Ülane Vilumets Managed To Make Her Passion Into A Serious Startup Business

Ülane Vilumets is one of those people who, through hard work, has built a business that speaks to her heart. She is the co-founder of Traveller Tours and Like a Local Guide, which has won many awards including Entrepreneurship Awards in 2012 and 2013, Estonia's Best Mobile App in entertainment category 2014 and 3rd place at Ajujaht competition in 2012. The tourism industry indeed needs more people like Ülane - people who with a big smile on their face sort out everyday business decisions and manage the apps and web services, which are being used all over the world. We asked her in more detail about the tourism industry and what are her thoughts on being a startup entrepreneur.

Do you want to develop more products for tourism? Developers are still welcome to sign up for the Garage48 Tourism Pärnu hackathon on Nov 13-15, 2015 at http://garage48.org/events/parnu

Could you predict where tourism is heading in terms of business and technology? 

If I could predict the future I’d be a millionaire already :) However, I am not an expert on institutional tourism, but rather independent travel and there the trend is that travellers are becoming more and more independent in booking their services, which also opens the door for more and more P2P services in travel just like in many other fields. Services like Airbnb (accommodation in local homes), Eatwith (dinners with locals) and other tours or activities with locals (Like A Local, Tours by Locals) make it really easy to avoid travel agencies and hotels. The amounts of money paid for booking services online is increasing. Another interesting development is that travellers are looking more and more towards neighbourhoods outside the city centers and historical downtown areas, so tourism is increasing to non-traditional areas of big cities that offer a more varied experience of local culture & art, attractions and food. 

If I could predict the future I’d be a millionaire already :) However, I am not an expert on institutional tourism, but rather independent travel and there the trend is that travellers are becoming more and more independent in booking their services, which also opens the door for more and more P2P services in travel just like in many other fields. Services like Airbnb (accommodation in local homes), Eatwith (dinners with locals) and other tours or activities with locals (Like A Local, Tours by Locals) make it really easy to avoid travel agencies and hotels. The amounts of money paid for booking services online is increasing. Another interesting development is that travellers are looking more and more towards neighbourhoods outside the city centers and historical downtown areas, so tourism is increasing to non-traditional areas of big cities that offer a more varied experience of local culture & art, attractions and food. 

 

The web and mobile service Like A Local has expanded to many countries in Europe. How did you manage to expand and build an international company? 

Our biggest strength is our community which attracts more than 1900 passionate locals from more than 180 locations around the world. Every day we create new content that is reported by someone that lives and breathes their city and that has been our main asset from the very start. It’s been the reason for getting featured in articles and lists of apps or travel sites, ranking better and better on Google and providing content to other travel media sites or publications.

Is Estonia really known more for its technology or its beautiful scenery? 

Depends on the target group. I am sure there are segments of people that know more about our startups and e-residency than our nature, but if you ask a German bird-watching enthusiast, they won’t have heard of our tech sector. Estonia has made a huge effort in preserving our nature.

What is your go-to app when travelling (besides Like A Local) or going on a business trip? 

I use our app a lot, both for testing purposes and discovering its bugs and weaknesses, and also for the actual content, but when that’s not available (especially in smaller or remote places) I go to Foursquare very often for food and drink. The difficulty there is to skip the chain restaurants and to decide whether a big number of comments refers to a very touristy spot or not. I very often look for blogs and lists for my specific interest and google things like “creative neighbourhoods in Dallas”, “coolest abandoned places in Russia” – there were my actual google searches :) When travelling for more than 3 weeks at a time in a non-urban area I still often turn to Lonely Planet, like scetching my trans-Siberian train trip or US roadtrip just recently. 

What is your most favourite tourist destination that you are always willing to go back to? 

I’d go back to Colombia in a heartbeat. One of the most undiscovered and misunderstood countries that has gorgeous nature and amazing people. Other faraway favourites include Nepal, Morocco and Brazil. But an area that never ceases to amaze me is Russia and former Soviet Union so there are lots of places in Russia on my list as well as all the “Stans" (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan etc). 

What has been the weirdest food you have eaten during your travels? 

I love food, so it’s hard to surprise or shock me, as I’m always willing to try something new. Just recently a Filippino friend tried to shock me with some meat dish stewed in blood. I did have a love-hate relationship with kim-chi though and after various attempts learned to enjoy this fermented spicy thing that smells like something has gone bad ;) 
 
What would you say to someone who has no IT background, but has great ideas for a tech startup? 

Your success or failure depends of the capability of communicating a passionate vision of an awesome product/service to tech people, if you are good in understanding your customer and the field you’re in AND can attract people who have the skills that you don’t possess, you still have a chance to succeed. 


What does it take to be an entrepreneur? 

The nerve to experience and capability to learn from bigger and smaller failures every other day. And finding a field you are truly passionate about, not just something that holds great financial potential – it will get tough, so you need a lot of faith in what you are trying to achieve. The wish to become wealthy and famous is not often enough ;) 

The best advice your have ever received? 

Talk to your future customers early on in the process to understand their problems and whether they are excited about the solution you are proposing. More importantly… are they willing to pay for it, or someone else willing to pay for getting access to this target group. Before we finally got going, we spent a lot of time trying to convince investors, mentors and media in what we wanted to do, instead of talking to travellers and believing them. 

Your message to Garage48 Tourism Pärnu participants? 

Work hard and have fun! Every day after Garage48 if you decide to continue with your idea will be harder and more emotional than these 48 hours. So use the help and the supportive environment as much as you can. 




Register for the Garage48 Tourism Pärnu hackathon on November 13-15 at  https://www.amiando.com/tourismparnu.html & read more about the event at http://garage48.org/events/parnu. For any questions regarding the hackathon please write to parnu@garage48.org