Vaccine Passports: Covid isn’t going away even if the vaccines are fully rolled out over the next year — it’s going to become another common flu with variants and all. With more than 30% of the population opting to not get vaccinated, it isn’t going to make it a slam dunk for every city or country in the world to open up. Consumers, especially the older population and the more susceptible, will prefer to travel to destinations that are stricter on safety protocols.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Ing.
Julian Ing is a serial entrepreneur that loves disrupting industries. He specializes in innovative technologies, product logistics and user acquisition. Julian sits on multiple advisory boards and actively supports and works with outstanding non-profit organizations ranging from equality for minorities and young entrepreneurs.
Julian sold his first company, Quantum Publishing at 26 to Trader Publications and never looked back. He went on to launch and sell Giant Interactive. Eruptive Games was launched in 2010 and merged in 2014. In 2018, Julian founded Launchtrip Technologies, an industry-changing travel tech company. Launchtrip is the world’s first travel booking platform to focus on group travel and events. Launchtrip is well on its way to becoming one of the fastest growing travel tech companies in the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody. I often wonder if it’s in our DNA to become one — a predestined path — so to speak. As far back as I can remember, I often pitched start-up ideas to my Dad, and when I recall that memory, I think that was the strongest connection I had with him. He was a successful entrepreneur in his own right, having owned multiple travel agencies and an airline. For better or worse, it was his identity. Having grown up in that entrepreneurial environment, I always knew that I would take that path and launch my first company early on in my career. Five companies later, that path brought me to the forefront of making a significant impact in the travel industry. My Dad passed away 8 years ago and never had the chance to see it happen.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Looking back, an interesting period in my career was actually in my twenties when I launched my first start up. Back then, we called them ventures, and it was pretty rare during that time to have twenty-somethings start companies. Because of this rarity, I was provided a lot of cool opportunities like a radio show, and yes even a television series. The radio show, Tech Talk, ran each Saturday morning at 8am, and being a twenty-something year old, you can only imagine how that fit into my schedule.
I remember tying one on for many Friday nights and having to get up very early to do the Saturday morning shows without anything planned at all. Surprisingly, my producer loved that! I was told that the best content is polar content, so I ran with that. Somehow it always turned out. Now that I think about it, today’s audience is way too tech-savvy for me to get away with just winging it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was twenty two years old and still in university when I launched my first venture, a publication company. I knew very little about publishing magazines when I started. I hired a graphic designer, a few good writers, and put down a hefty deposit at a local printing press. After hitting the pavement and hustling for advertisers, I was able to cobble up enough content for the first edition of a technology magazine. I was given a very tight deadline and a stern talking to that I had to provide the plates on time. This was before things were digital. I had no choice but to dig in and go for it with what I had. I ended up teaching myself how to use design software in 48 hours (or at least what I needed to know to finish this project!) and worked on the layout with my designer for nearly 72 hours straight. It was the ultimate, university style all-nighter. By the end of it, we were extremely exhausted and completely delirious. We could barely keep pages together, much less keep paragraphs aligned. Looking back on this, I am amazed we pulled through, but we did it: we met the deadline. I rushed the plates over to the printer and published the first edition. The foreman later told me that I could have changed the press time. Of course — in the midst of our adrenaline fueled work session, we didn’t even bother to ask for an extension in order to preserve our energy and sanity. That day, I learned that asking more questions can often lead to better results. I also validated that hard work makes the difference — it’s all about the hustle. The unrelenting push and continual stress came with rewards as well; the magazine company was later acquired by Trader Publications.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
I would argue that truly innovative companies require more time and effort to produce products or solutions than you can imagine at first. When your goal is to deliver something that no one has really seen, mistakes are often made due to trial and error. Many additional hours are required to fix it. This is the type of environment that is ripe for employees to burn out. I find that burn out is very different for everyone. Some folks, especially developers, love working late into the night and start later in the morning. Others like starting early and ending early. My biggest piece of advice to colleagues is to create a flexible schedule allows everyone to work more effectively. Employees are happier because they can create an environment that works for the individual, and we see stronger outputs.
When we started Launchtrip, our core team decided that a large component of our company culture would be to encourage a flexible schedule, with an emphasis the importance of incorporating extracurricular activities into that schedule. Not before or after work, rather we wanted to encourage employees to take a break in the middle of their day in addition to their planned lunch. Over time, we found that employees came back from their extracurricular break more refreshed and focused. Of course, we cover any costs associated with their activity of choice, whether that’s spin, yoga, or the gym.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve always been the sole founder in every startup, and not having a co-founder has its disadvantages. With a co-founder, you have someone to give you honest advice like when you’re full of shit, or to tell you to keep going when times get tough. Growing up as an only child made it a bit easier to cope with what I now call ‘sole founder syndrome.’ I lived and died by the mantra of “no one’s going to help you succeed but you, so bet on yourself.”
