Benjamin Kuster, Sales Development Executive at nine who reduced his work quota to 20% to found a startup, was interviewed by Isabella Mysicka, Head of Communication & Marketing and Member of the Executive Board.
How long have you worked for nine? What were your main projects or roles at nine?
I’ve worked at nine for more than 5 years now and it has been an interesting, and insightful journey. I started back in April 2015 as a Sales Development Executive and later took the main responsibility for working with new potential customers. There is a lot of variety working with nine customers since they range from startups to big banks and everything in between. Learning about the business and infrastructure needs of different use cases, and transforming it into a solution has provided me with intangible experience.
You have decided to focus on your own project. What role does nine have in that?
I always wanted to try to create something myself, however, products need much more than motivation. It's a long way to build the right team and business case. While working at nine I learned about IT and development, company culture, and how to transform organizations and processes to be more agile.
What is Wandr?
Imagine you want to travel to Australia. None of your friends or family have ever been there. So you Google, and explore social media networks for nice spots to plan your trip. The content to plan your trip is there, but it needs a lot of time to finalize which spots you want to visit. Wandr is bridging the gap between travel and social media. Wandr is a creative, video-sharing application that enables users to plan trips through user-generated videos. While browsing inspirational videos in different destinations from around the world, users can save sights, restaurants, and accommodations that interest them. After scrolling for a few minutes, users will have a collection of videos that are plotted on a map, saved for when they are ready to book. We are striving to solve a very well known problem: simplify and improve the complex travel customer journey. When users engage with the platform by uploading and watching videos, our algorithm collects data and fine-tunes the relevance of the spots you will see.
Why should I use Wandr and not just Instagram?
Of course, many people use Instagram or Pinterest to gather inspiration for their travels. But if you open your Instagram, search for any location, e.g. Australia, all you see is a feed full of models posing in Australia - which is fine but does not help me to explore and find nice spots for my trip. So Instagram users are tagging locations for all kinds of content, not just travel. There are good examples out there where an approach like this has worked in other verticals. For instance, Strava, a social media platform for sport has shown traction in a specific industry. Or even Twitch - a social media and broadcasting platform for gaming shows, that verticalization of social media in specific industries can be extremely successful.
Many travel apps and platforms fail to identify the trends that are happening in the industry. When you analyze how most people between the ages of 18-35 plan their trip you see that social media is an important inspiration channel. We analyzed social media behaviors, habits and market predictions and came up with Wandr as a solution to this illusive problem.
Short video sharing was introduced by snapchat, stolen by Instagram for their stories. Since then, we have seen the rocketing success of TikTok - and now Instagram is releasing their equivalent called Instagram Reels. It's clear that user-generated videos is the trend in the social and marketing world. Video is more immersive than text and photo, and holds more weight in the eyes of the consumer as it typically has a higher engagement rate. Cisco predicts that 82% of the worldwide internet traffic in 2022 will be video.
Isabella: We also believe in videos and nine started this year to have our customer success stories also as videos so that we can explain our products to our customers specialli what the benefit of our product is. We think that videos are an easy way to see if nine is the right business partner as via video, you get the feeling how the culture of nine is and how we work. We also strongly believe in using videos.
So you will launch a travel platform in the middle of a global pandemic, why would investors be interested in such a project?
When you ask leaders when is the right time to build, they won’t tell you while we are on the peak. The right time to build is before a renaissance. There are many predictions that travel will never be the same. Even Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb admitted this. But Airbnb also had a very strong business travel segment, and with the increase in remote work, we agree that business travel might never be the same. But when we look at leisure travel, our prediction is that people will want to get away again. We hope that the return brings a more sustainable approach to tourism than we had before the crisis, but there will definitely be huge travel traffic as soon as treatment is released, or travel restrictions are lifted.
Additionally, the app is not designed to be used only when you plan to travel. Wandr is the platform to look around in other countries and get insight into the possibilities there. For example, I tell you about a country I have traveled and you have no idea what to expect there, you just open up the app and Wandr around that country. No need to google travel blogs or search for what to do in Australia. Instead, you can Wandr - even when travel is restricted. Of course, if we succeed with this project it’s most likely to make an exit to one of the big players since Wandr as an inspiration app would be positioned pre-booking. So the trend will happen - it's inevitable. We know investors realize that and join the opportunity.
Isabella: We (nine) are also working on the launch of our new homepage. Our goal is to have it more customer oriented, so that our customers or potential customers have an easy way to get in touch with nine and simple find the services they need, so they can focus on their core business and let nine manage their cloud or infrastructure business
So what are the next steps on Wandr?
After we founded the company in July, we are launching our beta version in September to test with the first couple hundred users and planning to officially launch the app to the Apple and Google Play store in the beginning of October. I hope everyone watching this video will give it a try and test and give us some feedback. So we want to get some traction and continue the investor conversations we are having. I’m very confident that with this team we can always pivot in the right direction. What is the plan for about nine?
Isabella: I know how you feel about launching and having all that stress to launch on time. Nine is working on the launch of our new homepage. Our main focus is to have our homepage more customer oriented, that the customer finds easy which product or service solves his problem and has an easy way to get in touch with nine and focus on their core business and let nine manage their cloud or infrastructure .
We also invested a lot in our infrastructure this year read more about it here: https://www.nine.ch/de/blog/vorteile-der-hyperkonvergenten-infrastruktur-nine-setzt-auf-next-generation-vms
Our goal was to provide an even better service for our customers.
Last thing to say?
So to all travelers, travel content creators and travel businesses who now struggle: Even if it's not an easy time, but people will never lose their curiosity for different cultures and places, and people will travel again. So let’s prepare and shape a way together to bring travel back. Let’s bring it back more sustainable and more authentic. And remember, each time the sun goes down it gets dark and it’s hard to see - the sun rises again the next day with full brightness.