Last summer, a friend and I flew down to Colombia for a 2 week adventure. We left Hartsfield Jackson with no real contacts or plans, other than a name and number of a local tour guide in Medellín. The three days we spent with Andrés in the coffee laden mountains of Antioquia were without a doubt the best of the trip. This local entrepreneur gave a couple of gringos an authentic paisa experience that simply couldn’t be found on Lonely Planet. Looking back, I wish I could’ve met an Andrés on all of my travels. In emerging economies, the problem is that most of those whose livelihood depends on tourism can’t be found online. Until now. Atlanta-based Vayando is the first global platform that directly connects travelers with off-the-grid entrepreneurs. They will be presenting at Burning Plan on May 6th and are currently crowdfunding their project on GoFundMe. We recently spoke with one of Vayando’s co-founders to learn more.
Founded by Jason Seagle (CEO), Scott Wilhelm (COO), and Joshua Wine (CFO), “Vayando is a for-profit social enterprise that puts micro-entrepreneurs on the tourism map,” explains Seagle. “Our mission is to create a marketplace of immersive experiences for travelers that unlock economic opportunity for micro-entrepreneurs in emerging economies around the world. We’re developing a travel landscape where millions of curious travelers book visits to connect directly with tens of thousands micro-entrepreneurs to learn about their livelihoods. We are currently piloting in Costa Rica and Rwanda, with a 100 country goal on the horizon.”
Coffee Farming with Don Pancho, San Pedro de Poas, Costa Rica
“Through our field partners such as the Peace Corps, Care International, and Rainforest Alliance, Vayando identifies motivated entrepreneurs, creates profiles for them, and promotes them on our website,” continues Seagle. “Travelers can browse through individual offerings and book experiences with these entrepreneurs. Experiences range from beekeeping in El Salvador, to working with a fashion designer in Kigali, Rwanda, to a skilled brass worker in Kenya. More and more, travelers are looking for locally unique and immersive experiences. In 2012, over 150 million international tourists visited Vayando’s targeted 100 countries. With two to three bookings per month, more marginalized entrepreneurs can double their monthly income.”
Combined, Vayando’s co-founders have over 2 decades of international experience ranging from the Peace Corps to the U.S. Coast Guard. Seagle was an advocate of basing their new venture in Georgia’s capital. “I was living and working in South Sudan when Vayando first started coming together,” recalls Seagle. “Having grown up here, I felt like Atlanta had a few more resources available for startups, vs. being out in the bush in South Sudan. During my time away, Atlanta developed a lot as a city and became much more internationally minded. I had been following along with the development of the startup community here and felt like the time was right to head back this way. It’s impressive with all of the new resource centers coming online and it’s been great to meet a lot of like minded folks, and tap into some leading figures in the city who want to see us succeed. I really feel like Vayando has something to offer Atlanta as a globally focused social enterprise.”
Woodworking with Irenee, Kigali, Rwanda
Vayando are currently seeking out a CTO. Contact them here and apply today. At the time of writing this article, Vayando had raised $1,125 of their $5,000 goal. Visit their GoFundMe page to make a contribution. If you’d like to hear their pitch at Burning Plan, be sure to RSVP here.
[Photo Credits: Vayando]