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FlightSpeak CEO Leo Oshar.
FlightSpeak CEO Leo Osahor.

With the hoildays approaching, many travelers are bracing themselves for the headaches associated with the airport.

FlightSpeak wants to take some of the pain out of that experience. Using the Seattle startup’s app, Airports by flightSpeak, travelers can get information about estimated wait time, restaurants and shops, ground transportation and more.

“FlightSpeak helps solve the problem of inadequate, inconsistent, and irrelevant information at airports,” said CEO Leo Osahor.

The app has additional features, like wheelchair information and kid and pet-friendly businesses. Travelers can also share photos, tips, and travel stories using the app.

FlightSpeak is available in more than 300 airports in 16 countries around the world.

“With over an estimated 8 million travelers worldwide hopping on a plane daily, and knowing that travelers wanted information delivered to them without downloading multiple airport apps, we realized we were onto something,” Osahor said.

We caught up with Osahor for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “flightSpeak helps make airports less stressful by providing helpful airport information through an easy-to-use mobile app.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We realized travelers and airports had a set of common pain points. We asked ourselves – “What if we could build a platform where we could help airports deliver valuable information to travelers, and help travelers get the information they needed to save time and actually enjoy themselves at the airport? What a concept!”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap and Angel. We bootstrapped until we could prove out our concept, and took the next step to reach the next set of milestones.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our ability to listen closely to travelers and translate what we hear into features that matter. One of our most loved features – using crowdsourcing and machine learning to estimate wait times at airports, came out of this process.”

flightSpeak-Geekwire-submission

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Investing more time in design reviews and talking to real users. Getting flightSpeak into the hands of business and leisure travelers really helped us learn what mattered in building a ‘must have’ product.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We’ve made many assumptions on what features mattered most to travelers. We lost precious time building features that were nice to have, versus features that travelers couldn’t live without.”

flightSpeak-logo-color-1024Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Rich Barton. Rich knows the travel space intimately, and has a history of building successful consumer brands that win. (Rich – Hi! Would you like to have coffee sometime soon?)”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Doing team-building activities with a global team is hard to do! For now, our retrospectives over Skype video after each release are precious bonding times. They’ve helped us reflect, laugh, learn, and develop a spirit of teamwork that continues to grow over time.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “A strong alignment with our values as a company. We had several ugly hiring missteps along the way, which forced us to be clear on what we truly valued as a team and company. Developing company values and beliefs take time, but it’s well worth the investment.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Listen as closely as you can and get to know your users/customers/stakeholders. Pay close attention to what they disagree with, as well as what they like and dislike. It will pay huge dividends.”

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