Travis Sherry, Extra Pack of Peanuts

Founded by Milepoint, Launchpoint is the first and only funding competition led by frequent flyers for small startups focused on providing tools, services and apps designed for road warriors/frequent flyers. BoardingArea blogger Travis Sherry of Extra Pack of Peanuts won first place at the Launchpoint competition at the Frequent Traveler University event in Tampa. He will move on to the final round of voting next year and will compete against the four finalists to win $50,000 in cash and prizes.

InsideFlyer

What is the business idea you have that won first place at the Launchpoint competition?

Travis Sherry

The product is a mobile app called Bolt. It’s a crowd-sourced app for rating and finding wireless Internet no matter where you are. Right now there’s an app called Wi-Fi Finder that will show you all the WiFi hotspots around you, but there’s no way to tell whether they are good or bad.

IF

How did you come up with the idea?

Sherry

There’s been hundreds of times when I’ve needed to find WiFi. I’ve either used the Wi-Fi Finder app or simply walked around town looking for places that say they have WiFi. And I go in, and the WiFi either doesn’t work, or they don’t really have it or it’s super slow or kicks you off. I’ve wasted hours and hours of my life trying to find WiFi. When you’re out traveling, you want to be out exploring, not spending half a day trying to find WiFi to do two or three hours worth of work. The idea was born out of my own frustration of not being able to consistently find good WiFi. I figured why not put something together where you can easily sign on and find and rate good WiFi. Kind of how Yelp works for restaurants, but with WiFi instead.

IF

If you won the Launchpoint competition, how would you use the money?

Sherry

I have a developer who has been waiting to work on this with me and we’ve talked about what it would cost and what functions we can put in and how it would work. That would be the first chunk of money, actually developing a version that people could download on their phone, a beta version for people who I know in the travel community. We’d obviously have to work with a marketing company, especially one that specializes in crowd-sourcing and get some of their people out on the ground rating the WiFi because the app can look pretty but if there aren’t reviews, it’s not going to be useful to anyone. So the first part would be actually developing the app in a beta form and then getting that out to a small number of people to start using it. We would then work out all the kinks and launch the 2.0 version of the app to the public.

IF

Why do you think your idea won out over the others?

Sherry

I think a lot of people have experienced the same frustration I have. Most people at FTU travel and a lot of them have to use wireless Internet when they are traveling. And a lot of them need to use the Internet to answer emails and they need a strong signal to log on for work. Another reason is because it’s simple. I think it was easy for people to understand and it also has a ton of usefulness for people, especially for our niche of travelers, because those are the people who are always going to need to find WiFi when they get to new places.

IF

What kind of feedback did you get from FTU attendees?

Sherry

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Tons of people came up to ask me when this was going to be built, they want to use it right now. People were very excited about it and I also got a lot of really good advice. I was asked if you can download something before you leave so that when you get to another country, you can look at it offline. This is something I’d already thought about and which is a major proponent of the app so that you don’t get to a new country and can’t use the app because you need Internet, which you’re obviously looking for at that point. So you can download it and have the information when you open the app offline. There were 500 really smart, intelligent travelers in that room and it was cool to have peo- ple thinking and brainstorming. Hearing people talk about the app validated my idea that there is a market out there that I thought existed but now I know it exists because of the overwhelmingly posi- tive response at FTU.

IF

When did you first get interested in miles and points?

Sherry

I didn’t know a single thing about miles or points three years ago. I was living in Japan and I just wanted to travel more and I didn’t have a ton of money. I stumbled across something about frequent flyer miles and I went to FlyerTalk and didn’t understand a word for the first four months, it was like learning a new language. It took me seven or eight months to figure out what was going on so I decided to write my blog in a language that could be understood by someone who is new to make it easier for people to get into the game. I try to be a gateway for the 95 percent of people who don’t know about frequent flyer miles to make it easier and understandable for them. I do a podcast and videos because I think there are a lot of ways that people learn and I’m trying to hit those ways that are underserved by other blogs and forums.

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