Shehab Ahmed, Founder, and CEO at Visit Guide and Visit Ventures tell us about the best travel destinations.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Shehab Ahmed: My family is doing well, and my daughter Enjoy and my son Ahmed are growing, and I feel happy watching them learning new things every day.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Visit Guide and Visit Ventures.
Shehab Ahmed: I was in Sharm Al Shaikh, Nabq Bay, with a local Bedouin guide in a paradise-like protected area called Nabq.
The stay there was much cheaper than average hotels, and the experience of eating fresh Red Sea fish and octopus cooked in the Bedouin and staying on a private beach was amazing. I felt that places like that deserve to be mentioned and people deserve to have the same experience, so we started Visit Guide and Visit Ventures to share the local experience with international travelers where they can find the hidden local gems and book them and share their experience.
How does Visit Guide and Visit Ventures innovate?
Shehab Ahmed: Our company did not make a travel marketplace or a travel guide only.
For the time being, yes, we are, but our innovations are based on content and user reviews where travelers can share their experiences and others can read real reviews based on nationality.
For example, if two persons stayed in the same hotel or made the same activity, they might get different prices based on their location, IP, or nationality.
Even big flight booking websites change prices based on a person’s nationality or location, and so do we, but do not get me wrong.
We are doing something amazing where you can read real reviews based on your location and profile, so if hotel A is 9 stars out of 10 in other travel apps, you can find it 5 out of 10 for you inside our app because the experience you will get there is not good enough based on reviews from other travelers reviews sharing similar profiles (age, language, and location).
We hate that, and we are here to stop it with our innovation; we call it (Personalized Reviews).
Offering hotels and activities with Bitcoin as a payment method.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Shehab Ahmed: We managed to build our tech product and increase our team members during COVID-19, and we applied a strong work-from-home system, but we all miss working from the office and meeting face to face, and the most obvious effect is the drop in sales by more than 90%, but we also need time to work more on our product to develop it and improve the features so taking a break due to COVID-19 was not very negative in all ways.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Shehab Ahmed: I had to choose between letting most of my team go to avoid paying them salaries during the crisis or sell my assets to keep my team and work on something innovative, and I chose the second choice, which made me win the respect of my team and their loyalty.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Shehab Ahmed: We are currently using many tools, and most of them are free for startups, and others are giving us credit to navigate and grow like Slack, IBM Cloud (Startup program), and Google Cloud for Startups (Startup Program)
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Shehab Ahmed: We are competing with Hotels, Booking, and TripAdvisor in our local market, and we are currently in second place. We plan to expand and control a bigger share of our MENA region market by offering (Stay now pay later) thanks to our partnerships with local banks and installments apps with 0% interest.
Our app social features will also be introduced for the first time this year, where travelers can directly complain and contact and comment on providers’ profiles.
Your final thoughts?
Shehab Ahmed: My final thoughts are after the spread of the COVID-19 vaccine, the travel industry will be trending, and it will be bigger than ever before, and I would like to share my positive view to my fellow founders around the world, keep working it is not the end of the world, what does not kill you makes you stronger, and your startups will grow and believe in your team
We are currently invited to join the 500 Startups Program, and we previously participated in Startup Reactor by Cultiv and VC4A.