By Nancy Dahlberg
The idea for Shoot My Travel was simple enough: A marketplace to connect travelers with on-demand professional photographers for awesome vacation keepsakes. But in this Instagram-centric world, the Miami-based travel-tech startup has taken off.
Tokyo, Paris, Bali, Dubai – Shoot my Travel serves 343 cities in 80 countries and counting.
More than 1,000 vetted photographers are at the ready to shoot that once in a lifetime vacation, a trip back to the homeland or a reunion with an old friend. Brides-to-be put Shoot My Travel on their registries.
A user of shootmytravel.com or its app chooses the destination, browses the work of its photographers, chooses one and books a package. Users can chat with the photographer and set up logistics. They’ll receive their professional photos within 48 hours, suitable for framing – and sharing.
The back story: In 2015, Valerie Lopez, a photographer, and Camilo Rojas hatched the idea for Shoot My Travel during a vacation, when selfies and blurry shots of them by fellow travelers just didn’t capture their experience. Shoot My Travel is now a team of 10. The startup makes money through commissions on the packages, which starts at $195 (insider tip: $50 off today for CyberMonday). Lopez said the company is on track to book more than half a million in revenue this year, up about 300 percent from last year.
(Photo credit: Shoot My Travel Photographer Carolina in Barcelona)
This year, Lopez and Rojas invested aggressively in growth marketing, with a 20% month-over-month growth goal they’ve been hitting consistently. In less than a year, Shoot My Travel also has doubled the number of photographers to 1,000, all cool, adventurous photographers who offer a different angle on the city, she said.
It’s been a whirlwind year of milestones for Shoot my Travel, beginning in January when the startup was selected for Hotel Jumpstart, a travel-tech accelerator run by Expedia in London. The six-month program of growth hacking experiments and mentorship also yielded many travel industry connections.
It was Asia that took notice first. As a region, Asia is Shoot My Travel’s second largest market, after the US and Canada. “It is definitely been moving way faster in the Asian market for us,” Lopez said. “It’s a great market opportunity.”
Here comes the investments: Mid-year, Shoot My Travel lured an investment from a Japanese VC. Shoot My travel entered – and won a global startup competition in Japan, which opened more doors in Asian market. Soon a Hong Kong VC signed on, too.
Shoot My Travel is now part of the LAUNCH accelerator run by Silicon Valley angel investor Jason Calacanis, who also invested in the startup. Since joining the 12-week accelerator, Lopez said she has pitched every week to Silicon Valley investors. Shoot My Travel is now raising a $1 million seed round, using LAUNCH as its platform to do so.
What’s next? In addition to continuing to add cities, Shoot My Travel aims to launch a new platform next year, making it easier and faster for customers and photographers to engage with the platform, Lopez said. Users will be able to book within minutes at their destination, instead of 24 hour before as of now. “We want to cater to both the spontaneous traveler and the planner.”
Partnering with key travel companies and organizations, including in the wedding industry, is also in the plans for 2019, Lopez said.
“We see a huge demand from honeymooners and people having destination weddings – also wedding registries. People want to give this as a more thoughtful gift, rather than the cookie cutter pots and pans.”
Tagline: ‘Your Travel Photographer Anywhere You Go!’
Year founded: 2015
Growth: At least 20 percent month over month in 2018.
Recent milestone: Acceptance into Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Financing: Bootstrapped until this year. Raising a $1 million seed round.
Business model: Shoot My Travel earns a percentage from each booking.
Biggest challenge to date: “Getting funded in South Florida has been a challenge for us, because we hadn’t found anyone who shared our vision,” said Lopez. “But we feel we are getting that traction from outside.”
Up next: Launching a new platform, adding cities, growing team and partnering with travel organizations.
-- Nancy Dahlberg
Photo at top: Valerie Lopez, CEO and co-founder, with co-founder and Chief Design officer Camilo Rojas (left) and Chief Operations Officer Andres Echeverry.
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