Nicole TJ is the co-founder and CEO of travel startup Travis and is passionate about driving digital innovation within the fast-changing travel industry for millennials and Gen Zs. She graduated from university with a Bachelor of Music and Master of Management (Marketing), and then built a dual career in management consulting at Deloitte Digital, and as a professional classical pianist – before making the leap to founding Travis with her partner and co-founder, Thomas Lo.
Travis is a social network for travel bringing together community-driven travel stories, with tools for travellers to discover, plan and collaborate on future trips in one place.
Here’s our chat with Nicole.
How did you come to start your business? Was there a particular spark or a significant turning point?
Tom and I love travelling – discovering new places, planning trips, sharing photos of our experiences. Sure, it was time-consuming, but we never thought that it was a real problem. Until we had a 5 week trip to the US in 2018, and I was quite literally overwhelmed with screenshots, Google tabs, maps, spreadsheets one midnight. This was the catalyst to us thinking ‘What if there was a better way to make your trip happen?’ We toyed with ideas, researched other apps out there, spoke with every friend and friends of friends about how they travelled, designed and prototyped…before deciding to move full time into Travis at the start of 2020.
When you initially started your business, what hurdles did you face?
It’s easier to start with the big vision. It’s much harder to prioritise and be laser-focused with which part of the business to work on first, for the most impact – to keep going.
Another challenge I believe all startup founders face, is managing your own state of mind – essentially you need almost irrational belief, while maintaining strategic logic. Being ok with it and striking a balance is something that becomes less uncomfortable over time.
What makes your business unique?
Travis is unlike other travel apps and platforms out there – which focus deeply on a single thing like booking transactions, or mapping, or aggregated listings and comparisons. We’re building for the future world of travellers – a world where majority of 20-35 year old travellers now get their first point of travel inspiration from social media channels, where the community has valuable travel knowledge to share, and where content creators are a bigger part of our world than ever before. Travis brings together the best of user-generated travel content, with functionality needed for travel like maps, planning and collaboration, in one place.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
You’re building something from the ground up that you believe in and with the potential to help millions of people.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Adaptability. Optimism. Resilience.
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?
As much as possible, learn the skill. It lays the groundwork for you even if you were to hire or outsource it in the future.
How do you generate new ideas?
Continuously paying attention to different innovations and news across industries and countries. Ask “what if?”
What keeps you going in difficult times?
I’m incredibly lucky to be working with my co-founder and partner Thomas – who keeps us going, keeps things in perspective. Or just take some time out for ‘me time’!
How do you make the most of your day? Any tips?
Checklists + timeboxing what you do.
And do one fun thing a day, every day, without fail. Even Netflix.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
So many. Classpass and Canva are two off the top of my head, for their insane grit and perseverance in the early days, to how they have changed the fitness and design industries at their scale today.