Amman-based Friendture has raised $175,000 in equity-free funding to build a Slack for travelers. Most of the funding was secured when Friendture won Qatar’s Challenge 22. And some came from EU funded project Shamal Start and USAID LENS, and Zain Jordan. Friendture is currently in final talks with an investor to raise another $75,000 to take the round to $250,000.
Founded in September 2016 by Rola Fayyad, Friendture makes it easy for group travelers to plan and organize their trips through its mobile apps for Android & iOS. The apps allow users to plan and create events and engage with the attendees through a chat system and photo sharing. Users can also browse through the available experiences (a term Friendture uses for events on their platform) on the app and learn details or join any of them if they like. But this is just the start as Friendture has plans to introduce a lot of new features in their next big release that’s expected to come out in Q3 this year.
The startup will offer group travelers a completely seamless traveling experience by introducing features like split the bill, currency converter, local information, weather updates, suggested itineraries and more.
The new release of apps will also feature a marketplace where people will be able to buy local experiences at affordable prices, without having the need to leave the applications.
Rola, who has more than ten years of experience of working in the travel industry started Friendture when she realized that even plannig a simple event with friends requires a lot of efforts and switiching between different apps an WhatsApp groups. She saw an opportunity here
“Friendture started in 2016 as a group activity planner and experience aggregator, when I had a lot of trouble finding what was happening in town and creating group activities with my friends. I am not a fan of multiple Whatsapp groups to plan weekend getaways, so I thought about creating a solution myself,” Rola told MENAbytes.
Even though she is the founding member of Girls in Tech’s Jordan Chapter and has better understanding of technology than an average non-tech founder, Rola had hard time finding relevant technical resources to build Friendture.
“The lack of software engineers killed us, we lost a lot of time finding resources and I had to revamp Friendture three times due to the poor resources, and that was very stressful. For our new version of Friendture, we are very careful building the human resources and have a consultant on-board with me to ensure efficiency and productivity of the team,” she explained, speaking to MENAbytes.
But that wasn’t her only challege. Friendture had first raised a pre-seed investment of $50,000 from Oasis 500 but after they ran out of money, Rola could not find another investor. There was almost no interested from regional investors in a social app.
“In July 2017, I wanted to close Friendture, after running out of my investment and savings. I spent some nights cyring, thinking it’s over and trying to find solutions. My team then offered to work for free, which for me, was more important than investment, because it took me four years to find these like-minded people who believed in what Friendture was doing.” she told us.
Speaking about how Friendture is different from existing apps like Eventbrite, Meetup or even Facebook events, Rola exaplined: “Think Slack, how organized and efficient is it for work, what if we had the same for group travelers. The toughest type of travel segments is groups, and we will offer them proprietary features, to streamline the planning and engagement, covering the tiniest to biggest barriers they face.”
“Instead of spending tens of hours in mundane research prior to traveling, you can download Friendture once you land, and discover the country, and what’s great, is we match itineraries and experiences based on your behavior and even included speech recognition for disabled travelers. This is our differentiator, we focus on niche and not mass, and we are personalized to tackle daily travelers issues instead of only offering experiences.” she added.
Friendture that is currently available almost all over MENA will use the investment on increasing their technical workforce that will help them build the next version of apps, and their marketing efforts.
The startup will be joining the Qatar Science & Technolgoy Park’s twelve-month incubation program later this year. Rola, the founder was also selected for the U.S Department of State’s two-week professional exchange program IVLP (International Visitor Leadship Program).