Editor’s Note: In honor of 10 years of the IDS program at the iSchool, Alexandra Archambault will be leading you through a 10-episode podcast series. Each episode highlights a different successful startup company from the program. 

Finding a Balance Between School and Entrepreneurship

Alexandra: This week I’m sitting down with two current Syracuse University students, Tay and Kevin. They’re the co-founders on Ravle.

The two actually met in the IDS program. Tay initially pitched a different company, but after hearing Kevin’s pitch she immediately wanted to join him.

After spending sometime sorting through ideas, the duo realized their potential. They made the jump to being part-time students to focus more on the business.

Tay: Ravle has evolved a lot. We’re a software as a service company. What we do is partner with destinations and top travel filmmakers to be able to market all the stories and content that creators make in their destination through their own platform – specifically through an integrated video technology.

Kevin: We started with directing it straight to the consumer. We were more focused on turning the videos into bookable experiences. So you would watch a film or video, and then chase that type of adventure. We still have that, but our main focus is our B2B route that we’re cranking out right now.

If you just find the right mentors, you’ll accelerate months into days. So reach out, be humble, and find a mentor.

Failing is Learning

Alexandra: While they have shifted their focus, Tay and Kevin say they don’t see their initial business plan as a failure, but as a learning experience. They’re using what they learned to propel their current B2B goals.

Tay: Marketing the B2C travel platform was one of our biggest challenges and one of our biggest lessons.

We thought we had a solid business plan going into it: we’re working with a bunch of these top creators, each of them has a 50K reach with every trip they create. They have ownership in this and they want to share it with their following. A lot of their following are people who want to go live the adventures they live, that’s why people go and follow them. That was our marketing strategy at first.

We launched our trips and tried focusing on an organic reach, that cross-platform launch. But the adoption is a challenge. Specifically in the travel market, it’s so fragmented. Being able to hit the right traveler at the right time is a big challenge.

That’s a big reason why we’ve fully focused on this B2B pivot. We’re partnering with tourism boards and creating a product for them that allows them to get more value and a better return on their investment and their content creation in their destination. Their websites are usually made for anybody going to that specific destination to find things to do. That’s also a place where a lot of organic search and SEO will land people. That’s where we’re shifting our marketing strategy now.

Ravle Logo

Ravle Logo

Visit Syracuse

Alexandra: Now, Ravle is fully focused on finding large tourism boards to partner with, and help them create content to release and market their locations. Their first partnership: Visit Syracuse.

Tay: It’s been awesome being able to work with them and be able to refine and co-create this integration tool. Our platform right now has [given us] a lot of validation: from video, inspiring people to travel, and drive them further down that booking funnel.

Other online travel agencies have proven that there is 45% conversion straight from video to booking. Being able to allow those travel organizations to leverage a tool and a design like that is really our focus now.

Reflecting On Their Journey

Alexandra: When reflecting on their success, Kevin has some thoughts on how they got there.

Kevin: That hardest thing is starting, for sure. Being a realist from the start is really important. Even if you spent an entire year trying work on a startup, even if does fail, I doubt you’ll have any regrets. Because you learn so much throughout that process, so you should just be confident. Like, ‘I’m investing in myself’ to make that start, and to get started. Also, you don’t have to hide your ideas.

No one’s going to come after your ideas, go ahead, spread it to the world. See how they react. That’s the best way to get some customer discovery and some feedback. And then find the people who are doing something similar to what you want to do, and get what you can out of them.

If you just find the right mentors, you’ll accelerate months into days. So reach out, be humble, and find a mentor.

Alexandra: Tay believes that being a student has not been a hindrance to the work. But instead, gave them opportunities for endless trial and error.

Tay: If I have this time to still be a student and learn from the world … there are so many more resources at school, from a people and peer standpoint. To learn from others, and connect with others to find those mentorship routes. To be able to work on something like a business. It’s almost like a built-in environment of resources to tap into.

To check out their content and learn more about Ravle, visit their website. Be sure to check back with me next week for our next IDS feature!