This time around, things were a bit different. I’ve had two incredibly supportive investors named Robin Beynon and Scott Wilson, who have now become friends of mine. Robin and Scott invested in my last company and if you were to ask them why, they would tell you that they invested in me. My last company was designed to be acquired, and, at the time, finding the right acquisition partner wasn’t easy. It was frustrating and stressful to say the least, but Robin was there with more support than I could have ever imagined that an investor could provide. Robin is what I would call an introvert; very smart and soft spoken but when he speaks, he always tends to say the right thing. It was his encouragement that helped me launch Launchtrip.
Scott Wilson is a very successful entrepreneur and investor in his own right. Scott invested in me probably because he’s a gambler who doesn’t shy away from betting on a dark horse. And no, I’m not speaking out of terms — Scott is actually a professional poker player. He is one of my major investors, and we’ve shared many meals together traveling around the world. During these meals, we often listened to each other’s ideas, strategies and complaints. It was therapeutic. Scott never doubted my abilities to deliver and it honestly drives me to work even harder to ensure that all of my investors deserve a win. The moral of the story is that an investor can be so much more than money. A great investor can also be a great friend and confidant.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Launchtrip is innovating the travel space in several ways. The first being group trips and the second is traveling for events — more often than not, they go hand in hand. Group trips have been happening for decades — I would even argue since the beginning of time — and yet, booking and managing group trips hasn’t been streamlined effectively. Launchtrip is the first company to manage and handle payment processing for group trips, providing group discounts and also centralizing on event-based destinations — all in one app. Imagine planning group trip to a major sporting event and having one app handle accommodations, restaurants, ground transportation and payment processing in one centralized platform.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Planning group trips are often consuming and stressful. The host typically has to chase invites and payments, research and book accommodations and restaurants not to mention taking complete liability if things go wrong. Launchtrip focuses on streamlining the entire process as well providing group discounts, innovative customer service and a truly amazing reward system.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Let’s be honest, legacy companies like Booking.com and Expedia have had the opportunity for years to innovate the space, especially for group travel. Group travel specifically for events is a growing segment and yet, it has never been streamlined or advanced. I truly believe that groups and events are the next frontiers of travel. Due to covid, the pent-up demand for travel only makes group travel even more important. Launchtrip will be the first travel booking platform in the world to focus on groups and travel to events on a global scale.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
1. Vaccine Passports: Covid isn’t going away even if the vaccines are fully rolled out over the next year — it’s going to become another common flu with variants and all. With more than 30% of the population opting to not get vaccinated, it isn’t going to make it a slam dunk for every city or country in the world to open up. Consumers, especially the older population and the more susceptible, will prefer to travel to destinations that are stricter on safety protocols.
2. The Rise of Group Travel: Pent up demand and the major return of events will drive unprecedented appetite for group trips, from bachelor and bachelorette parties to weddings and family reunions. Suppliers will have to improve how they manage groups and optimize polices to make group experiences more rewarding.
3. Major Growth in Domestic Travel: Intercontinental travel in North America will grow significantly over the next few years as we’ve learned to appreciate and explore destinations closer to home. Events and tourist destinations are also rebounding from the pandemic and will be ramping up promotions. The economy is also rebounding (hopefully) which means domestic travel will be more affordable especially with the expectations that air travel costs will increase to compensate recovery and added safety measurements.
4. Increase Cost for Peace of Mind-Travel: Additional safety initiatives at borders, airports and accommodations will increase overall costs and that cost will be passed onto consumers. Expect price increases and even more slow down in travel.
5. Travel More Frequently: Over the next 3 years especially, consumers will travel more than 1–2 times a year. With built up vacation days and savings, consumers will book farther ahead and with more frequency.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Let’s start with a few key words or terms to describe my “perfect” vacation experience: on schedule, value for the money and beyond expectations. The perfect beginning and ending is getting there and back on time, so no delays. I log on average, 155 flight hours a year and that doesn’t include pre boarding times and delays — that’s a lot of waiting around not to mention frustration. I also hate to admit, the farther up the plane I sit, the happier I am — for obvious reasons. Value for the money makes the difference between a bad vacation and a great vacation. If I decide to go lux for the trip, getting impeccable service and quality is expected. More often than not, it never adds up. And last but not least, service beyond expectations is icing on the cake. It’s rare these days to experience service that blows me away. There you have it, three crucial elements of my perfect vacation. Now, if I get even two out of these three elements, I’m over the moon.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe that innovation can be used to improve lives, above and beyond money. Being innovative isn’t necessarily intuitive or innate — innovation is often learned and shared. I truly believe that every employee needs the proper opportunity and environment to learn how to be innovative, and I’ve spent my entire career mentoring and helping employees to think outside of the box. I want our employees to utilize these skills not just inside but also outside of work. I instill in them that change can only happen when we share the effort. I believe that a lot of this shared wisdom has helped make a difference in their lives and those around them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Since I was young, I’ve had the dream of changing how non-profits operate. I still believe in that; Even more so now than before. Many non-profits work inefficiently and although millions are raised every year, a lot of it never gets into the right hands and more often than we realize, many projects are abandoned after the first two years. I believe the platforms that non-profits work on need a major overhaul and I want to start that process, soon. I want to make every dollar raised count. It will probably take longer than my lifetime to accomplish but we will eventually get there.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!