Fairytrail The App to Find A Travel Match with Taige Zhang | TNN44

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Episode Summary

If you knew that you will meet your “The One” in a very spontaneous adventure, would you do it? Everyone secretly hopes that the love of their life will be waiting for them when their plane lands. Or better yet, that their special someone will be traveling with them to an exciting new city sipping complimentary white wine and picking out favorites from travel guides in flight. Traveling is fun – you’re in a new city and you’re going with the flow. Love abroad should mirror that easy-going nature as well. Taiga Zhang actually made this serendipitous moment possible through Fairytrail, a dating app made for single digital nomads and people who just like traveling and having fun.

 

Taige Zhang, the founder of Fairytrail, joins our hosts Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski in talking about dating and meeting new people as digital nomads in this fun-filled adventure called traveling. While technology brings out options that we could have never had before, our three nomads discussed safety measures that would keep us safe while we navigate the dating space. This episode of The New Nomad is full of possibilities and as long as we take the necessary precautions, we can have fun meeting new people in different places – and make your own fairytale.

From the episode

Taige Zhang:

Overlooked Place:

What You’ll Learn

Timestamps

[4:55] The adventure of meeting someone new

[9:43] Putting a price on respect

[15:45] Location is irrelevant nowadays

[18:13] I like you before I met you

[20:25] Random travels are the best

[25:57] Making friends, sharing experiences

Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to The New Nomad podcast. Man, do we have an exciting guest today? Taige Zhang will join us today. Taige runs FairyTrail and I think we’re gonna have some really interesting conversations because Andrew, we’ve had a lot of discussion on this podcast about community, about loneliness, about adventure, about understanding and meeting others. And I think what we’re going to discuss today may hit all of those different areas. And, and maybe your story can help inform a little bit about what we’re going to learn about today. Because I think your story predates what Taige is bringing to the table that might have made actually your stated goal a lot easier back in the day. So without further ado, Andrew Jernigan. 


Andrew

So turning to chapter five, in my book, I will tell you a bit about my story. Now it is fun to have Taige on today, because I see the relevance. I’ve been watching this app over the last year and a half. And it’s been exciting to see it come to life. And the reason for me is because I was eager to find someone who had my shared interest who is willing to live and work anywhere around the world. And that was 25 years ago. So I celebrated 20 years of marriage this year. And I ended up marrying someone that had traveled to countries I hadn’t been to yet. And we’ve gone to some of those together, seen some of the sights. She has some of the similar passions, and I flew to her country, she picked me up from the airport we’d never met 10 days later, I had asked her dad if I could marry her. And he was like, what? He actually told her that night, I wasn’t planning on telling her that night. So it was it was one of those crazy things that we had talked offline so much and this was before the world of apps. And before this technology has of being able to parse out and have some of the machine learning aspects that Taige built into this, that we’ll learn more about today. But so that’s why I’m happy to introduce this technology and Taige to us, we bring him on to the show today.


Allen

Taige,  it’s hard to top a story like Andrew’s. And I also noticed he brings that passion to this. And I think what you’re building at Fairytrail is quite interesting. So, love to introduce Taige Zhang. Taige, tell us a little bit about your story, and then we’ll get into Fairytrail


Taige  

Awesome. Well, thanks for having me. So interesting to hear your story and your it’s a lot of inspiration for me. So about me, I worked in tech, I spent most of my career in product management, which is basically building tech products and apps for companies, figuring out what people need. And working with engineers and marketers to, to make products. I’ve worked on ride hailing, home sharing, on demand grocery delivery. So a whole wide range of industries. And what’s interesting is, in the almost 10 years of my career, I’ve been working in marketplaces. So making sure there’s a rider and a driver and getting them matched up, making sure that there’s someone who has an extra room, looking for a tenant, and then people who want to get their groceries delivered and people who want to earn money shopping. And so I had a lot of experience with marketplaces. And so I realized that this is an area that’s just fascinating for me. And kind of what happened was, I wanted to really well, first of all, being single, I’ve been using dating apps, and I realize that dating apps don’t really work so well as a marketplace. It’s one of the few marketplaces that don’t, and we can get more into this later. But just initially, it was like, it doesn’t seem like it’s working, because almost every other marketplace is more efficient because align incentives. If Uber gets you from point A to point B, they get a commission on that they’re incentivized. A dating up, they’re not incentivized in the same way. So it’s been a little bit interesting for me, just from a product perspective, looking at dating apps. 


