Notes from my travels for WAYN…
I thought I’d share some of my musings from recent trips we’ve made on behalf of WAYN, and some thoughts on the journeys ahead. Jerome and I recently upgraded to Gold card status on our favourite airline – Virgin Atlantic, which if you’re going to travel – you have to fly with, as they are by far the best airline to travel with. You have to take your hat off to Sir Richard Branson… He certainly knows how to run an airline!! Hopefully, we will get to sit next to James Bond on our next trip!
Why do we travel so much? I guess it would be rude not to, having helped build what is now the world’s largest travel and lifestyle focused social network with almost 15 million members globally. However, it is an important part of our business, given that we run a global social network and run an internet business that has offices in both Poland and the UK. It is one of the few jobs that allows you to work remotely, whilst on the go, which can often mean you get a lot more work done as well, with less day-to-day distraction.
eTourism Africa event – Nairobi, Kenya
A few weeks ago on 13th – 15th of October, I was kindly invited to Nairobi, Africa by Dominic Cook – the ex-presenter of the Really Wild Show in the UK (remember that??) who is now living in Nairobi Kenya and has made it him and his wife’s goal to help people and companies across Africa to better take advantage of the opportunities that the internet and online travel have opened up.
In the opening address, which was made by the Minister for Tourism in Kenya, it was clear that a lot was still needed to be done (the internet connection in Kenya is still awful!) but they are working on fixing that and are desperate to invest more, and are installing a faster internet connection early next year (although the locals were telling me they will believe it when they see it!). This doesnt seem to dampen the resolve of those attending (who had come from all across Africa) to learn all about how they can take advantage of the internet the coming technological waves…
Here was me espousing the virtues of social media, web 2.0 and what’s coming next, and most companies can still not provide online booking for either their local or international customers!! The feedback however was very positive as those attending were keen not to miss a trick! I also managed to meet with some interesting companies, both big and small, who seemed very keen to work with us. I’ll be following up with them in the coming weeks and showing them how they can engage with people from around the world in a much more impactful and cost-effective way compared to adevrtising on CNN, as the perception here is that EVERYONE is watching CNN, simply because it is the main international news channel showing in hotels across the continent. It’s amazing how people’s perceptions are skewed towards they experience themselves!
A talk with students at the CocaCola centre – Nairobi, Kenya
One of main reasons I was invited to Nairobi, was to address an audience of 300 university students from across Kenya, to share the WAYN story and hopefully inspire some of the next generation of entreprneurs. It proved to be a unique and remarkable experience! Never before have I found such warm collection of people with a keenness to learn about how to be successul! What I didnt realise is that the event was literally orchestrated around my talk, and that it was attracting strong media attention as a result!
It became apparent to me that not many entrepreneurs from Europe or the US have make the effort to journey over to share their experiences in person. That is the only reason to justify their enthusiasm for what I and the WAYN team had achieved thus far. So, if there are any fellow entrepreneurs reading this from the Valley or your your start-up headquarters – I strongly urge you to put yourselves forward to visit Africa and find out how you can help inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs – they really need your help!!
I was interviewed by the two leading radio stations in Kenya and also appreared on the fornt cover of their main lifestyle magazine that is distributed with their highest circulation newspaper called the Nation. Here is the article in full.
What I found quite amusing is the fact that they showed a picture of me with Michael and Paul Birch (the Bebo brother) taken when we were at the Web Mission 08 in San Fran, and said that it was Jerome and Mike (the other WAYN co-founders).
It was a privileged occassion for me as I was welcomed by the Vice President & Misister for Home Affairs: Dr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who actually stayed to listen to my talk! I also had the pleasure of meeting the President of CocaCola East & Central Africa: Nathan Kalumbu, who were kind enough to host the event in their new ampitheatre at their headquarters.
I think the part of the event I enjoyed the most was my second talk with the students where I was able to really focus on them and how best to motivate and hopefully inspire them to go on and achieve remarkable things as entrepeneurs. Time will tell I guess. Hopefully this wont be the last time I am over, and I look forward to more opportunities to come. As an aside, I am confident that my trip will have not been in vain, both for those who heard me talk, but also for WAYN, as apart from the media exposure, I am confident that that some good partnerships will come from it. Jerome attended a similar event a month or so earlier, in Jo’burg, which was also organised by Damien, and involved him doing a similar talk to businesses in the travel industry and budding entrepenerial students. We have since build some very positive relationships with some of the major tourist boards over there and hope for many more positive things to come!
Last week, Jerome also attended a conference organised by our ad agency partner in New York, which was a great opportunity to update our sales reps over there of the upcoming opportunities for advertisers to take advantage of on WAYN both today and in 2009. Despite the market turmoil, we remain bullish of the potential to expand our advertising growth, with Octiber being our strongest month ever!
This week, I was invited to address leading executived from a selection of the leading European online travel agencies (OTAs) at the Amadeus headquarters in Sofia Antipolis, not very far from Nice. It was a fly in, fly out job, but was a good opportunity to establish some partnership opportunities in the European landscape.
Next week, I am off to the iMedia Brand Summit in Silverstone, UK, to engage with many of the top online marketing directors and brand managers from leading companies such as Unilever, Cocacola and Sony Ericsson. In the meantime, Jerome and many members of the WAYN team will be attending the World Travel Market event here in London, which should be a great opporunity to meet with other leaders in the travel industry and share ways in which we can work together.
To find out more, click here
Next week, Jerome and I will be attending the Euro Tech Showcase in San Francisco, having been selected at one of the top 50 European Start-ups.
As it is Global Entrepreneurship week, we will be doing our bit to highlight what is happening in the Valley, and will be video blogging, courtesy of the folks at Make Your Mark, who have provided us with a disgo video recorder to capture some of the highlights, so watch this space!…
In the meantime, check out our Global Entrepreneurship Week WAYN profile dedicated to unleashing new ideas, which will hopefully encourage WAYN members to help put their creative ideas to the test, and also help solve problems faced on a global scale.
Thanks for tuning in!