Startup Q&A - Jack and Ferdi Makes 'Bleisure' A Part of Your Next Business Trip
Whether it’s going to the West Coast to attend a conference or going across the state to speak with investors, business traveling is a common occurrence in the startup world. If you’re traveling to a city you’ve never been to, chances are you’ll want to see certain sights or grab a bite to eat at the local restaurants.
Jack and Ferdi is a mobile app that is looking to showcase various leisure spots in a certain city while you are on your business trip. The company is promoting this as bleisure, the combination of business and leisure.
We spoke with Jack and Ferdi’s founding team, Anne-Fleur Andrle and Romain Aubanel, on how they are making bleisure a more regular part of the business traveling routine. On top of sharing with us how the app is offering unique experiences for travelers, they also described how they came up with their rather creative name.
Colin Barry (CB): I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins behind Jack and Ferdi?
Anne-Fleur Andrle (AFA): Jack and Ferdi’s ambition is to transform the business travel experience.
Our origin story is very much related to our personal experiences. I have traveled extensively for business for the past six years. As a matter of fact, as part of my last job, I flew more than 80,000 miles in two years. This represents roughly three trips around the globe. My business travel schedule had such intensity that I was pretty much a zombie, going from my house to the airport, not even knowing where I was flying to most of the time. The fatigue and lack of exercise ended up having a serious impact on my health and despite my deep fascination for cultural exploration and travel, I started hating it. Because there was no alternative to business travel for me at that point in my career, we decided to take action to change the whole experience. Romain and I developed a methodology that would allow us to quickly identify things to see, taste and bring back from our trips. These things would take place after our work day and they would be truly authentic to the place we were visiting (i.e. as far from the airport shop as possible!). This process allowed us to experience each place’s unique culture and to “take home” that experience. That’s how we got started.
Romain Aubanel (RA): The idea also came from the feeling of waste we felt at the end of one of our “old style” trips. These business trips were a huge waste of energy, miles and family time. Business travel could be an opportunity to encounter different cultures and more. I needed a tool to help me do business while learning about the culture. I wanted to use my travel time wisely.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of Jack and Ferdi?
RA: Business travel has to become sustainable for all. We want to help travelers uncover the cultural heritage of local communities while enabling them to have a positive impact on themselves, their families, and the communities they visit.
The Jack and Ferdi mission is to make business travel healthier, keep it rooted in authentic culture, and have it be more socially responsible.
CB: Explain what your company does. How does the app work?
AFA: Jack and Ferdi is the first-ever bleisure mobile app. It offers 3 main experiences for the well-rounded business traveler: explore, feel good, and work. In the “explore” section, we highlight truly authentic and local experiences in the form of five recommendations of uniques places to see, typical dishes or drinks to discover, authentic souvenirs to bring back home, and iconic views of the cities to enjoy. In the “feel good” universe, we curate local playlists and walk/jog itineraries through iconic routes of the city. Finally, in the “work” section, we provide you with everything you need to conduct a successful business trip. We offer cultural business etiquette (do’s and don’ts), suggest work and meeting spaces (from singular coffee shops to exciting coworking spaces), and share fun facts about the city. All of our suggestions are truly authentic and vetted by a global network of ambassadors. We have 80 cities, covering all continents. Our users are able to fill out preferences and provide feedback on our suggestions. Our algorithm gets smarter with each use and tailors suggestions to the needs, constraints, and personality of each traveler.
CB: Did Jack and Ferdi have a different focus before switching to its “bleisure” model? If so, why change?
AFA: The original concept was to generate authentic information quickly for travelers. While we had the business traveler in mind, because of our personal experiences, we originally thought the concept would also apply to families, couples and groups of friends. While I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from becoming an authenticity-seeker, this space is very crowded. Bleisure is a fairly new concept (in fact, many people think we came up with the term… we did not!) and even though some people have been living it for decades, its adoption has been on a sharp rise for the past 2 years. Did you know that 60% of business trips in the US included a bleisure component? So the shift happened fairly naturally at Jack and Ferdi, we follow the market needs and rather than change, we focused on where our expertise was needed most.
