Solve a Pain: The startup cliche, “are you a vitamin or a painkiller?” is very true. In order to build a travel experience that brings people back, you must be the latter. One of our repeat adventurers Simon exemplifies this- he’s booked fishing trips through Captain to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, and Alaska. When we asked why he keeps coming back, Simon said, “Because I was sick of just showing up and hoping. You guys solve a pain that I need taken care of.”
As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Newar.
Jonathan Newar is the Co-Founder & CEO of Austin-based Captain Experiences, a platform unlocking the outdoors.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but when the idea for Captain hit me based on my own personal need, I dove in headfirst. Fishing and outdoor sports have always been a major passion of mine, and once mentors and advisors said, “you’d be stupid not to pursue this”, the rest was history. I got out of the office and out on the water and never looked back.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story that’s happened to me since I started my career has to be our recent trip to Africa. My co-founder and I took a two week long trip to Tanzania, Africa, partnering with sponsors like Mossy Oak, Waypoint TV, and others to feature our guide Dom and his bucket list safari fishing trips.
We were chased by crocs, caught the Ruaha National Park record tiger fish, and encountered hundreds of rare wildlife species on safari, but came away most thankful for the friends we made in the park rangers and conservation advocates we met.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake was assuming that “if you build it, they will come”. I think we booked 1 trip in our first month when we launched in March of 2020…
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’d like to thank my co-founder Attison for making all of this possible. We met through mutual friends here in Austin. Attison was previously a Product Insights Manager at a global staffing platform here in Austin and started moonlighting on Captain after we met through mutual friends. He showed me all of these insights on user activity and started making major improvements to the site. I knew I had to somehow convince him to jump in on Captain, and at that same time, he reached out for the co-founder talk. The rest is history, and we’re just getting started.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Our goal at Captain is to unlock the outdoors by making it quick and easy to book the trip of a lifetime every time. We do so through our “Search It, Book It, Live It” process- you can filter our trips at captainexperiences.com based on location, group size, target species, price and more, flip through current photos, and book real-time availability with quality, vetted guides. Leading up to your trip, we email and text you a QR code, your guide scans your QR code, payment transfers automatically, and you’re all set to go fishing! No early morning ATM withdrawals to cross town with cash. Captain makes booking the best outdoor sports guides in the world quick and easy.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
The pain point Captain solves is that booking outdoor sports guides is broken and archaic. Booking guides is time-consuming, unpredictable, frustrating, inconvenient, and all too often disappointing. Captain solves all of these issues with a quick and easy booking platform, quality, vetted guides, and expert support.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
One of the many changes caused by COVID-19 was the unprecedented increase in outdoor participation. More and more people around the world put their phones down, shut their screens, and reconnected with the outdoors. In the aftermath of COVID, as people return to their routines, that passion for the outdoors remains, but time constraints resurface. Captain bridges the two, making it possible to get outdoors in no time. And when you’re out there, you’re time counts- you’re immediately stepping on board with a quality guide that puts you right on the fish for your half-day trip.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
For me, the perfect vacation experience looks a lot like our recent trip to Africa. We booked the trip with our guide Dom, and we’re all set from there. For two weeks, Dom perfectly managed lodging, meals, transportation (by land, air, and sea) and everything in between as we traversed Tanzania fishing inland for tiger fish, offshore for dogtooth tuna, and in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro for rainbow trout. It was the perfect vacation experience thanks to an amazing guide and the once in a lifetime experiences we lived through.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
Couldn’t agree more. What we love about outdoor sports is that they sit at the intersection of connecting with nature, connecting with friends and family, connecting with places, and doing all of this through connecting experiences. Outdoor sports are a wellness activity, and many participate to clear their minds and reground themselves. In addition, we’re always encouraging guided trips because our guides are leaders in conservation and are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Solve a Pain: The startup cliche, “are you a vitamin or a painkiller?” is very true. In order to build a travel experience that brings people back, you must be the latter. One of our repeat adventurers Simon exemplifies this- he’s booked fishing trips through Captain to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, and Alaska. When we asked why he keeps coming back, Simon said, “Because I was sick of just showing up and hoping. You guys solve a pain that I need taken care of.”
2. Quick and Easy: There’s a reason I keep mentioning these two words and it’s because they’re responsible for our success. We like to say “Less Clicks, More Casts” in that our goal is for Captain to unlock the outdoors. It’s not about us, our team, our brand, or our website- it’s about getting people outdoors in the quickest and easiest way possible.
3. Quality, Vetted Guides: Unlike other online platforms, at Captain Experiences, we only partner with quality, vetted guides. Our Guide Success personally speaks with and vets every Captain Experiences guide before any listings go live. Our guides must send current and complete license and insurance info in order to partner with us. Our vetting process seems to be working with a 4.94 / 5 average review score after booking thousands of trips.
4. Service: A quick and easy site and quality guides are great, but expert, attentive service really is the icing on top. Our team of outdoor experts know our guides on a first-name basis and look forward to helping you find the perfect trip. That often means different things to different people, and can even mean different things to the same person depending on occasion. Our team internalizes this and goes the extra mile to get group out there for the trip of a lifetime every time.
5. Founder-Market Fit: I think the true reason for our success is due to founder-market fit. I honestly don’t think there are any founders in the history of the world that have loved what they’re doing more than we do. If we’re not working on Captain, we’re fishing with our guides. This allows us to build a team with the same passion, which comes through to our adventurers via our booking experience. Our guides always say they get more joy from watching clients catch fish than catching fish themselves, and the same goes for our team in successfully connecting adventurers and guides.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This past year, our homewaters on the Texas coast experienced a massive fish kill due to sustained below-freezing temperatures. We acted fast and pledged 5% of profits from all 2021 Texas inshore fishing trips to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation to support conservation efforts like their hatcheries programs to revitalize speckled trout and redfish populations. We’re proud to do our small part in helping our local ecosystem rebound, and look forward to supporting similar projects as we grow and expand across more geographies.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement, I’d encourage everyone to work in what they’re passionate about. It’s a very special feeling to believe in what you’re doing and feel that you’re making a difference.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/captainexperiences
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/captainexperiences/?hl=en
Twitter — https://mobile.twitter.com/cptnexperiences
LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/company/captain-experiences
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!