Our interview with Women.com
Counting down to our app launch in London on 10th August, Ashley Locke from Women.com had an interview with us which covers some behind the scenes thinking and actions. Here it is:
"Travelling is all fun and games... until you decide to plan a solo trip.
While it's liberating and exhilarating venturing out into the great big world on your own, realizing you are in charge of every little aspect of your excursion can be a lot to take on. Not to mention the frightening aspect of knowing you'll be all on your own in an unexplored region of the globe—gulp.
Before you enter full-on panic mode, we've got something that'll calm your solo-traveling nerves.
Enter Solocal—an app designed exclusively for female travelers that enables spontaneous connections and experiences during their trips.
We chatted with the apps founder and CEO, Joly Zou, about how Solocal came the be, the design process of the app, and everything in between. Keep scrolling to read what she had to share!" - Ashley Locke
Women.com: What's the meaning behind the name Solocal?
Joly Zou: Solocal is a combination of 'solo' and 'local.' It's about travelling solo while enjoying the local experience.
WDC: How did the idea for Solocal come about?
JZ: The idea of building something for solo female travelers came from my own experience: When I quit my corporate job and went traveling in South East Asia by myself.
If you have traveled alone, I’m sure you’d agree that it's a very different experience from traveling with others. During my trip, I had more opportunities to meet people, to experience local lives, and to be with myself. It was more real and just felt free. It was a very empowering experience. Nowadays, I make sure that I take one trip by myself every three months. I believe that everyone should do it, at least once.
But during my solo trips, I also felt that despite the tons of travel services out there, few suited my needs as a woman alone on the road. That's why I wanted to create something to make solo travel easier and better, and encourage more women to have the amazing experience of traveling and exploring by themselves.
WDC: What are some key features to know about the app?
JZ: When launched, our core features will be 'Meet' and 'Things to Do.' Meet allows users to browse and arrange meetings with other users. Things to Do enables them to discover meet ups, events, and activities nearby—which are hand-picked for women, like local food taster dinner, rooftop yoga, market visits, etc. We also partnered with local businesses to offer exclusive deals to our members.
What’s special about our app is that it will focus on spontaneous experiences. For example, if you're a woman traveling in London and have free time tomorrow evening, you may want to find someone for dinner or something fun to do, our app will make that easy for you.
WDC: What do you hope users take away from using Solocal?
JZ: During our design process, we spoke to many solo female travelers. We know the key drivers for them choosing to travel solo are freedom and independence, and what they really enjoy is the flexibility and the spontaneity of solo traveling. Our goal is bringing more freedom to their trips by making it safer, easier, and better.
In today’s digital world, we spend enough time on our gadgets. Even when we travel, many spend too much time chatting, planning, and researching online. By using Solocal, we hope our users will do more things in real life, meet more people (both travelers and locals), and explore more things, so they can have a more in-depth travel experience.
WDC: Why do you think it'll benefit solo female travelers?
JZ: By providing them with a supporting network of individuals and local businesses, we will enable solo female travelers to have a better and richer experience; and for those who are new to this, we will help them build more confidence in going in alone.
WDC: What was the design process like?
JZ: Despite many years of experience working in global companies, I felt like a newborn baby when I jumped into the startup world. In the corporate world, I had the luxury of having a product, a team, and a budget. In the real world, I had to start with nothing.
To create something of value and minimize risks, we took the lean approach: Rather than starting with the solution, we started with the audience to identify the key problems and needs. We have built a community in London with over 1,000 members, many of whom helped us through the design process: From talking through their own experiences to testing different solutions. We have many ideas and received lots of feedback, but we currently stripped the app down to the core features before expanding our services.
The design process is never-ending and we will stay close to our users to deliver what they need.
WDC: When can we expect the app to be available for everyone?
JZ: We have already tested the app in Beta and would like to thank everyone who participated in it.
The iOS version will be launched in London within two weeks to those who travel to or live in London. We have plans to release the Android version and also make it available to other cities that attracts solo travelers, like Paris, Barcelona, New York, Singapore, and Sydney.
We're still an early stage startup, every usage of the app will help us to improve and better serve our audience. We’d appreciate feedback from all users and would like to thank everyone who will download and use it in advance.
WDC: What's your favorite part about working for Solocal?
JZ: The people! So many offered their help without asking for anything in return: women travelers, mentors, advisors, entrepreneurs. Everyone I met was open, helpful, and inspiring. They so kindly shared their experiences, advises, skills with us without any reservation. I have learned a lot from them and made some very good friends.
And of course, the team: Andrii, Ben, and Beth are absolutely brilliant. Having them believing in the vision and putting all of their time and effort into it is one of the greatest motivations for me.