I chatted with Nicole Caba, the founder of Avvinue – the first pet travel booking engine. That’s right, a booking website for pet travel. With so many pet owners worldwide and each airline having its own set of restrictions when it comes to traveling with pets, Avvinue is bound for takeoff!
If you’re a pet owner or just want to hear an interesting story about a wonderful idea that was hidden in plain sight, this is the episode for you!
- 0:45 – Nicole’s favorite childhood toy
- 1:50 – the celebrity Nicole had a crush on as a teenager
- 3:25 – what Nicole would like to receive on Valentines day
- 4:10 – what’s changing in the travel industry in regards to pets
- 7:00 – Nicole realized first hand how hard it is to travel with your pet
- 9:00 – what customers enjoy about Avvinue
- 11:00 - Chihuahuas are not allowed on our flights
- 12:10 – some features of the platform (photos, vaccinations, documents)
- 13:20 – the team
- 14:40 – biggest obstacles so far
- 15:35 – KPI and projected revenue
- 16:40 – how Nicole is marketing Avvinue
- 18:35 – how Avvinue got off the ground
- 20:30 – finding love at the airport
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Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
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#45 Dagobert Renouf - Brand design for your Startup in 5 minutes
#42 Csaba Zajdó - Top Startup in Europe for E-commerce: OptiMonk
#30 Andrius Rimkunas - The smart, wireless, GPS-powered alarm system
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Hey, you're listening to innovators can laugh. The fun startup podcast. I'm your host, Eric Melchor on ICL. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene. Every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom or having the little fun in the process. Now let's dive in. Hey ICO fans today, we're chatty with Nicole Caba, the founder of Avvinue, the first pet travel booking engine.
That's right. A booking website for pet travel with so many pet owners worldwide, and each airline having its own set of restrictions. When it comes to traveling with pets Avvinue is bound for takeoff. If you're a pet. Or just want to hear an interesting story about our wonderful idea that was hidden in plain sight.
This is the episode for you. Let's dive in Nicole Caba pleasure having you on the show today on innovators can laugh before we get started, can you just describe yourself for the audience quickly? Yeah. Thank you. So hello everyone. Her name is Nicole Kaba. I'm based in neon, France, but originally from the us.
And I'm the founder of avenue, which is a pet travel startup. All right. Fantastic. Dig in the glasses that you have there, Nicole, really, really cool glasses to get started and always do this. I just ask a few quirky questions so the audience can get to know you a little bit better. Can you tell us a favorite childhood toy that you had when you were growing up?
Growing up as favorite childhood toy? Ooh. all right. Well, my dad definitely spoiled me and my sister. He was so happy to have two little girls. So we had a twins of toys and a toy buck tool of things. I would always say I loved baby doll. Don't didn't like bargains, but I just loved babies, baby doll. so I can't say like ones that I had a feed.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tough. Okay. But sometimes I have nightmares of furine like the Furies. So , I don't know if I could mention that one. Hey, the Furies are those, those, those things that adults wear in the suits, right? Like different animal costumes type thing, right. Like thing, right? Yeah. Kind of like, they were little in the nineties and they would like talk, they would like shake and talk, like feed me.
And these I had nightmares sometimes is Furies. So it's. Okay. Yeah, I never got into Furies, but I think I'm a little bit older than you. I won't say, but you can tell from the gray hair. Second question for you, Nicole, what celebrity did you have a crush on as a teenager? This should be a pretty quick answer here, unless you have multiple crushes on many different celebrities.
I can't, this is terrible, cuz I literally, I cannot. I'm not a big celebrity person. And most of the artists I listened to were females other than like okay. Was it an athlete? I can't think of one politician. Was it what a politician maybe, or an athlete maybe, or an athlete?
I really liked genomically from the spurs. How about. Ably Geno. Yeah. Okay. No, I, I like him too. I have a crush on him, but I think he's a great pastor and he was spectacular, spectacular. Oh, I I'll never forget the, the blog he did on James harden during, I think it was game six of the finals that clenched San Antonio over Houston.
