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Student startup Stairway to Travel has won the grand finale of the University of Amsterdam Startup Challenge. The travel startup that provides customers with unique travel destinations based on their preferences, took home a cash prize of €5.000.
Stairway to the finals
The past year, IXA and Ace Venture Lab hosted several semi-finals where startups from all the faculties could pitch their ideas. From each faculty, a jury selected one startup to continue to the finals, where finalists from the Faculty of Economics & Business, Social Sciences, Science & Informatics, Humanities, and Law competed against each other in the Zuiderkerk during the Let’s Get Started student career event.
Stairway to Travel from the faculty of Science & Informatics took home the big prize. The startup is developing an algorithm-based tool for customized travel advice. “We knew that we prepared a good story, but there was little information available about our competitors,” says co-founder Bram van den Akker. “The competition turned out to be impressive and we were actually quite surprised (and excited) when our name was announced as the winner.”
According to Van den Akker, the thing that makes Stairway to Travel different from other travel apps and startups is their language processing algorithms that extract hundreds of features from thousands of travel destinations all over the world. Van den Akker: “This way we are able to offer personalized travel recommendations from over 20.000 destinations in the world. Because we do not offer our own commercial travel packages, we distinct ourselves by providing completely (commercially) unbiased advice.”
Biggest challenge and future
The idea for Stairway to Travel was born two years ago, when co-founder Steven Nooijen, a travel and data enthusiast, felt that the current travel industry has too much focus on travelers that already have a destination in mind. “Current recommendations only focus on discount deals,” van den Akker says. “Many experienced travelers have a returning urge to explore new unique travel destinations, which can be extremely hard to find.”
Like many startups, right now Stairway to Travel’s biggest challenge is engaging new users and expanding an active user base. “We have waited a little bit with this thus far, as we want to tweak our product a bit more so that we can offer the user experience the way we want it. For this purpose, Gert-Jan Oostenrijk joined us last summer as an UX designer. Since then we have been able to drastically improve the user experience. However, there is still some work ahead!,” says Van den Akker.
Our mind is currently set on offering a complete user experience. Apart from single travel recommendations, we want to be able to shape complete itineraries for roaming the world and finding ad-hoc travel experiences wherever you are.