But it was never the intention really to build a dating app. I really wanted to, to go on adventures. And I felt like it’s so strange to, to me that like I would go on a solo trip. And I wouldn’t know who would be there, it would just be, i. It would just be, you know, me, and then a bunch of strangers. And then it’s like, oh, hopefully I meet someone who’s really awesome and fun and I vibe with. So that was like one big thing that was in my mind. And I was like, I really love traveling. And I was single at the same time. But I also felt like dating apps don’t work, I shouldn’t build a dating app, because incentives don’t work. So I launched Fairytrail with the idea that let’s not make dating, dating, let’s just go on adventures and meet organically. And that is the whole business. So we launched right before Tobin. And we were doing pretty well, we actually got quite a few people on trips. And it was the concept was you would match on an adventure, and you would match with each other. And then you video call, if you vibe well, i’s like, oh, just book the trip. Meet on this public adventure. It’s super safe. Because you’re with a bunch of people. It’s led by a tour guide, a business that is official, and it’s backed by Airbnb, because all of these adventures happen through the Airbnb booking platform. So much safety, super social, really fun, and no pressure. If it doesn’t work out, it’s fine, because you still went on this awesome adventure. So that was a concept we launched with. And then COVID hit and we’ve been iterating. So now it’s more of a dating app because of lack of travel. But I do hope when travel reopens up, we can go back to the vision of creating something that is a lot more organic. 


Allen  

Well, I love not only that, but I also think that you give more than just the typical value of swipe right, swipe left is that it’s like minded people who want to adventurously go somewhere. Maybe share a little bit of your thoughts on I mean, obviously people go onto the they join Fairytrail and kind of the process that they get on there. They see people, they master destination and the video they process. It is it a fast process, a slow process. And I know trips will start again, I know Andrew and I are very excited that when we have this conversation with you today, hopefully, in 2022, you’ll be able to have more of these adventures in person. But I would love to hear the process. And your comments also about not having to be a free platform. But it’s something that actually people value.


Taige  

Yeah, great question. So yeah, walk us through the app. Basically, the app as it is now,  and we’re constantly iterating. So no product is, you know, constant. You look at, you know, Facebook, and it’s been evolving over the years. Now they’re creating a Metaverse, right. So products are constantly changing the way Fairytrail works right now is you create an account, it takes about three minutes on average. It’s very short questions, you upload three photos, and then you can start seeing profiles. And after a certain, so then you can either adore or skip a profile. And after a certain number of adores you send, we will then say, hey, please pay an entrance fee. And this entrance fee is really there to do a few things. The first thing is, it pretty much reduces all the scammers we have on the platform. When we were just at 3k users, I was getting an email every day, from a user from users complaining about scammers every day. And there was only three paid users. Now we’re at 25k users. And so I hardly get any emails about scammers. And so this entrance fee is a really awesome economic disincentive for scammers because they will pay the entrance fee, the next day our algorithm detects they’ve paid the fee. Sorry, our next day our algorithm detects their behaviour and then disable their account. So then they just pay the fee for nothing, right? So if you calculate the ROI for the scammer, it’s going to be negative. So it’s actually a really interesting economic disincentive. 


Taige  

And not only that, we also discovered a creates a culture of respect. So this idea actually came from hiking in Yellowstone National Park. There was a tour guide who’s said, Hey, we actually used to give water away for free bottles of water. And people were littering, people just like threw them all over the place. And then we started charging just 50 cents and it took away all the littering, proper people started valuing the water more. You know, they started keeping it, finishing it, you know, drinking it, and then recycling it. And it’s just leaving all over the place. And so it’s so interesting that even it’s only 50 cents, it changed people’s behaviour from a culture of disrespect to respect. And so we’re like, Oh, that’s really interesting. So we have actually found that, um, you know, our culture, it on the app is a lot better than some of the other dating apps that are out there. And so I can tell you also more about like, what happens after you match it if you like.