Amazing. Amazing. I think he's one of the most underrated basketball players, but anyway, that's a different story. Pretty cool. Pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah. Pretty cool. Yeah. Okay. Last question for you. Last quirky question. This is a fill in the blank question, Nicole. So fill in the blank on this one. Instead of flowers for Valentine's day Valentine's day, you would rather receive blank.
Instead. Chocolate flowers, chocolate. Chocolate chocolate or I love chocolate. Yeah. I want both. Okay.
smooth, smooth job, definitely. And C. Okay. okay. I'm glad you clarify that. Cuz when you said vinyl, you didn't say vinyl records. So vinyl could mean a few different things there. At least I think so. I, I'm not sure. Quite sure. Okay. All right. Smooth jazz and chocolate. Very, very well. Okay, well, let's get, let's get started here.
When, when you traveled in the past, you rarely saw pets on planes. And if you did, there were mostly like icing dogs, things like that. But now you're starting to see more and more pets. Is there something changing in the industry? In regards to people traveling with pets? Yeah. I mean, there's a few different things.
It's a difference in our generation. This is like the generation that has had the most pets we could even see like generations ago. Our parents or grandparents would have children, very young, larger families, and it's like dwindling down less and less delaying having children for those who do plan.
And so a lot of people instead are choosing to have pets. And so this is an interesting change, I think, in the world, but also more, the more people have pets and there's more pet friendly options available. So I'll even mention like, Airbnb just added is that you can find pet early accommodations.
Uber just announced they're doing local launches that you can add your pet. There's a few other pet focused initiatives and campaigns that have been going down. So I think that's really. Showing that people can more easily travel with their pets. And that's exactly why we've launched at such a perfect time because of this.
Yeah. Interesting. I had no idea that Airbnb was doing that as well as Uber, so that that's very, very cool. I'm gonna tell my brother-in-law to use Airbnb, because last Christmas, he booked our stay at this big, big barn that was converted into this nice house. And it was great and everything, but it was in the middle of nowhere.
And for four days we were just kind of stuck there. And finally, on the day three, I figured it out that he booked the place because it was pet friendly. Right. Mm-hmm and that's why we weren't staying anywhere anywhere else. Yeah. So I'm gonna tell him, check that place out and maybe he can find something.
There's not a lot of options. That that's the challenging part. Now that we've solved the piece on flying with your pet. The, the next challenging piece is finding accommodations, cuz there's even hotels that allow pets, but they don't allow you to leave your pet unaccompanied. So you have to always have your pet with you.
You can't leave your. In the room. So yeah, there's, there's limited options, but we're definitely saying like, now that they've allowed for pet friendly options, we're gonna see more and more accommodations being open to it. So, yes, although barn sounds nice. Okay. Although you may have more options. I hope so.
I hope so. okay. This is a good segue into avenue. So tell us about avenue and how you got the idea for it. Idea for it. Yeah. So, so we actually launched avenue a year ago and we were focused before. On relocating abroad. So as I mentioned, I'm living abroad, you're living abroad. There's so many people living abroad are adventuring going outside of their comfort zone.
And we noticed that a lot of the people we were working with were relocating with their pets, and that was a piece that they could not figure out. So we worked with a lot of different customers there, but it wasn't until December that my husband actually surprised us with my own dog who is GOCO. And I post about a lot on Twitter, for example.
And when we got GOCO, we actually had Alan trip in two. To visit my family. And so it was an immediate pain point for us of like, okay, how exactly do we book him on the flight? What kind of carrier does he need? What are the rules around traveling with him? And then what happens when we need to now travel back to friends with our dog?
And so that's when we started diving deeper into finding out like, honestly, it's very complicated and it's quite. Sad that the industry requires you have to call the airline in order to book your pet. And so imagine you have to wait an hour just to even get on, on a phone with, with somebody at the airline.
