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Spotted Places co-founders Bryant Hawthorne and Dan Taylor. (Spotted Places Photo)

Bryant Hawthorne and Dan Taylor met as neighbors and quickly bonded over a love of travel and similar careers in the tech industry. As luck would have it, all three of those shared traits led to the creation of Spotted Places, a travel app the duo launched last summer.

They wanted to build something that made it easy to get recommendations abroad, the kind things your neighbor would suggest. They also wanted those recommendations to display visually, on a map, to make it easy to find things to do nearby.

The video below explains how the app works in more detail:

“Since most applications are crowdsourced, you are getting recommendations from strangers who probably have different tastes than you,” Hawthorne said. “Also, as humans, we are extremely visual. Spotted Places leverages this by displaying spots on a map so you can make decisions based on proximity.”

We caught up with Hawthorne 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: “Spotted Places is a travel app which helps you find recommendations from friends in a visual way, both locally as well as globally.”

Spotted Places CEO Bryant Hawthorne. (Spotted Places Photo)

Inspiration hit us when: “Vacationing in Hawaii, I witnessed my wife scrolling through her social media for 30 minutes trying to find recommendations commented on a friend’s post from her previous travels to the area. I thought there should be a way to visualize your friends’ recommendations on a map. This would make the decision of ‘what should we do,’ or ‘where should we eat,’ so much easier!”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We really see investment being an evolution. We bootstrapped in the beginning to create our minimum viable product. Once we were getting market validation and traction we started seeking Angel investment to help form strategic partnerships with individuals and groups. To realize our lofty vision, it will eventually require VC funding to get us to that point.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our team. Our team consists of amazing individuals who are passionate about what we are building. Although we all come from the tech industry, we have never worked with a group that has been able to accomplish so much in such a little amount of time. You know you have something special when you have so much fun every day and it rarely feels like work.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Building our community before we launched. We knew we were going to have a chicken-and-egg problem if we launched the app without content. Luckily, we were able to create a community of 1000+ travel bloggers before we launched. This really helped us in having extremely high-quality content in the application on day one. Now, even if you don’t yet have any friends in the app, you can still get a tremendous amount of value from the spots these travel bloggers have posted around the world.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Taking too long to listen to our instincts. There were several occasions that we could have entered into partnerships with individuals or other companies. On paper, these all looked like incredible deals but our instincts were to not enter into any agreement. Since the deals looked really good we spent a lot of time negotiating and discussing the opportunities. In the end, we should have just listened to our instincts and walked away saving us a ton of time and energy. This was a great lesson for us.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Definitely Zuckerberg. Obviously, we are a little biased being a social media app, but we fall into his culture of ‘move fast and break things.’ The way he has been able to evolve as a leader as Facebook has grown is pretty incredible. We would love to learn from him and get his advice as we continue to grow ourselves.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Outdoor recreation, we love the outdoors! This could be a team hike, or even going to the mountain for a day of snowboarding.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Cultural fit and a growth mindset. Culture can make or break a company and it is extremely important to us. We also want to work with people that have a deep desire to learn and make themselves better.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Hire virtual assistants. As an entrepreneur, you need to be working on your business and not in your business. Truly assess where you spend your time and determine if you can pay someone else to do the tasks that take up most of it. You want to be an entrepreneur and not a technician. Anyone can be a technician. Make sure you are focusing on what really matters and nothing else.”


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