To San Francisco

Most frequently, you can find me in a coffee shop, where I find flow in the dampened banter.

At this very moment, I’m cruising at 28,000 feet from Atlanta to San Francisco, with eyes bloodshot from the lack of sleep. Although the flight attendants needed a doctor on board for a passenger who had been sweating and vomiting since takeoff, nobody on this flight has a mask. There isn’t the quietness you might expect in reaction to the coronavirus. Everything seems a bit normal as I’m headed west for a few things over the next five days. Maybe I’ll share the details later.

Though there is no banter or caffeine to make improve my flow, I’m finding a good spot to reflect on where we are as a company.

For 14 months now, we have had consistent, month over month growth. We have 1000% growth since January 2019. Our bounce rate has halved. Our time on page has doubled. Our pages per user has quadrupled.

While there is so much stuff we have done in marketing, engineering, data science, and product development in the past six months, I can’t just give away all of our secrets. I would, though, like to shed some light on our focus on user experience and user interface updates.

Looking back 5 years, we went to One Spark 2015 with our MVP. This was pitched as “real-time multimodal trip planning” to a bunch of confused faces. The product looked up real-time fares for flights, trains, buses, airport transfers, and estimated ride share surging. It then took all of these combinations and found an optimal route, which considered the train, bus, and flight schedules. It was quite the engineering feat, as we multiplied NP-hard linear optimization travel problems with real-time data access. Nobody had done that, yet.

After talking to thousands of potential customers, we determined that we missed product-market fit. At the time, it really hurt. But looking forward, it set us into motion that has determined where we are today.

You see, nobody likes a computer to tell them what to do, even if it’s right. Especially when they’re about to spend a few hundred, or thousands, of dollars on an upcoming trip. People have been, and will always be, shoppers. People want to know all of the options for a given route, not the best-combined itinerary. There’s so much more psychology underneath these rocks, but you can attribute it to why every single trip planning startup has died.

Taking our lessons learned, we did our first big rebuild after 2015. But even since then, we have gone on to embrace that mentality and psychology of why travelers expect certain things when they shop for a trip. They’re looking for information and each traveler weights different information with separate regards. Wealthier travelers might be willing to spend more for more convenient flights. Those on a low budget might be willing to take a 12-hour bus instead of a 2.5-hour flight and might be willing to take a lesser-known bus company. Environmentally conscious people want to know the impact of an upcoming flight. This is the information travelers want. Not an optimal itinerary.

So, taking a look at our last updates to our user experience and interface – it reads almost like a blog. It doesn’t really show in-depth fare comparison much more and is far from sleek. We’ve dumbed it down but the results have been amazing.