Thirteen startups competed in Thursday's Amplify business pitch competition, but only one walked away the victor. Jen O'Neal, co-founder and CEO of Tripping, won two iPads for her startup, an online cultural exchange network that matches travelers with locals.
The network consists of travelers and hosts, who can connect online to foster richer cultural exchanges. Hosts introduce travelers to their local communities by offering advice on where to get a cup of coffee, or even offering up their homes.
During a Q&A session following her pitch, Jen O'Neal explained that she loves to travel and has participated in similar cultural exchange programs offered by non-profits, but non-profits don't have the kinds of funds needed to establish comprehensive safety protocols should a traveler find him or herself in a dangerous situation. While Tripping warns customers that it cannot guarantee safety, it plans to offer a 24 hour hotline that travelers or hosts can call at any time if they feel like they need help.
Other services that the company offers to help ensure traveler and host safety include an anonymous ratings feature that all members participate in after their stay, as well as a space where members can leave references for travelers or hosts.
The basic service is free, and the company generates revenue from premium memberships, co-brand licensing fees, and partner-based revenue shares. Founded in 2009 and launched in January of this year, Tripping currently has members in over 100 countries around the world.