And nobody likes calling the airline. Let's be honest. Like it's not, it's not a good start to your day if that's what you have to do. So. Yeah. So just really realize firsthand, like how complicated it's to travel with your pet. Especially every airline has different rules and regulations. Every country has different import requirements.
And so that's why we, we really saw an opportunity to say, you know, what. We're understanding how complex this is, but it can be solved. And that's what prompted us to actually build avenue. And especially because I plan on traveling, so I needed this to make it easier because I don't plan on calling airlines.
I don't, I wanna be able to book a flight with my pet all online. I'm set. That's why we, we started avenue. Yeah. Okay. How are you making easy? It easy for the, for the customer? I mean, what do they get excited about when they discover avenue and go on the platform? Yeah. So as the first pet travel booking engine, the way that it works is all around.
You start with your pet's information. So, if you're traveling with your pet, you add your pet's information. Like what species, what, what their measurements are. Is it an emotional support animal? Is it service animal? And from there you ask, where are you planning to travel? So once you're out in that, gration, you will actually see the exact light your pet can go on.
So we've already identified. Does you pet meet the airlines require. And doesn't it meet the country's requirements if you're traveling internationally. So, so that's a difference is that everything on our platform is pet first. And if you're looking at any other book site, it's passengers only, and pets are like, figure it out later, hopefully figure it out.
And you know, we're putting that as priority. can airlines deny pets. I, I mean, of course, if it's a, if it's an exotic animal that is not legal, you can't own a lion or maybe travel with a lion, at least that's what I'm assuming. Right. But are there certain restrictions? Yeah. Yeah. So airlines, like, so what are those restrictions?
Yeah. So an example of the type of restrictions they'll do a restriction based on, well, so species first. So if it's a dog cat, some will love like turtles, thousands. Rasin household bird so, so yeah, they actually tell you what species they allow then what breed. So there's some airlines, for example, I, I find this to be the wildest one, but there be some airlines that say chihuahuas are not as allowed on our flight.
On our airline. So, but other but other breeds are okay. So it, it really depends, you know, they're very, they can be very restrictive, more commonly are like, you know, dogs that are snub nos. So like hugs bull off and all of them for restrictions. So it's, it's good to know then all the way down to the aircraft.
So a, a specific aircraft may not allow. So you could be booking a flight on any other booking site and go, oh, I like display. It's a good phrase. I'm gonna have my pet. But then the airline will say actually, never, sorry, you can't because that aircraft doesn't allow pets where you have pets in the aircraft as well.
Like only on economy, doesn't allowing you to have pets in business, but rarely do they allow you to have pets in first class. So if you're thinking, oh, I'm gonna go to first class and I'm gonna take my pet. That may not be the. So we actually show you exactly what flight you can take with your pet. Okay.
Do, do do customers upload like pictures of their dogs or anything like that? I'm just wondering again, I'm trying to wondering what the experience is like here. yeah. You're looking for at available uh, So we only launched a month ago. And the first thing that we do have is, you know, the test profile, but we haven't added the feature for you to add your picture, but we do put in on expanding the profile.
It's one of our next expansions is in the pet profile. You can add your test photos. You can add different things around their health information. So like when do they get vaccinations? Do they have allergies? Do they have, you know, do they have diabetes, anything like this that would be really helpful to know and let the airline know as well.
And then they can upload documents around their trout. Yeah. Okay. How are you putting this together? Are you scraping a lot of like terms and conditions and, and pet policies from the different airlines? You know, just to get an idea of what's available or not. Do you have a team in place? I know you just launched a year ago, so just kind of paint a picture of what your, what your team looks like and where do you currently are?
I know you just launched a Mon a month ago, but like where you are right now are. Our users. Can users go on there now and actually book a flight? Yeah. So start, let's start with the team first. Yeah. So on our team, we're really excited. So we have four people on our team. So as myself, we have a software engineer and she has a logistics background and actually previously exited a startup.
