A gap in the market for new kind of travel guide

1 November 2011

Sally Broom learned the hard way that it helps to have friends in far-flung places. Returning to UCL after a gap year, she put into motion her idea for a travel website that would link up travellers with trusted locals.

A Business Enterpreneurship course led her to the London Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, which in turn helped her to launch of what is now Tripbod. The company has helped hundreds of travellers – not to mention brought benefits to local communities – in dozens of destinations. Sally now mentors others who want to embark on their own (ad)ventures.

Travel can be a mixed blessing, as UCL graduate Sally Broom discovered on a gap year in South East Asia in 2007. Her desire to get off the beaten track and discover the heart of a place had been a success in Thailand, but had led to an unpleasant experience with border guards in Cambodia. The difference, she realised, was the ‘insider knowledge’ gained by having good contacts in Bangkok - and the idea for Tripbod.com, which links curious travellers with trusted locals who can advise them on their journey, was born.

But when Sally returned to UCL to complete her degree, she still intended to pursue a career in law. Then she enrolled on a Business Entrepreneurship course, run by Professor Philip Treleavan, who encouraged her to register for UCL Advances’ London Entrepreneurs’ Challenge. “Sally was different from many other students in that she had a practical, workable concept,” says Philip. “She was also determined and enthusiastic. UCL Advances gave her the support to turn a good idea into a high profit-margin business, one that not only helps Brits abroad but also benefits local communities in more than 50 countries.”

After three months of workshops on topics ranging from assessing an idea to securing funding to maintaining intellectual property rights, Sally launched YourSafePlanet.com, aimed at gap-year students and volunteers. Largely due to queries from a wider range of potential travellers, YourSafePlanet then became Tripbod, which has since linked hundreds of travellers with locals (‘tripbods’) in destinations ranging from Russia to Rwanda. In late 2009 Tripbod was named best new travel website by the Times.

Back home in Cumbria, Sally has continued her relationship with UCL Advances. “We want to increase the number of full-time employees (currently two) and investors (also two), with UCL’s help. We need specialised help in building a better technical platform and we hope that this might come from the ranks of UCL’s computer science graduates.” She is pleased now to be in a position to provide UCL graduates with internships as well as act as a mentor to others wanting to start a business