If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation’s father may be exasperation. When Coabi Kastan and Janine Seale’s trip to London turned into the perfect storm instead of the perfect trip, they decided to lean on their years of experience in the consumer space to create a better way to plan where to eat, crash, and play.
“We predicate it on your home network. You might not know the person who posted a recommendation, but you do know your friend, and you know that you both like the same things,” Kastan said. “Now you can get all of those recommendations in one place.”
Out of Office (OOO for short) offers an alternative to relying on faceless reviews from strangers and endless messages and text chains. Travel and discovery are simplified with the easily-browsable OOO app. Track down the best hotels, restaurants, must-sees, and must-dos as curated by the people whose opinions you trust the most — your friends and family. All you have to do is build out your network.
Users can add and expand this trusted circle by inviting those people that they’re already constantly texting. This cuts out the challenge of interpreting reviews on other social networks by replacing them with suggestions from the people whose opinions you can relate to. It’s about easing stress and nailing travel time when the opportunity arises.
“It’s about getting the most out of your experience. You don’t want to waste time on a crappy restaurant,” Kastan said. “It’s about discovery, remembering places you’ve been, and inviting your friends to join.”
This discovery begins with a quick, cumulative travel quiz and then tailoring your interests to already identified Out of Office suggestions. When you make it to the OOO app home screen, you can browse through recommendations that align with your travel style. You can then begin plugging into your community’s suggestions — great places to crash, savor the local fare, catch a killer show, or all three at once.
“We focus on meeting you. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a budget spender or planning a European blow out,” Seale said. “We meet people where they are on their journey.”
Especially if that means returning home and in need of a reliable escape from family craziness (and tips on the best new Kansas City hot spots, in Seale’s case).
“It’s an excellent discovery piece as the holidays are here. If people are traveling back to their hometown, it’s a great resource to discover something that wasn’t around before,” Seale said.
According to the founders, Out Of Office gets better and more helpful as users expand their networks. The more travelers you follow, the more posters you’ll connect with, and the more dynamic your options become.
“The recommendations grow the more people that interact on Out of Office,” Seale said. “You cultivate the network and we can take you where they’ve been.”
After two months in beta, Out of Office has been live for about three months. There is already a lot of early organic traffic with around 12,000 users creating over 25,000 recommendations on the free app.
“It’s about democratization of access,” Kastan said. “Trunk Club democratizes access to a stylist. Cameo democratized access to celebrity. We wanted to know how you can make a really approachable experience that gives you access to an online travel agent.”
Out of Office founders are expanding this access through travel partners, the first being OpenTable. If a recommended restaurant is a part of the OpenTable network, there’s an option to book a reservation directly. Seeing as OpenTable is connected with over 60,000 restaurants across the globe, it’s a nice option to not only find a place but to not even have to worry about scoring a table.
“At the end of the day, it’s like anything else: You want to have elevated, special, and unique experiences,” Seale said. “Now you can have a trusted circle of people who matter to you. Last-minute travel plans are gone. You’re ready to go.”
For now, Out of Office is available for free on iOS and on the Android waitlist. A future website is also in the works. Download OOO now and begin connections now in anticipation of future travel at www.takemeoutofoffice.com.
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