Then we also have an industry expert. Who comes from the airline industry who has more than 25 years of experience. They'll wealth of knowledge into how all of these like technical systems work in the airline industry. And then we also have a customer success person on our team. So really like covering the, the main aspects that we need for launching, because actually spend your second question.
You can actually book your flight. So the way that we set it up is yes. Like we have worked with airlines to gather this information. So we've actually contacted airlines, confirmed and validated what their airline type policy is, cuz it's not always visible on their website. And we work in conjunction with the international air transport association so that we also work with their live animals, regulation policy.
And so have all of this data. And then sits on top of our travel booking engine. So this is our special API, and then we have the booking engine. So everything is showing you the flight, but you can actually book the flight.
Okay. What's been some of your busi biggest obstacles so far to get to this point. The biggest obstacle would be, you know, in some cases when we've had to like verify some of this information and I think maybe analyze, analyze, and data across the industry took some time every airline does it differently.
Some will say like, oh, we restrict for you to travel this location versus this one. And, and so. I'd say that would be the most challenging, but once we got over that and figured out, okay, here's the basis for our data structure? Everything else seemed to, to work out really well, cuz we already understood the pain points of what we needed to solve.
Yeah. Okay. okay. What is the guess what is the projected revenue for 2022 and just like projected users of the platform, customers of the. . Yeah, so it we're really early. So right now, like our, our major KPI I will say is actually not necessarily users. It's actually flight searches. So since our KPI is more around our people searching for flight.
So it's just like, if you go on Google or if you're on Expedia or Skype scanner, you may search flights, but you may not create an account. And so for us, like we don't. We're not focusing as much on those who create an account, but those who actually are searching. Cause we're so young, we're so early at the stage.
So as our first month, like our baseline is definitely more than 5,000 searches a month, or at least like in the next few weeks. So we plan on incrementally scaling that over, over the course of the year, but we have major partnerships launch. So, you know, it's hard for us to like have a good number one and just yet, cuz we're so early stage, but we're really excited about some major partnerships coming up in the summer.
Okay. What are you doing from the marketing side? Like how are you raising awareness for it? What are you focused on right now? Currently? Yeah, so kind of on the partnership side, we've actually partnered with more than 12 pet brands. So those are kicking off shortly, but basically what we're doing is we're offering a discount to some of their users.
To say, Hey, like a dedicated email, Hey, a just launch. If you're planning to travel with your pet and here's $25 off your trip, and here's a code, these pet brands have millions of users and they're our direct customers. So we're giving that discount if they're planning with or without their pet. So really just getting them into give that brand awareness cuz we know that's the first thing is like brand awareness and then we can really focus on optimizing that for conversion.
So yeah, so those are kicking off soon. And even later today I have an amazing call. I'm really excited about with a few tourism board that are actually looking to do complete pet pet brand pet campaign. So. Okay, this is so exciting based on your research, where are you focused on? I mean, I know Americans love pets, and they're probably more than any other any other more than any other nationality.
I think Americans take the cake in terms of, you know, we spoil our pets, but are there other countries that you're also targeting as well? I mean, our main target is in the us. I will say another would be in the UK just because of how complex it is. Surprisingly in the UK, they have rules where you cannot travel with your pet in cabin.
So because of that, it's even harder. So yeah, definitely in the us, since we're travel, travel is everywhere. You could be anywhere booking flight anywhere. So that's, that's why, you know, we are focusing on the us, but mainly any English speaking people at this time, . Yeah, but you're right. Let's talk about how you got, uh Yeah. Let's talk about how you got avenue started off the ground. Were you a part of any accelerators, any, any startup groups that, that have helped you since the launch and, or continuing to help you or tell us about that? Yeah. So since the launch, well, I would say when we were focused on relocation, I did join a few incubators here in Leon France.