CB: Who is the target market of the Jack and Ferdi app? Are there any use cases that stand out to you?
AFA: Our target market is business travelers, with a twist. As millennials are reaching management positions, they are also redefining the rules of business travel. Roughly a third of our parents’ generation enjoy traveling for work, but more than half of millennials say they love business travel. But they have a few conditions… including being able to bleisure. Companies are incorporating bleisure in their business travel policies to ease employee acquisition and retention. So our target market includes millennial business travelers as well as organizations wishing to attract and retain the latter.
CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
AFA: There are 9 awesome individuals working on the bleisure revolution at Jack and Ferdi. Four are local (Zoe, Richard and the two of us) and the focus is on marketing and data generation. Elodie is in London and focuses on UX/UI. Caroline is in Saint Martin (French West Indies) and is our chief editor. Guillaume, Sabri, and Joachim are our 3 developers from the UTT school of engineering based in Troyes (France). Finally, we are immensely lucky to have a community of 200+ local ambassadors, proud of their city who work alongside our team to vet the data. We are always looking for more!
Our next wave of hiring will be local. We will be looking for technical staff to join us for both front and back-end development (mobile and web).
CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?
AFA: We did! Our first showcase was last Fall at SheDemos at WeWork South Station. It was pretty brick and mortar as our first prototype was pretty much still warm and five days old. We received amazing feedback, which really helped us grow as a company. We also participated in SheConnects at CIC Cambridge, where we both demoed and pitched our new app back in March of this year. We recently participated at MASS TLC’s TechJam and gave a ton of demos. This event was incredible for us. Outside of Boston, we were finalists in the FrenchTechCup in Paris. We made it to the final rounds of the pitch contest and lost to another great app that was already launched on the market. Last month, we participated at Mass Innovation Nights #112. We were selected by the audience as the Grand Prize Winners. It was a fantastic event!
CB: Jack and Ferdi recently wrapped up a crowdfunding campaign on the iFundWomen platform. How was that experience for the company?
AFA: Crowdfunding was an intense but insanely rewarding experience! I am very proud to report we met our crowdfunding goal in just two weeks—and surpassed our goal by the end of the campaign. We chose to put our campaign up on iFundWomen because of their mission to support the female economy. I joined the iFundWomen accelerator and that was helpful to hone our pitch and learn about best practices for conducting a successful campaign.
Every dollar raised was a huge win. I was absolutely blown away by the support of our community: from random strangers to old classmates, including our friends and families. Beyond the dollar amount, receiving their notes and cheers has been incredibly uplifting for the entire team and is very contagious. This added to our drive.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Jack and Ferdi get its name?
AFA: Our name Jack and Ferdi symbolizes the necessary balance for a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle. Jack is a successful trader, always working and traveling for business. He is devoted to his work and mainly driven by performance and efficiency. Ferdi is an adventurous traveler and backpacker, lover of all things authentic. Our name, Jack and Ferdi is the definition of the bleisure mindset and lifestyle. The meeting point of those two travelers, a bridge between business and leisure, between work life and authentic travel.
CB: If the team could decide on their ideal “bleisure” spot, what would be and why?
AFA: I don’t know if we can all agree to go to the same place! What’s truly amazing though is that through our methodology and research, I know I want to go back to cities where traveling used to feel like a punishment from my employer - like Minneapolis, MN or Cleveland, OH. These cities have a lot of history and fascinating culture, from the immigration influence on local cuisine to music and architecture.
RA: Lower East Side, Manhattan! The neighborhood of immigration in Manhattan, a vibrant art scene, close to lower Manhattan. Number of genuine food joints. Lots of cool spots to be inspired and work.
Images courtesy of Jack and Ferdi