What’s travel all about?
Travel is a lot of things to a lot of people. For one, travel is a gradual accumulation of the world inside you. Aspects of interfacing with humanity outside of one’s comfort zone come into play. Travel involves a convergence of histories – all that’s shaped you, invisibly coming into contact with the soil and history of somewhere new. It’s about wellness of mind and body, and it’s an opportunity to expand the soul through new friends and experiences.
chozun途赞 was made by two women from England and Australia who embody the spirit of travel. Both Zia Word and Teresa Truda’s backgrounds in technology and business, combined with their track records as impassioned travelers, has birthed an innovative startup that promises to assist young business professionals as they go abroad. The project was created from the mutual frustration the two shared trying to efficiently find relevant services and experiences on the road. Now, with seed capital from the SOSV, it’s being fueled by the excitement of helping others in the same situation.
Truda and Word have produced online essays, listicles and interviews on subjects ranging from the Venice Film Festival to Asian travel habits, behavioural science, culturally unique holiday traditions and the South By Southwest arts festival in Austin, Texas. This array of tastes for unique experiences, in tandem with an understanding of human needs, shows itself in the curation of services on the chozun途赞app, which links service providers with travelers. Some examples of chozun途赞’s partnered experience providers are spas in Singapore, restaurants and hotels, haircuts, shaves and fitness centers that can be matched to users using an intelligent, patented curation system. chozun途赞 offers services like interpreters and local guides, technical support and personal stylists, among others.
What’s worked for Teresa and Zia as travelers has translated well into the world of startups: being personable and original, having courage and optimism. Like travelers, entrepreneurs have “taken a large leap of faith”, says Truda. “[Their] minds work differently”.
Nicknamed ‘Mother Teresa’ for her problem-solving skills and philanthropic tendencies, Truda has been a champion of women’s rights through various public speaking avenues and self-made initiatives. In one instance, on a trip to Mexico, she caught wind of a potential supply-chain market for shipping Mexican-made shoes to Australia and selling them marked up. Following this, she donated the profits this business earned to a Mexican fund for women’s equality. Together, they’ve backed organizations like Education in Sight, a non-profit that raises money to buy eyeglasses for rural Chinese children. During her decade-long stint in marketing to global audiences, Truda has worked for major companies like Honda and Lindt, as well as in digital consultancy and e-commerce prior to chozun途赞. Today, she is driven by the excitement of helping people and being her own boss.
Zia ‘Word Up’ Word, who got that nickname in this sentence of this article, has pulled multiple major businesses into the digital age as well. During her work with Big Brother, BBC and major brands like Maybelline and Spencers, she’s raised buyers and viewership for some of her former companies as much as 30%! Part of the reason chozun途赞 is currently based in Shanghai stems from Word’s fascination with the Middle Kingdom, which began with a precocious chopstick fluency at age three.
One reason for moving to Shanghai is to localize their business – to be on ground zero as the Asian travel boom explodes. In addition to a timely investment by Chinaccelerator, one of Shanghai’s critical advantages, Word writes, is the fact “it’s a market emerging from the hangover of a much stricter communist regime”. Chinese are also the biggest spenders when it comes to global travel, dropping nearly $215 billion a year. Shanghai, along with the other major Asian metros is a hotbed for tech innovation. Truda and Word captured their first seed investment upon moving to Shanghai and in less than two months, they’d kicked off in almost two dozen cities. It hasn’t been one long picnic, however. Word discusses learning the ins and outs of a new legal system and navigating life as standing on the edge of a linguistic gorge between English and Mandarin.
Other challenges for the pair are more ideological.
“Women can be their own worst enemy,” Truda says, referring to female company-founders playing by historical, male-made business structures that might not work for everyone. “I think sometimes if we females make such a big deal of it, it may perpetuate gender inequality”.
Her decision to take full responsibility and autonomy for her own tech-startup success in the face of an industry well-documented for sexist practices is noble. Even more so, since they’ve been told face to face by female investors that on principle, they won’t invest in startups run by women. In an interview, replying to the question “what is a female’s greatest strength in the workplace?”, Truda lists, among other qualities, resiliency.
chozun途赞’s founders’ track record of adventure into unknown spaces, mixed with principled business practices inspires hope for their company. Constantly connected to the growing of their business, Truda and Word share a vision of reaching people, no matter where they are in the world.
Other words of wisdom from the pair? Be nice to everyone, for the betterment of your workplace. One person can’t change the world, but everyone can make a contribution.
To read more about the amazing global network Teresa Truda and Zia Word are building for travelers, check out chozun途赞’s website.