grow, got to know the Founders and I recently signed on as an Advisor to the company. With the launch of their decentralized community supported by their token CUZ, I am even more excited about the opportunity ahead.
In 2006, I made one of the best decisions of my life - I moved to San Francisco, joined a small startup called Yelp and began a new career in Tech. Over the past 12 years, I have seen firsthand how communities organized online can empower local people and improve their lives offline. I have developed a strong perspective that the world is an amazing place and technology should focus on inspiring people to put their phones down and go experience it.
I am always searching for companies and products that strike this unique balance, that aim to create connection and moments of joy in the real world vs. addiction to a screen.
About a year ago, my wife and I decided to take a break from work and get out and see the world. We went searching for those moments of joy and connection to new places, people and experiences.
As we began to plan our trip, we quickly learned that organizing a year of globetrotting was going to involve a lot of work. We scrolled endlessly through search results, tried to identify the signal through the noise online and read hundreds of travel blogs and click-baity listicles. I even renewed my library membership so I could download and subsequently read countless travel guidebooks. For some destinations, however, we had the opposite problem: Google Maps and Google Reviews were the only game in town, leaving our trip in the hands of anonymous reviewers with one-size fits-all recommendations.
I quickly realized that despite ample innovation since the dawn of the web, the opportunity to make travel simple and amazing was still sitting on the horizon. One day, a few months into our trip, I came across Cool Cousin and I was instantly struck by the possibility of the product. It made me think... If only I had a friend or two in all the places we traveled, they could email me an excellent itinerary and if I had questions or needed a favor they would be there via text to help out.
It was interesting to see Cool Cousin’s Community creating a new scalable version of this behavior. This was a simple solution to what had become a complex problem.
Over the past year, as we trekked across the globe, I have used the product, seen the Community grow, got to know the Founders and I recently signed on as an Advisor to the company. With the launch of their decentralized community supported by their token CUZ, I am even more excited about the opportunity ahead.
As I see it, there are two big challenges that currently face travelers and subsequently companies in this space. I believe CC’s approach, company structure and emerging biz model makes them uniquely positioned to tackle these challenges.
Challenge #1 - Trust
Travelers trust their friends. Travelers have less trust in search results, people they do not know and top 10 lists scattered about the web. CC enables you to find a friend (a Cousin) who is a trusted expert in their city and get their recommendations, itineraries and advice. Simple. 👍
To provide a deeper layer of trust - a core aspect of the product enables travelers to connect directly with these locals via messaging. So, not only can you figure out what sights to see and places to eat, but you can also message your Cousin and ask what neighborhood to stay in, how to find tickets to an event and other bits of local knowledge only an insider would know.
Looking at this industry as a whole, trust is a massive challenge for companies in the travel space, one in which they spend countless marketing and engineering resources to address with their users.
Despite this, travelers question the authenticity of what they read online, the sources of that content and the ordering of search results. Many people have grown weary of companies driven by algorithms and advertising.
It is no surprise that Cool Cousin is growing during a time when trust in the large centralized web giants is eroding. There is a clear opportunity to offer a different solution to travelers that tackles this challenge in a new way.
To do this, CC is building a unique decentralized community to help travelers get back to connecting directly 1:1 with someone they can trust, who can help them plan a trip they will love.
Challenge #2 - Time
Scrolling through pages of search results, reading hundreds of reviews, flipping through multiple guidebooks, reading questionable travel blogs... this is the current state of tourism.
Instead, with Cool Cousin, you can identify a Cousin or two, quickly download their map of recommendations and fill in the blanks by connecting with them directly. Travel can be simple again. You can free your time and free your mind.
On the other side of the equation, local people who have developed deep knowledge and love for their city are now able to tap into the massive demand from travelers for their personal knowledge.. CC has developed a new market bringing travelers and locals together, that in hindsight seems so obvious. This is a new, decentralized approach to travel agents and concierge services that is built upon authenticity, experience and community. Everyone wins.
When tackling big challenges, first principles matter. For Cool Cousin, the magic happens by building a connection between a traveler and a local. This connection instantly changes the way the traveler views a destination and opens up a world of new possibilities for their trip.
I look forward to advising and supporting Cool Cousin as they develop their business and monetisation strategy in the massive $2.3T travel industry. There are many exciting opportunities ahead as they build a new marketplace between travelers and locals, develop partnerships with existing companies in the travel space, all while ensuring the community’s values and company’s principles come first.
My personal beliefs are aligned with the famous Tim O’Reilly credo “Create more value than you capture.” I see this as one of Cool Cousin’s key competitive advantages. While it will not be easy to disrupt the entrenched travel industry, I believe that Cool Cousin’s decentralized approach clearly aligns the interests of travelers with that of the company and the community. All are on even footing - and together they have the opportunity to build an important marketplace and big business, and all will benefit.
So, why am I excited about Cool Cousin? This is technology and community coming together to help travelers have amazing travel experiences and give locals a chance to share and profit from their unique city knowledge—building bridges to new people, places and cultures. . In a world too often separated into “us” and “them”, I believe Cool Cousin can have a positive impact by bringing direct connection between people back into the world of travel.
***Pete Hancock is a technology executive, start-up advisor and globetrotter. Most recently, he was the VP of National Sales at Yelp and helped to build the company after joining as employee #20.