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What Startups Can Learn About Travel Photo Sharing.

This is a guest article from Drew Meyers.


The travel photo sharing space is a very, very crowded one. I’ve been a skeptic of travel photo sites for quite some time. Between Instagram, Flickr, 500Px and the thousands of other photo sharing sites, there are photos everywhere you look online. That doesn’t even include Facebook, the largest photo site on the web, which seems to be shoving more and more photos into my feed by the day. Of course, virtually every travel blog…has a wealth of travel photos. Anyone can pin any photo using Pinterest (also note: TripAdvisor partnered with Pinterest). With photos at every corner of the web, I didn’t think there was a need for another photo sharing site.

All the said, Trover has changed my thinking a bit. I’ve spent a lot of time with their product, and I believe the product strategy is extremely smart on many levels. Co-founded by Rich Barton (also the co-founder of Zillow, where I worked from 2005-2010) and Jason Karas, they think of themselves as a mobile discovery app.

Trover addresses my primary issue with almost every other travel photo site: photo overload. The fact of the matter is, most travel photos in existence suck. I have taken several thousand photos during my travels, and the majority of them are not great. Trover has set the bar high with curation, so that (virtually) every photo is high quality and has a story, tip, or advice attached. Further, all photos are geolocated, so I can very easily browse photos from a specific city or country without wading through countless photos of other destinations I’m not interested in.

Here is where I see the real value in Trover’s product:

  • A visually appealing representation of my travels via my best travel photos. Most people don’t care about looking at all my travel photos, but there are a few gems I’ve taken of interest to more than my closest friends. Trover is where I put those.
  • Ability to find gems based on geography. I’ve fallen in love with their “nearby” screen, which displays photos nearby with a mile marker showing me how far away they are. Beyond that, it enables a search for a city, country or individual place — and instantly be transported to high quality photos near that location.

Other smart aspects of their app:

  • “Been there too” lists – Every travel startup wants to capture where a traveler has been, so as to make better recommendations as to other places they will like. While most sites bolt this feature on as a clunky user experience specifically geared toward the user entering locations they’ve visited, on Trover, travelers who see a photo of a place they’ve been can simply indicate “been there too.”
  • “Dream destination” lists – An extremely light weight way to capture traveler intent. They could start sending me flight deals to visit dream destinations once per month, and I would for sure read those emails.
  • Social connections & conversation around geography. Any platform that facilitates discovery of interesting people around me is appealing to me (missed in person connections while traveling is the frustration that led to Oh Hey World).

Trover is still early. The real question, of course, is the same as all UGC plays. Content. Can they fill their platform with enough high quality photos+stories to deliver an amazing offering regardless of where someone is (& end up with a viable long term business)?

Of the successful photo sites that have reached massive scale, what was the driving factor to success?

  • Flickr: sharing and embedding personal photos + being early to the game
  • Facebook: people-tagging
  • Instagram: mobile + filters
  • 500px: high quality curation
  • Pinterest: easy to re-post & organize any photo from the web
  • Trover (not yet at scale): geo-tagging + quality curation + stories/tips

What other startups can learn:

As the entire industry knows, pure travel “inspiration” is a crappy business, that no one has ever made any real money. Most people don’t really care about looking at all their friends’ Facebook photos (which is what Tripl and countless others tried to make a business). Sharing travel photos is not even close to a daily use case scenario, which is why most if not all of the successful photo sharing sites and apps are more geared around photos in general, rather than just travel photos. Finding things to do, right now, is a more frequent use case than thinking about what to do in the next city you are traveling to (this is likely why Yelp and Foursquare have stayed firmly in that camp, rather then reposition their product to help travelers planning trips) — which I’m guessing is where a site like Trover will position itself long term.

Would be curious to hear thoughts on the travel photo sharing space from the TravelStartups community.

Drew is the co-founder of Oh Hey World. Global nomad originating in Seattle. Ex-Zillow community builder. Social Entrepreneur. Microfinance advocate. Travel addict. Find him on Twitter @drewmeyers.

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