Society 3.0 had the opportunity to interview Toby Gunston, founder of Travel Buddies. His main work background is in Web Design and IT. He is a graduate in Krav Maga, has a PADI Advanced certification in Scuba Diving, and was lucky enough to travel the world twice. Gunston visited around 30 countries and spent 3 years growing up in Cyprus. He is passionate about travel; in particular, different cultures along with anything that involves exploring and pushing yourself to the limit.
Society 3.0: How did you come up with the idea for Travel Buddies?
Toby Gunston: Having [travelled] around the world twice I always found people complaining about the inability to find a travel partner. [When I became] a qualified diver, I found it extremely difficult to find a dive buddy for scuba diving holidays, even with all of my qualified friends. In the end, it came down to just going on holiday and hoping there would be someone to dive with. I decided to set up Travel Buddies from my bedroom and see if I could help connect all those travellers with a free service such as Travel Buddies.
What is the main reason for the success of Travel Buddies?
Most likely because it’s a free service that anyone can use. In the first week of setting it up visitor numbers rose more than 800% in seven days, with the average time on the site at over ten minutes. Users continue to range from everyday people looking to get out on a bike ride and meet new people to twenty somethings from New Zealand wanting to go backpacking across the world with fellow travellers to charity workers in Africa looking to make friends away from home.
What would you advise people who might be too scared to travel alone but might also be too ‘scared’ to use Travel Buddies?
At Travel Buddies we manually check every profile as it gets created, [so] nobody can join the site without adding a photo that clearly shows their face. This makes it safe in the sense that you can match the person you meet in a public place to the person you met online. We also offer an internal, private communication system so people can communicate without handing over their personal contact details. Members can also report any people or posts that violate our code of ethics when using the site.
Which city/country is your absolute favourite and why?
Probably New Zealand. I’ve travelled both Islands twice now, there’s such a huge amount to do in such a breathtakingly beautiful country.
Do you have some useful tips/advice for other entrepreneurs who think of starting their own business?
Go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!