By Aleyda Rodríguez (translated from Spanish by David Rousseau)
Diego Saez-Gil, Wehostels: “My objective as an entrepreneur is to give back 10 times the amount I’ve received.”
Last week, we announced that Wehostels would be participating in Endeavor’s ISP. This week, we bring you two more headlines about the popular start-up, one of which was granted in exclusivity to PulsoSocial. First, the company has just opened its new offices in Bogotá, in the HubBog co-working spaces. Second, Lucas Lain has just joined the Wehostels team as the new CTO. I recently sat down with Diego Saez-Gil, co-founder and CEO of Wehostels, to discuss his experience as an Endeavor Entrepreneur and his involvement in the young start-up.
Diego Saez-Gil and his team at the Wehostels offices, in the HubBog.
Aleyda Rodríguez: You are an Endeavor Entrepreneur. What has this experience meant to you in terms of learning and personal growth?
Diego Saez-Gil: Yes, I was lucky enough to have been recently selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur. The whole process has turned out be an extremely enriching experience. Endeavor forces you to question every aspect of your business, from the macro all the way down to the micro. This introspective procedure is instrumental to any company’s growth. But more importantly, Endeavor puts you in touch with high-level people who give you their full attention and provide you with an invaluable service, analyzing your business, asking you questions, and offering you feedback. I was fortunate enough to receive feedback from people such as David Kidder, a serial entrepreneur in New York, Diego Piaccentini, VP of Amazon.com, as well as many other entrepreneurs and executives of the same caliber. You learn a great deal from such experienced people. I also like how Endeavor inspires you at a more personal level to be a better person and realize that your responsibility as an entrepreneur is much broader that you might think: a good entrepreneur is also one who generates a positive impact on society. I was amazed at how all these people with really busy schedules were so generous in giving up some of their precious time just to help entrepreneurs like me. Inspired by their generosity, I have decided to dedicate one hour of every day to other entrepreneurs. My goals is to give back 10 times what I’ve received.
Aleyda Rodríguez: What is the most ambitious goal you’ver ever undertaken in all your time at Wehostels?
Diego Saez Gil: Wehostels has only existed for a short period of time, so we are currently taking on quite a number of goals and challenges. One of our main goals is to develop the best possible products and adapt them to the actual needs and desires of our users. Another one of our top objectives is to capture and connect the market of travelers with that of hostels. We need to attract both markets simultaneously, and until we attain a critical mass, our service won’t be optimal. Finally, we have to deal head on with the challenge of competing with big-companies and swiping them of their market quotas. However, I am very confident in my team, and I know that together we will triumph over all of these obstacles.
Aleyda Rodríguez: How did this idea come about?
Diego Saez-Gil: A few years ago, I was lucky enough to move to Europe to complete my Master’s degree. Once there, I fully took advantage of my stay and backpacked all throughout the continent. During the course of my travels, I started to take notice of many business opportunities. As a traveler, I felt that backpacker community was being underserved by the Internet travel industry. The web’s technological advances, reflected for instance in the growth of social networks and in the increase of smart phones, were not being used to their full potential. I spent a lot of time researching the internet travel industry and discovered that the market opportunity there was very great. The idea behind our start-up continues to evolve but our passion for the internet travel industry remains the same.
Aleyda Rodríguez: What is the current number of actual users on Wehostels?
Diego Saez-Gil: We’d rather not release that information for now, but our number of users is growing every day, and we are very excited about the traction we’ve attained on all fronts.
Aleyda Rodríguez: Describe your experience at the Endeavor ISP.
Diego Saez-Gil: The ISP was amazing. I was in Canary Wharf, in London’s Financial District, where many investment banks and corporations have their HQs. The most valuable part of the whole experience was the feedback I received from the panelists reviewing my application. I was lucky enough to deal with heavyweights such as Nicolas Szekazy, of Kazek Ventures, Matt Harris of Bain Capital, as well as other impressive panelists. I also had the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs from around the world who were also attending the event. It was an incredible experience. I came back full of energy and enthusiasm for what tomorrow will bring.
Aleyda Rodríguez: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned working with Wehostels?
Diego Saez-Gil: There are thousands of things I’m still learning every day. In one of my more recent learning experiences, I was taught the importance of having a focus point: we entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas and we try to cover too many at a time when we really should be focusing on a few things we want to be good at. Another important lesson I learned is that having the right team is essential; everything else is secondary. In order to keep attracting the most talented people to our team, I want to make Wehostels the most appealing company there is to work for. We are actively trying to create a great work environment in our offices. Our employee benefits, for instance, are hard to match.
Aleyda Rodríguez: You succeeded at being selected at the Endeavor ISP. What’s next for Wehostels?
Diego Saez-Gil: First and foremost, it is with great pleasure that I announce the addition of a new and very important member to our team: Lucas Lain, a serial entrepreneur who has built a number of companies (one of them was acquired by Argentina’s Grupo Clarin) has come on board as CTO. His addition to our team couldn’t come at a better time. Lucas’s extensive experience in the development of cell phone technology will prove invaluable as we narrow our focus on mobile phones. Our co-founder and first CTO, Alex Torrenegra, is now our Technical Advisor.
We are also very excited about the launching of our first mobile app for the Iphone. We are very proud of our application and are confident that it is at least 10 times better than the competing applications out on the market, both in terms of design and user experience. We hope it will be available on the App store by the end of the month (We’ll keep you posted on this!).