Andrew  

Yeah, that would be great. And tell us also, what are you, is there anything you can tell us on the on the pipeline? As you know, you’ve developed this thing, and it’s constantly iterating and improving? And what’s your most exciting thing that’s coming? If you can tell us you may not be able to tell us yet?


Taige  

Yes, yeah. So it’s hard to make promises, because, um, there’s a lot of things that are shifting, I will say, if there’s any app developers out there, they know, Apple is extremely restrictive. So there’s very limited, we had a bunch of awesome ideas that we couldn’t implement because of Apple’s review process. So I’m a little bit hesitant to, you know, make any announcements right now. But the intention is really, the mission is to help people explore the world with someone they like, it’s very clear, um, that person can be anyone, it can be a person that is your best friend, it can be your parents, and it can be your partner spouse, that’s what we’re fully aligned towards. That’s what we’re working hard on every day in terms of making that vision come true. Um, so you can, you can be assured that’s the direction we’re headed, the exact features, it’s hard to, hard to kind of, say, at this point. In terms of how the app works right now is after you match with someone you like, oh, you send a door, if they door you back, then you’re not allowed to talk. Most apps actually, at this point, we’ll just put you together and let you guys figure it out, what we do is we actually give you a bunch of recommended adventures and destinations. So let’s say that you match with someone. So let’s say I’m in San Francisco, and I match with someone in New York, the app might recommend cool places like Chicago or Miami, even San Francisco as well, right. So then I’ll choose the places I want to go. And that person will choose where they want to go. And it’s really low pressure. It’s not like I’m traveling just to meet you. It’s more like, hey, we have a shared interest, we have a shared plan almost. And then it’s that sense of like, oh, serendipity that we both are intending to go here which move it moves the the people closer to meeting in real life.


Allen  

What I also think is great is looking at your metrics, 93% of the folks on this app are remote or want to be. And I think that that’s that also shows the adventurous spirit, that of the people that you bring together on this. And this is why I think you know, to the people that listen to this podcast to tend to be location independent, folks, it’s important. But also, I saw a study recently that since 2010, people tend to be online number one, the friend number two, bar restaurant, three co worker, you know, party or family. And so online, obviously is the number one area but I like that you almost tie a couple things together at the top, you’re online, you’re going to you’re going to kind of tie people together that you think might have things in common, I think there’s a better chance of being a friend. And when you’re going to somewhere, you’re going to be able to experience the different food and culinary so you put many things together. So kind of a loaded question here. But, you know, with with more people becoming location independent, I it’s a real opportunity for you. But did you realize how many different components of success that you put in to how people get together when they first meet each other? I think it’s wonderful, because you’re almost setting people up for success. Whether friendship or something more just by the nature of how you you built the algorithm.


Taige  

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So the best products are products, we want to use ourselves, right? So I really had, you know, kind of what I wanted in a product. At heart, it was like, This is what would be most fantastic. And it doesn’t exist now. But let’s try to let’s try to create it. And for me, there were a few things I really wanted. One was that, as a traveler, most dating apps are like, what’s your location, and you’re like, that’s irrelevant, because I’m literally in San Francisco, but in 24 hours, I will be in New York, I will be in like Vancouver, Toronto, like, this is irrelevant, right? Like, who I am is not my location, who I am is my purse. So that was the first key thing that I wanted in an app that, you know, just location, it’s, it is a factor, but it’s not as important as it needs to be in other apps. So as it is, in other apps, the second thing is just video dating. Um, it takes so long to go on an actual date, you might text for a couple of weeks. And then you’re like, Okay, now let’s get ready, let’s plan the date takes like 30 minutes to get there. For a woman, it might take like, 30 minutes to like, get dressed up or even like an hour, and then you know, you get there, it’s like, then you have a date for an hour or so it’s like three hours and come back. And it’s like, like, $60, right, so three hours, $60, or a video call that is super convenient, it’s free, and you get a sense of that person. So you’re, you’re pretty much cutting out the first date by having a video call. And then you can really just go on the second date, which is on on adventure. So instead of like saying, I’m going to waste three hours and 60 bucks on the first date, and then have fun, you’re basically screening the person first and then just having a blast. And, and that’s kind of what was super important to me. And in terms of finding a relationship, it’s not just finding the right person, it’s also going through an experience together. That’s why I think we have so great relationships during college, because we’re going through an experience together, or some of our work friends are so amazing, because we’re, you know, we’re in it together where we have this organic interaction. And we’re trying to recreate that with very showing that you screen the person because over video call you vibe very well. And now you’re in person, and we’re setting you up for success, because you’re getting to first of all have fun, which increases your, you know, perception of the other person because you’re like, Oh, this is really fun. And two, you’re going through an experience, which helps with the bonding.


