Traveling anywhere new is a lot more fun when you know a local. Locals show you a town, city or country through an insider’s lens, offering you a rare glimpse of life as it’s really lived in that community. The difficulty is that, more than likely, you don’t know a local everywhere you want to travel, forcing you to rely on networking through friends-of-friends, which can be hit or miss. Frustrated by the travelers’ dilemma of desiring that local touch but lacking a way to easily find it, Jen O’Neal founded Tripping to pair tourists with local hosts. Tripping offers travelers the ease of meeting up with locals whether it’s for coffee or to stay in their home, and provides locals an easier way to share their world with a new friend, altogether making travel not just more efficient, but more fun and meaningful, too.
Growing up near Silicon Valley with entrepreneur parents, Jen followed suit, creating Tripping out of her passion for travel and using her technology and business background to solve the needs of travelers around the world like herself. Founded in 2010, Tripping is now offered in 175 countries and is the largest aggregator of short-term rentals with a trusted community of followers.
Vixely recently spoke with Jen to learn more about her inspirations and how she sees Tripping evolving in the future, and why she believes doing what you love is the best advice.
Vixely (V): What is your role and the name of your company?
Jen O’Neal (JO): My name is Jen O’Neal and I’m the founder of Tripping.
V: Where are you from and where do you live now?
JO: I live in San Francisco and went to Berkeley for college. Though I grew up in the Bay Area, I’ve been lucky enough to live in France, Italy, Costa Rica and the U.K. as well.
V: What made you decide to pursue this path and start your own company?
JO: While living abroad, I always loved stepping off the tourist path and connecting with local people. Since I was so passionate about this, I started thinking about how I could use my tech and business background to build a platform where travelers could meet locals. We launched Tripping in 2010 and we now have users in over 175 countries who connect with each other for coffee, conversation and homestays. Our community is amazing and it’s fun to watch it grow.
I’m also fortunate in that both of my parents are entrepreneurs. Starting a company always seemed like a normal career option though, as many of your readers know, it isn’t easy. Having my parents’ guidance and support has helped me navigate through the ups and downs of startup life. I try to pay it forward by helping other entrepreneurs as much as I can.
V: Who are your inspirations?
JO: I’m inspired every day by the team at Tripping. There are five of us and everyone here is passionate about what we’re building. They all inspire me to be creative, work hard and push us to the next level.
V: What do you do for fun? What makes you the most happy?
JO: This probably won’t come as a surprise, but I love to travel! Being in a new place, trying new foods and experiencing new things makes me happy. We live in an amazing world and I can’t get enough of it.
That said, running a startup keeps me busy so I haven’t had as much time to travel lately. Instead I love spending time with friends, exploring the Bay Area and catching up on all the books I’ve been meaning to read.
V: Last trip or holiday you took?
JO: My last trip was to London, where I had some meetings and got to see old friends. I lived there for a few years so it was fun to be back. The tech scene is also starting to take off there, which is exciting to see.
V: What are you reading?
JO: Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. It’s a great book—I read it a few years ago and I picked it up again for a shot of inspiration.
V: How do you see your company evolving in the future?
JO: Tripping has evolved drastically in the past year. Our users started asking us for access to local homes, so we pivoted into becoming a metasearch platform for home rentals (think: Kayak for Airbnb). So now you can find everything from free homestays to luxury villas here, which makes Tripping appealing to a wide range of travelers.
Pivots are always risky but the response has been incredible. Sales have been growing every month and our users are happy that they can now meet locals AND book rentals through Tripping. We’re excited about the future for sure.
V: If you could give the 18 year-old version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
JO: Do what you love. The rest will come.