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THE INC. LIFE

This Startup Seeks to Overthrow TripAdvisor’s Position as a Market Leader

Cool Cousin CEO Itay Nagler says industries most affected by mistrust are more obvious targets for disruption.

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BY Darren Heitner - 31 Mar 2018

This Startup Seeks to Overthrow TripAdvisor's Position as a Market Leader

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

City guides already exist, with most people using services like TripAdvisor to plan out their vacations and learn about the best sights to see and food to consume. But is the current system optimal for travelers?

Cool Cousin CEO Itay Nagler says no. He and his team have created a new-ish type of service that intends to make the curation of city guides a bit more personalized, with incentives provided for real, thorough reviews. Today, he is in the process of converting his existing platform to the blockchain.

I recently spoke with Nagler about what makes his company unique in the space and how the use of the blockchain can truly set Cool Cousin apart from its competitors.

Why do you believe the travel industry is an obvious target for disruption via blockchain?

Nagler: Every industry is a target for disruption in this world we're living -- you are perfectly happy with what you have until someone comes and creates something that makes your life better and you can't believe you lived without it all this time. Blockchain technology will do that for numerous industries, but those that are most affected by mistrust are more obvious targets for disruption. The centralized travel industry, dominated by just a few companies, is among this group. Travelers are on the hunt for new efficient, trustworthy and personalized ways to find valuable information.

Why is there a need for another city guide type of offering when TripAdvisor seems to provide a strong service?

Nagler: TripAdvisor is a great service for a lot of people, but it's irrelevant for many others. If it answered everyone's needs, we wouldn't see our feeds full of people begging for travel recommendations. This is happening, especially amongst millennials looking for alternatives, due to their growing mistrust in the common digital travel solutions -- information overload, generic lists, fake reviews and manipulated content -- all of these lead to confusion and choice fatigue. Cool Cousin is an answer to this frustration; a two-tap personalized solution that elevates experiences.

What is the reasoning behind converting to blockchain when it appears you've already had some success in building out the platform?

Nagler: There is no such thing as too much success. Cool Cousin has been growing every month in double digit numbers, but our biggest challenge is scaling up without compromising the quality and trustworthiness of the information. Today, we validate every Cousin and their recommendations manually and we have thousands of people waiting to become Cousins in their hometown. Blockchain will allow us to build an autonomous community, enabling us to scale rapidly while safeguarding the content and services against decisions and actions that may jeopardize them.

What are your thoughts on companies doing ICOs before having a product ready for consumption? Do you think that most people should wait until there's an actual platform ready to use?

Nagler: The market is not what it was 6 months ago. There are many more ICOs and contributors are more sophisticated. Luckily, this means that the more mature companies, who have a working product, traction, a real team and experience, are the ones that are able to surface when others can't. Cool Cousin is one such cousin. Obviously I can't advise anyone, but after two years of working on Cool Cousin, I can say that building a product and a company takes time and requires a lot of resources and the ability to learn from your mistakes. If it were me, I would feel a lot more comfortable with companies that already have some form of heritage and aren't starting from scratch.

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