Andrew  

Yeah, I hear this, and I’m so glad to hear the methodology behind what you’ve built. Because, you know, you the value in the meaning and the relationship before you meet in person is, I believe, not emphasised enough. There is so much to be said, for those who get to know each other before there’s physical interaction. Before there’s that first date in person. And because it’s there’s a lot that shared either written or verbal video, that can’t that wouldn’t be shared if you were face to face in person. And the relationship starts at such a deeper place when you’ve shared the long distance communication, even if it’s long distance, you’re still in the same town, but you’re going through that process that you’ve described, that’s required within your environment. It brings in so much value. So well done. I’m so glad you’re on with us today. And you know, you’ve experienced a lot of the world you’re a global citizen yourself, I believe. And I believe, you know, one of the questions that we ask everyone and I’m excited to hear your response to this is what’s one overlooked person, place, experience, even book if you want to go there and you can choose to if you want out of that, that our listeners in this tribe need to know about?


Taige  

Yeah, yeah, interesting question. Um so I think in terms of places, one of the so I haven’t done too many solo trips in my life. I would say, because I really enjoy being around people. And I think that’s why tying it back to very true. It’s like, really, it’s much experiences are much better shared. Um, that said, I have, you know, gone on this really interesting solo trip in Corsica where I pretty much flew in, um, there was this website, I think they’re still around. They’re called, like, German wings blind bookings. So you actually buy a ticket, you don’t know where you’re going. You just pay for it. And then they’ll say you’re flying to this destination. And so I ended up going to Corsica because of this. And it was crazy cheap. Um, I had no accommodations. I had nothing. I went there. And I figured it out. I and it was, yep, a really awesome experience. I would say I pretty much yeah, I flew in. I like, Yeah, I had like, nothing planned. But I ended up it ended up being a super incredible adventure. I remember the first night, I think I just slept on the beach and watch a sunrise. And it was his beautiful, freezing cold. Um, I also remembered hitchhiking because it’s such a small island very safe. And there would be these trucks going all around the island. And I would just stick my hand out. And I would hitchhike and go with these truckers also hung out with these French medical students that just, you know, graduated. So it was awesome. That was really cool adventure. And the waters were just amazing. Like the colours, the most beautiful waters.


Allen  

You know, it’s funny, it I had a very similar trip that literally went to the airport. But this was not a solo trip with a friend. And we said, we’re we don’t know where we’re going. We have our passport, our bags, and the first international flight that we see on the board that has availability, we’re going to the ticket bet desk, and we’re buying our flight. And luckily for us, we ended up in Brussels, with no preconceptions that it was we could have gotten, there could have been a lot of places you could do a lot worse in Brussels, we had a wonderful experience. But it was just like the adventure of just not quite knowing where you’re going. And I love what you did there. Because that’s, that’s gutsy, you know, to buy yourself to a location and trusting, trusting that, frankly, I like the Fairytrail app idea better where I would have an idea where. But that’s that’s a great story. So maybe, to those of us who are listening today, how can people find out more about you and the Fairytrail app because the adventure story you described that takes an absolutely special type of feeling.


