Up close and personal with the startups that call North Texas home.
Featured Startup: CruiseBe, 211 N Ervay St #300, Dallas, TX 75201
Founders: Alex Shumaiev, CEO & Marina Shumaiev, CTO
What was the inspiration to start CruiseBe?
Alex Shumaiev:// I always wanted to start a company. I have never planned to be an “ordinary” employee. From the early years at my university, I had thoughts on how to start my own business. I can say that entrepreneurship became my hobby and eventually a way of life. I was lucky to meet a person who shared the same opinion about this style of life. It was my CTO, co-founder, and wife Marina. Besides entrepreneurship, we have another hobby – traveling. We have visited almost a quarter of the world`s countries and have planned all of these vacations by ourselves. One type of vacation that we are passionate about is cruising.
During one of our cruise vacations (our honeymoon), we were sitting on our balcony planning our next adventure and we could not find a convenient service to help us plan our next trip. We saw a lot of different travel websites but to plan even a simple cruise vacation, you have to look through at least 3-4 different travel websites. That is really hard work and takes a lot of time.
We realized that we could use our experience and skills to create something that could help others plan their cruise vacation in a new and simpler way. After our cruise ended, we had to put this idea on ice so to speak because we were working on another startup. In a year and a half however, we came back to our idea and were surprised that the problem still existed.
Herein the CruiseBe story began.
What is your background? First startup? Or serial entrepreneur?
Marina and I studied together at Kyiv National University in Ukraine, and while studying and taking an active part in student social life, we began dating. At our university, we were freelancers and created our web design studio. It was our first mutual project.
I am a marketer and travel blogger. My degrees include a Master of Economics and a Master of Laws.
Marina is a programmer and Ph.D. student in Computer Science. She also used to work with SAP.
We have been working together on different projects for six years, married for four years:).
Our very first startup was a social network for home workers. Because of a lack of resources and it being our graduation year, we had to freeze the project. Regardless, it was a big lesson about how to start and how to fail and our first glimpse into an entrepreneurial life.
Our second startup was a shopping guide for Ukrainian malls. This project was quite successful and gave us a lot of experience and enriched our professional skills. But it unfortunately took place during a time of stagnation in the Ukrainian retail industry. We had to keep working so we began to develop our travel startup.
The main cruise market is found in North America so we didn’t have any doubts on which country we should choose for our business.
What makes CruiseBe an innovative offering in the online travel space?
The cruise industry is the fastest-growing sector of the travel market. However, this fast growth is accompanied by all sorts of issues. Some of the problems include a lack of modern leisure-planning tools and onboard navigation technologies. Such technologies do not develop at the same speed as the industry itself. The industry is still stuck in the last century. The vast majority of tourists spend their time on planning the vacation beforehand. There really is no quick and easy way to plan your entire cruise vacation. Surfing the internet for hours to find the best attractions can make anyone exhausted.
All of these issues affect both the cruise companies and the cruise lovers.
CruiseBe decided that we can help with the cruise industry by providing fresh, innovative tools. We created an amazingly simple itinerary aggregator that, in just two clicks and in less than 30 seconds, proposes a day-by-day cruise schedule with articles from real travelers and a complete list of attractions and activities in each port of call and on the ship.
One more cool feature? Interactive deck plans with the ability to build routes on the ship, even offline.
Initially, we launched our products for the consumer market. However, we have also developed a solution that allows us to integrate our big-data and cruise planner tool into any cruise companies’ services, both web, and mobile.
What can we expect to see from CruiseBe over the next 24 months?
We plan to close our seed round. We will launch mobile apps for iOS (in several weeks) and Android (within a year).
We have a lot of ideas on how we can make our cruise itinerary aggregator even better than it is now. In 24 months, we expect a ton of happy users who will enjoy their cruise vacations thanks to CruiseBe’s planning and navigation tools.
We also plan to enter the B2B market with several of our products with a goal of securing several big business partners. And within a year, we will announce a very cool and convenient tool for travel agents.
You recently completed Startup School. What were your experiences?
We participated in a 10-week online program which included two video lectures each week and 1-2 office hours with our mentor and group. This school gave us new knowledge, not just from watching the videos, but also from conversations with other teams that were just as passionate as we were. It was useful to hear the experiences of other companies – how did they launch their company, what problems did they face, etc.
Even if you were not accepted to Startup School, you still have the ability to watch many of the same lectures on the Stanford University YouTube channel. We think that every entrepreneur, C-level officer or even those at the manager level should watch these lessons! These lectures motivate, inspire and stimulate.
Your thoughts on the Dallas startup scene?
We did not know a lot about Dallas before moving here. At first, we were unable to refer to Dallas as a “startup city” like San Francisco or even Austin. But we now feel that the Dallas’ startup culture and community is in the process of rapid formation. Comparing this year with the previous one, we see a lot of new conferences, events, and networking opportunities.
Within the next five years, we will absolutely see an amazing startup infrastructure system in Dallas. Dallas has everything to become a big startup hub for the US. The fact that companies come from all over the world to Dallas to start a business supports our thoughts.
Anything else our readers should know?
Some advice for fellow startup companies:
Don’t hesitate and just know that you can do everything if you want it! You should be ready for pivots and have the willingness to change. Make decisions quickly and understand that everything depends on you. You are an entrepreneur now!