Hipster Disruption: Off Track Planet will “Out-Cool” The Travel Guide Industry

December 22, 2013

12:00 pm

Remember the one in “Tipping Point” about the Hush Puppies? Malcolm Gladwell explains how these random shoes became a smash cultural hit seemingly overnight. I’ll spare you the details, but the answer is pretty well summed up thus: they got cool. Why? If you have to ask that question, then you won’t understand the answer. And that’s the great competitive advantage of cool: it is, by definition, a blessing that can bestowed only in limited quantity, like a royal patronage or a knighthood. And, more, the purveyors of “cool” are not a deliberative body that can be lobbied and bought. Sponsorships and celebrity endorsements are an attempt to force perception, but as Shakespeare sort of said: “A shit by any other name would smell the same.” Those who know what’s cool are the ones who “get it” and the rest just scramble to follow suit before the hip kids are “off it.”

Off Track Planet are the cool kids of the travel industry. They get it. And now they are positioned to make some serious waves. Why? Think about it: What’s the coolest thing? Travel. What’s the worst thing? Travel websites. Seem like a disconnect? Seem like an opportunity? Yes and yes. OTP have been the Hush Puppies version of travel content for a few years and have built a readership in the millions. They have published a book with Urban Outfitters (hip on top of hip), had a travel magazine in Barnes & Noble, and had about a trillion hits to their website, all with only a few hundred pieces of content. That’s amazing. How did they do that? By being cooler than the rest of us.

Now they’re taking this track record of success and making it scale. Armed with $500,000 in seed funding from CincyTech and an international group of angel investors, they’re going to kill the travel guide industry that has been dominated by boring-ass people writing boring-ass reviews for expensive restaurants. Who wants that anymore? You’ve got Yelp. OTP is going to show you what you should be doing in Costa Rica, where the cool kids hang out in Barcelona, and the places in Australia that you’ll be first of your friends to ever tweet about.

OTP founder and CEO Freddie Pikovsky explains the platform like this:

“In order to build the most beautiful and intelligent travel guide, we needed to make it insanely easy and richer for people to share their experiences. OTP’s new platform will allow users to authenticate their social networks and organize their content by date, location, tags and keywords within a unified timeline to effortlessly create beautiful, intuitive guides and scrapbooks. Users will also be incentivized to provide more and better data for every entry. OTP then intelligently crowdsources and curates the communities continues input of content, adding in-house editorial touches to deliver a refined, branded guide to the world that is infinitely rich and ever changing.”

The new app is in private Beta as they focus on super users (travel experts, photographers, bloggers, etc.) to build up a solid base of insider info before the rest of us get on there and try to chase the cool kids around. If you want to be in line to join (and trust me, you do), then go to this site to learn more. If you can get in on this early, you’ll be able to prove to your friends that, in spite of your love of Josh Groban and Affliction T-shirts, you might just be a tiny bit cool after all.

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Austin Rory Hackett is the cofounder and CEO of CrowdHall. He loves karaoke, pinball, and rock climbing. Follow him @austinrory.

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