Four online businesses I admire

Day 9: Whose online business do you admire most and why?

The question ‘whose’ encouraged me to think about personality-led online businesses and the first person that sprang to mind was Marianne Cantwell and her ‘Free Range Humans’ brand. Although the concepts she introduces through her blog and her book ‘Be a Free Range Human’ were not new to me (i.e. build a business based on your passion and the kind of lifestyle you want to lead), there are a few things I particularly like about the business:

  • Marianne’s personality really comes across in her writing. She comes across as friendly, witty and bold and you feel like you’re getting to know her, which makes you feel more connected to the brand
  • She sits nicely between the ‘get rich quick’ end of the market and the bootstrapping market: she gives you confidence that it’s possible (though not necessarily) easy to make a good living as a location independent, without promising you riches.
  • She acknowledges that the ‘free range life’ is not for everyone and never gives the impression that she feels that her lifestyle is in anyway superior to anyone else’s.

It was Chris Guillebeau of ‘The Art of Non-conformity’ who first introduced me to the concept of ‘location independence’ and for that in itself I thank him. What I like about his blog and his business is:

  • He sets audacious goals for himself and encourages you to do the same. I thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through his quest (now complete) to visit every country in the world by his 35th birthday.
  • He believes in ‘giving back’, but doesn’t shove this down your throat.
  • He gives away a lot of value for free.
  • Through his blog, books and the ‘World Domination Summit’ he’s created a movement and a way for location independent entrepreneurs and other adventurers to meet and share ideas once a year. I’d really love to go, but haven’t bought my ticket yet. Are you going?

However, while I admire these ‘mediapreneurs’ and many others besides, I don’t see myself leading a personality-led business, at least not in the first instance.

There are a number of online businesses I admire, though don’t necessarily seek to emulate, such as Amazon. Debates about UK tax contributions aside, Amazon was one of the first brands to understand the power of peer reviews and user-generated content. The functionality we now take for granted such as online tracking of your package, tailored suggestions based on previous purchases, the wish list and so on really set the model for e-commerce sites.

TripAdvisor v Hostelworld

Being an avid traveller, I’m also a big fan of ‘TripAdvisor’ – I almost always check the reviews for my holiday accommodation. This is another site that encouraged the trend towards peer reviews, rather than ‘expert’ reviewers. One thing I find particularly useful is the ability to search reviews by ‘type’ of traveller i.e. solo traveller, couple, family etc. I usually travel solo, so check out the solo traveller reviews.

One thing I find strange, though, is that solo travellers on Trip Advisor generally don’t comment on the sociability of the accommodation. Although I’m generally comfortable with spending a couple of days alone, it’s often the people I meet that really make the trip. Of course there are other ways to meet people, such as on day tours, public transport or in bars, but striking up a conversation with a fellow traveller in the hostel or hotel bar or communal area is generally easier.

This is why I also use Hostelworld as their reviewers generally do comment on sociability. Somewhere between Hostelworld and TripAdvisor I’ll try to work out a good balance where I can get a comfortable private room with ensuite bathroom and a communal space where I can meet other travellers. I’m generally getting better at it, but it can still be a bit hit and miss. Surely there has to be an easier way for us solo flashpackers to find great accommodation and people to hang out with? I’d like to create an online business that will help us do just that.

What about you? How do you find good accommodation when you’re travelling and what factors do you consider when making your choice?


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