Queensland mates Ryan Hanly and Mark Cantoni knew there had to be a better way to be a connected, solo traveller, so they made one.
Their travel app, Outbound, has since landed the guys a spot in a coveted startup accelerator program and been featured in the App Store’s ‘Best New Apps’ list.
We gave Outbound a test run and caught up with Ryan to find out how the self-confessed “non-techies” made it all happen.
Q&A with Outbound co-founder, world traveler and dad, Ryan Hanly.
So give us the rundown. What is Outbound and how does it work?
Essentially, it’s an app for solo travellers who want to connect with other like-minded travellers abroad. The winning feature of the app is that you can perfectly tailor it to what you want. So you’re a solo traveller that would like to connect other with other solo travellers? No problem. Are you a RV/caravanner that only wants to meet with other RV/caravanners? Simple. Maybe you’re a female backpacker that only wants to connect with other female travellers? It’s easy. The user has the ability to filter their search even further by parameters like age, gender, nationality, current country or different destinations. So the app can be tailored to exactly what you want, providing the ultimate user experience.
You launched Outbound in January 2015. What sparked the inspiration for the app?
Well Mark and I have both done a lot of solo travelling so it really came from that. We thought from our own experience that there had to be a better way of being a solo traveller. We were sitting in North Burleigh Surf Club one day and spoke to a bunch of backpackers about the idea and they went “Oh yeah, you’ve got to do this. This is perfect. This is what we need,” and then off it went from there. But Mark and I are not tech guys and so it was kind of like, well how do you even build an app? In the end, it ended up as a massive, big, steep learning curve the whole way through but eventually we got the job done.
Brilliant! And so it this something that keeps you busy full-time now?
Yes! We’ve just been accepted into the Telstra run accelerator program called muru-D. It’s actually the first time that they’ve run it in QLD – it’s usually run down in Sydney and in Singapore. So they’ve picked out five up-and-coming startups and put us through a really intensive three month program to try and fast-track our success and put us out the other end a whole lot better than we went in.
In your travels, when would Outbound have been most useful?
When I was living in London and I went off on my big Summer trip, I was doing three weeks of solo travel. So I flew out to Lagos in Portugal and arrived and just went, “Oh my God, what do i do now?”. I still remember that night. It took me a couple of hours and I went from bar to bar before I actually had the guts to go up and speak to someone. So I guess we’re trying to take the awkwardness out of that first contact. Because you can match trips on the app, you can actually start talking to people before you even arrive.
Apart from not being techy, what other challenges have you come up against?
Well I was the head of PE at a high school [Padua College], and Mark is a surveyor by trade but he’s got his own labour hire business as well. So we’re literally just two guys, from completely different industries, with an idea about yet another industry. Pretty much everything you can possibly imagine has been a challenge so far. Luckily Mark and I are fast learners. There’s a saying in the startup scene that is to ‘fail fast’, so that’s what we do – fail, learn and move on.
What failures have you learnt the most from?
I don’t know whether it’s luck, good management or good fortune, but we haven’t had any absolute disasters. The design of the app we kind of fluked. I mean I probably don’t give us enough credit by saying fluked, but we did a lot of research and designed the app off others that work well- Twitter, Instagram. I think we’ve just got the balance of our branding right. We’ve really tried to stay away from being a Tinder for travellers.
You must have read my mind, because I was going to ask whether your app is being used in that way, and whether that’s something you want to see happen?
Look, it’s the first thing people think when they hear about the app and we’re really trying to steer away from that. We want to build a trusted community of travellers.
So would you recommend the app to women? Can women feel safe using Outbound and meeting up with what are essentially strangers?
At the moment, women make up 55% of users of the app and that’s validation for us that we have created a platform that people can trust and that is secure. When designing the app we actually had females in mind. There are a lot of features we have put in for female travellers. If you go into the settings of the app you can actually flick a switch so that you choose who you want to be seen by. So if you only want to be seen by other females, you can choose that setting. So in that sense, there is an app there just for female travellers. Flick the switch and it’s a female Outbound. The good thing is, we are 8 months in and we have not had one complaint of people being hassled.
Who is using the app at the moment?
We’ve got everyone from 64 year olds to 18 year olds. Our core market is backpackers 18 to 30-years-old. In the first two weeks after going live, we had over 1000 downloads and we’re getting a couple thousand a month still. We’re in over 130 countries and it’s going really well.
What’s next for Outbound?
We have fairly lofty aspirations of being the biggest social app for travellers in the world. And we’ve got the opportunity to do it because no one else is doing it!
Outbound’s Big 5 Features
See travellers that are around you, their nationality, and how far away they are, then click on their profile for more information.
The place to organise travel meetups. View and join events created by fellow travellers in your area.
Enter in your trip with the dates you are travelling and find other travellers who will be in the area at the same time.
A crowd sourced wifi creator. Find wifi hotspots, share them, then save the list to access when you’re offline.
The place for anything and everything. Organise a lift, get advice or sell your stuff.