Taige  

And I really lucked out by yourself. Well, I felt like I really lucked out there because I could have gone somewhere like super boring like Paris. Yeah, I love I love. Yeah. Which, you know, like, it’s a great city, but it’s just like, I’ve been there quite a few times. So it wouldn’t have been as exciting as Corsica. Um, so Fairytrail, you can find it on the App Store or Google Play Store, just search Fairytrail, one word. Or you can go to our website, as well. We also have a community that is not dating related, Fairytrail, still has this dating connotation. But if you want to just like make friends, we have a Facebook group called Campfire, which is just for socialising. So we have two components one for dating Fairytrail, and then two Campfire on Facebook.


Allen  

Fantastic. Well, I think people will be reaching out. And of course, we’ll have that in our show notes. I mean, thank you so much. I mean, the couple things that you you hit today that that I think Fairytrail will really help support our location independent audience, which is, you know, one of the things is let’s try to avoid loneliness through community. And people are so excited about adventure. And the type of adventure that you’ve described is in my mind, safe adventure, educational adventure. It’s, it’s fantastic. So with that, kudos to you. And, Andrew well, I’ll turn it over for your thoughts. I mean, I learned a lot today and I also learned your story, which was a precursor, if yours was almost a fairy tale. Not a Fairytrail. So we can put a fairy tale and a fairy trail together. But we’d love to hear your thoughts today because I’ve seen nothing but a big smile. And who knows, 25 years ago, I could see you on this site, and you would have been one of the success stories.


Andrew  

Yes, you know, I have gone down so many experiences as I’ve listened to this, and interacted during the episode of, you know, traveling by train in across Europe, at different times in life, and, you know, traveling in Chiang Mai with friends and those experiences in the beach in in southern Thailand. And, you know, Dubai, you name it, Mozambique, those those trips, when you’re in the back of a truck, bouncing along the dirt roads in southern Africa, you end up making friends through those experiences through you know, there’s the things that happen there. It’s not the repetitious okay, Table for two, please. You know, it’s in those those hard times when you get to cry with someone when you get to celebrate with someone. And so I am just grateful for Fairytrail app. I love the security features they built in and how that it’s, it can be trusted. It’s been made well, so I’m glad that Taige is able to join us today give exposure and if for those of you who are looking for more in that community aspect, join join Campfire, their Facebook group as well. Thanks, everyone. It’s It’s been another great episode. I hope you join us again next week. You know, Allen, I know it usually take the spot. But review us on wherever you listen to podcast follow us. And back to you, Allen.


Allen  

Well, I mean, this really is in a roundabout way your episode and Taige’s because you both underscore the story of marrying or finding people who were excited about adventure and we have an endorsement for Korsakov so we can add to our list another interesting place for folks to get the other. I did like when Taige mentioned that if you know he’s in San Francisco and in touch with somebody in New York, they would offer exciting places like Miami, etc. Delaware never seems to get picked up in the conversation where I live, but I would one of my little endorsement spots is Philadelphia is a pretty cool city from time to time. So if Taige, any of your folks ever be in the Philadelphia area, Andrew and I are close there and we will endorse that. So so thanks again and we hope that all of you in that location independent lifestyle continue to stay safe and we hope today we bought you another opportunity to meet others and and certainly for me Campfire’ a great idea but Fairytrail. I’ve I’ve actually set the text to my children, 22 and 23, and hope that they also they’ll use the the app themselves. So thanks again and look forward to seeing you down that road. Travel safe everyone

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About the Guest

Taige Zhang is the founder of Fairytrail, a dating app for nomads. Previously, he worked at Apple, Rocket Internet, and various startups worldwide. After working for tech companies from Palo Alto to Berlin to Shanghai, Taige Zhang had the idea to create a new type of dating app called Fairytrail for travelers and people who are interested in meeting someone who lives in a different city or county. In this episode, Taige talks about how he was able to land jobs in foreign countries where he could live and work as an ex-pat, what it was like to date abroad, how to meet people when you move to a new country, and how he coped with cultural differences. He also discusses how he hopes to innovate and improve the online dating experience, why Fairytrail is different, and how they ended up with more women than men on the platform. In the lightning round, we cover his favorite countries to visit and live in, the best food he’s had abroad, and his favorite productivity tools and apps.

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