Flee is the brainchild of co-founders Byron Hawes and Zeïna Belouizdad, two wanderlusting globetrotters looking to reinvigorate the travel booking experience.
As one of the lucky startups chosen to incubate with the JOLT Accelerator at MaRS, the program has afforded the young company co-working space, seed capital, ample resources and top notch advisors, such as the CEO of Expedia.ca.
While Zeïna comes from a background in corporate communications within the finance and luxury lifestyle management spheres, Byron has written for the likes of Architectural Digest and Monocle Magazine and has also worked for the United Nations. Since the two met serendipitously in Beijing four years ago, their passion for travel and deep roots within the industry has led to their first venture within the tech space.
Elegantly designed and focused on the user experience, Flee is a fresh take on the travel booking process that aims to take the search and discovery process down from 21 days to 21 minutes.
To book a trip, users will simply enter in their essentials such as dates of travel and ideal budget. Then they can either enter in a target destination or opt for a curated Flee recommendation.
Why are the entrepreneurs going the curated vs. crowdsourced route? “For the moment—we’ll have the writers around the world maintaining the content,” Byron explained to Techvibes of their primary ethos of upholding quality standards. “We’re not sure that the wisdom of the crowd is the direction we want to go in. Sometimes [content] needs to be curated.”
By prioritizing quality over quantity, Flee offers members of its community relevant and tailored city recommendations alongside a number of guides that run the gamut from restaurants, galleries, bars, and even cemeteries and national parks, depending on where in the world you’re at.
While Flee’s initial roll out is primarily focused on city guide content, Zeïna also touches on more sophisticated plans for the site. By incorporating algorithms that draw data from platforms such as Facebook or Foursquare, Flee will be able to create a highly personalized experience by making recommendations based on individual user preferences.
“You really like music, so why don’t you go to Memphis, Tennessee?’” Zeïna says, throwing out a typical suggestion Flee would make within the personalized travel booking experience. “It’s a hub for music and we’ll show you what to do and where to go. And guess what? Next week it’s in your budget.’”
With an initial focus on the North American market, Byron and Zeïna plan on taking full advantage of Europe’s love for weekend getaways and will have guides and recommendations ready for that continent by the end of year.
Flee will launch in Beta in the coming weeks.