However, I will say the, the speed and the level of intensity is not comparable to that, of any accelerator in the us. But I did also join OnDeck, which is a community for entrepreneurs startup founders. I already had the idea for before joining, but it just was a great way to build. My network, leverage people's expertise.
And I plan on actually, I was accepted recently into a pet care specific program, which is called leap ventures. And they are actually run by Mars pet care, which is one of the top pet conglomerate in the world. So we're really excited about doing that, which will be like four days in. And talking all about pets so I would say that
Okay said, hope you to get this off the ground. Like, did you fundraise or are you bootstrapping all of this? Financially just kind of give us a overview. Yeah. So we're actually raised as a pre preceded round. So we're still actively in our fundraise if I'm allowed to today. So maybe by the time this release or in a few weeks, we'll be wrapping up our wrong.
Be able to announce that publicly. Okay. All right. Very, very cool. So a couple of other questions for you still, still related to traveling and airport and things like that. I I proposed to my wife at the airport, but I understand that you met your husband at the airport. How did that happen? I did well.
That's so cute. Thank you her. Yeah, so we actually I'll have to explain it like this. We're both living in new. But we both happen to be visiting our fam my family who's visiting his family in Florida, and we were both waiting for a flight, a just one flight back to New York. There's a way that it was, we're both sitting next to each other, waiting for, you know, for them to call the.
A different section. Yeah. And he, he was traveling with his father and his brother and his father started like, I guess he's what by, he was looking at the plane and my husband was like looking for him and started like, Telling them in Spanish, like you're gonna get fucked. Hello. You're not gonna be able to word the flame.
You're gonna live without you and all these funny things. And so I started laughing, so he was thinking in Spanish and I just started laughing. Cause it was like hilarious. He, he sat behind me. So we were both back to back and he turned to me and he said, oh, so you must speak Spanish. Because I heard you laugh.
And that was the first thing he said to me. And then the rest is history because we just kept talking, talking, talking, talking. And when we were arrived in New York, he was like, where, you know, where are you in the city? And I was actually far from where he was living in any, anything that's like more than 30 minutes traffic it's difficult in New York.
So like he was. Okay. Let's see if this will work out. You're kind of far. And we went on a date the next day. literally have spent almost every day together since, and it's been six years now. So
so that's our, that's our short inspiration of our love story. So very, very cool. Very cool here. Okay. Where can people learn more about you? They can learn about me, I guess, connecting with me on Twitter. I'm pretty active on Twitter. So if you, with me up Nicole ex kava, same thing on LinkedIn, I'm also active there.
Or if we just wanna have a call and get to know me better, like I'm always open to meeting people. Eric we've met before just through a, you know, connection on LinkedIn on Twitter. I'm sorry. And so I'm always happy to meet new people. All right. Thank you so much, Nicole pleasure, having you on the show, everybody listening feel free to tell others about the show.
That's how we let it grow. And if you like it, give us a review on Spotify or apple. Thank you so much. Bye Nicole. Thank you so much, Eric byebye. What a wonderful conversation with Nicole. What I really enjoyed about our chat. Was how she was able to pivot from her initial focus on a relocation platform by realizing firsthand how hard it is to travel with your pet.
She wasn't afraid to pivot early from her initial startup and try and solve a need to a problem that she herself was experiencing. The other thing I love about Nicole is her personality. She just, she's just a very easy person to talk and. I like how she was willing to share her story, how she met her husband at the airport and the honest answers she gave to my quirky questions.
At the beginning of the show, her friendly attitude, I feel has been a key part of opening doors and getting avenue successfully off the ground. I've included links from the show in the ICO website and newsletter. It's number 52, if you forgot. And if you enjoy this topic, Feel free to give us a review on apple or Spotify as always.
Thanks for listening. Keep puling out there. This is Eric signing off. Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it. If you could give us a review and star rating, also don't forget to sign up for the ICO. firstname.lastname@example.org where you can get the bio and details of each guest.
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