When James Fisher says his travel experience is rooted in road-based travel, he’s not talking about multi-day trips, but road trips spanning weeks and months. “My family used to organize huge road trips through Africa. We’d spend seven months in the back of a truck with a bunch of sweaty Australians, driving from Morocco to Cape Town, then fly back to England, build another truck and do it again,” he explains.
This newly minted Cincinnatian was born in England, but recently relocated to Cincinnati launch Roadtrippers, a curated, travel-planning website. His co-founder and fiancée, Tatiana Parent, is a history buff and the brains behind the site’s content strategy.
Roadtrippers is a tablet-friendly website designed to be used first at a computer, where most travelers conduct the bulk of trip-planning these days. Fisher says a mobile version is in the works, so that travelers can plan trips at home, then download directions and points of interest for on-the-road reference.
After logging in, the website has a map interface similar to MapQuest or Google maps. Once endpoints are selected, further menus list attractions by type and distance from the route. The difference between this website and apps like Foursquare, however, is that Roadtrippers' content is hand-selected and curated for specific audiences. If you want to find wineries suitable for motorcyclists or the best drive-in diners, you can. The site only lists venues designed to delight, rather than the comprehensive listings compiled elsewhere. “It’s just the awesome places,” Fisher says.
As former Lonely Planet aficionados, Fisher and Parent spent many long hours road tripping in the U.S., visiting friends and family. Faced with stacks of printouts, unwieldy guidebooks and impossible maps, the two grew frustrated during their search for one-of-a-kind hotspots and hideaways.
Finally, “we actually just hired a programmer who started building this thing for us because we needed a better tool,” Fisher says. “We were frustrated with trying to navigate around on our own.”
Soon, they realized the tool they’d built for themselves could help other frazzled travelers, and they began looking for seed funding to launch the company. When they secured a spot at The Brandery
, Over-the-Rhine’s startup engine, they moved to Cincinnati, which quickly became home.
“I’ve never seen the momentum of community development that I’ve seen here,” Fisher says. “The seed of the tech community is sprouting here, and I’d rather be part of something growing than go somewhere like New York or San Francisco where the rules have already been written. Here, we get to define our own path a bit more.”
Roadtrippers currently generates revenue through its hotel booking services, and recently expanded its team to five employees, including a marketer and two developers.
By Robin Donovan