HiCray

HeyCray is an app to help users discover, book and share outdoor adventures and local travel experiences.

Founded in June 2021, HeyCray pays a commission to video creators when a booking is made through their content.

What’s your 30-second pitch to investors?

HeyCray is a video-centric online travel company for Gen Z, enabling creators to directly monetize their short-form travel content. The product is a social selling video app for discovering, booking and sharing travel experiences (think a crossover of Tripadvisor and TikTok).

The mobile application (main product) is under development, we plan to launch in Miami next July. While creating the app, we launched early marketing efforts, gained over 100 million views on social media video content, over 180,000 subscribers and an available audience that is growth.

Describe both the business and technology aspects of your startup.

HeyCray is a video app where you can discover, book and share outdoor adventures and local travel experiences. In HeyCray, one can watch short videos created by other users and activity operators. Users make videos using the HeyCray app about their experiences, so other users can book those experiences directly through the app. HeyCray users earn a commission on every booking made through the content they post.

HeyCray will be available on both mobile and web. We use advanced machine learning algorithms to match our users to the most inspiring activities that match their personality and circumstances.

Give us your SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of the company.

  • Strengths:
    • We speak the language of Gen Z – a video-first user experience that enables an immersive and social journey to discover, learn and book local sightseeing and outdoor activities.
    • Operator-centric approach – we give operators a set of low-touch tools to highlight their brand uniqueness and entice HeyCray users to promote their offerings, while requiring little time and effort.
    • Revolutionary business model that encourages users to share content and build communities.
    • A strong team focused on technology
  • Weaknesses
    • First stage, limited funding
    • At this stage, offers limited to certain American hot spots
    • At this stage, limited organic traffic
  • Opportunities:
    • Strong travel demand in the US domestic market
    • Redirecting users to video/audio content interactions
    • User preference for community, values, diversity, more personal and immersive discovery experience
  • Threats:
    • COVID Restrictions
    • Established and well-funded incumbents in the market who can compete directly with us
    • Lack of product market fit and slow user adoption

What travel pain points are you trying to alleviate from both a customer and industry perspective?

After attending the Arival Travel conference in San Diego in February, we identified two major issues:

  • Operators want the ability to grow their brands through online travel agencies and don’t have that ability because major OTAs fear losing the booking. OTAs rarely share logos or brands other than their own. On HeyCray, operators have their own profiles, similar to social media profiles, where they can share their logo, branding and personal touch.
  • Operators are looking to generate content at scale. HeyCray is a content machine. Our users already post their experiences on social media but will be incentivized to post on HeyCray for booking commission. This user-generated content will then be available for operators to use on their HeyCray profiles as well. We encourage users and operators to share all content on all social media platforms. Our logo is automatically added to any video coming out of our platform.

So you have the product, now how are you going to get a lot of customers?

We are building a community of adventure seekers who are already creating content for us. We send these creators on experiences and they generate content. This serves as our initial inventory.

All of our videos carry our branding, which creates awareness and intrigue when creators share our videos on social media. We are building aggressive influencer campaigns for our launch this summer. We explore ways in which we can give back to the community and contribute in the areas of DEI, education and service.

Tell us what process you followed to establish a real need for your business and the size of the addressable market.

We did a national soft launch last summer in the US with our MVP. Using content from our community, we post to social media every day. We’ve found that travel creators are looking for a space to connect with like-minded people and consumers are looking for more immersive ways to make informed bookings. We have since gone viral on YouTube Shorts with over 100 million views and growing, and have amassed over 180,000 YouTube subscribers. We interact with tens of thousands of people daily and have already referred customers to our operators. Our efforts have led us to understand that people enthusiastically engage and book through short video content and creators they constantly see who they trust.

How and when will you earn money?

HeyCray’s business model is similar to traditional OTAs where we take a commission from each booking. We expect bookings to take place immediately after launch. We also share this commission with our creators.

What are the backgrounds and previous achievements of the founding team?

Raquella Raiz – co-founder & CMO. Founder and CEO of Qreative Edge, a video production and marketing agency. Founder of Battle of the Crews. Travel vlogger, filmmaker, speaker and hip-hop teacher.

Denis Slipets – co-founder & CTO. Co-founder of Stairwaysoft, led more than 100 fintech, marketplace, IoT projects. Holder of an MS in computer science, software architect, big data engineer, senior full-stack developer. Researcher, swimmer, traveler.

Levy Raiz – co-founder & COO; Entrepreneur, venture capital partner at Digital Horizon VC, ex-partner at Flint Capital VC, ex-manager at JSCapital. Cook, traveler, gardener.

Dmitriy Bechutskiy – co-founder and CEO; Co-founder at Stairwaysoft, CBDO at Alcor, CTO at LiveGlobal Money. PhD in economics, computer science. Mountaineer, diver, skipper.

How have you approached diversity and inclusion within your company?

Our CMO, Raquella is very active in women-led initiatives, particularly in the areas of marketing, technology and Web3. Raquella is serious about HeyCray representing cultural diversity. She is particularly passionate about instilling confidence and determination in girls and young women. We look forward to hiring in a more diverse way as we continue to grow.

What has been the hardest part of building the company so far?

Raising our pre-seed had its challenges. This forced us to be more frugal, and we found ways to acquire more content for free while bootstrapping. We definitely appreciate the dollar.

Typically, travel startups struggle to make an impact – so why are you going to be one of the lucky ones?

There’s a desire for “shop-tainment” – the ability to shop directly from a video you’re watching. We are at the intersection of peer reviews and online booking platforms. We leverage social selling techniques while delighting the end user with adventurous user-generated video content. We believe we are going to be lucky because of the care we take for operator success, how long we go to ensure the end user is entertained and delighted throughout their booking process, and the tenacity and creativity of our team.

In one year, what state do you think your startup will be in?

A year from now, we plan to be valued members of Miami’s great travel community with hundreds of thousands of bookings and users. Our community will include local travelers as well as international travelers visiting the area. We anticipate that our team will grow as needed to ensure we can serve our community.

What’s your endgame? (Go public, acquisition, grow and stay private, etc.)

HeyCray has immense scalability potential. We first start with experiments in one region, then grow organically into other regions, and then include other services. In order to realize these ambitions, we plan to go public.

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