Ep. #1169 - The Power of AI
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt Watson and Ross Borden, Founder and CEO of Matador Network, kick off our week-long power series by discussing the immense power of AI. Hear about Matador’s new AI-powered travel assistant, GuideGeek. Matt and Ross also share their thoughts on the power of great branding and how AI will work its way into every industry.
Covered In This Episode
Everyone is using AI to up the ante in their niches, and Matador Network has the AI roadmap for the travel industry. Matt and Ross talk about the power of AI and branding to innovate social media platforms. Ross describes what it took to become a video-first social media company, discusses Matador’s AI-powered travel agent GuideGeek, and more.
Find out how AI can disrupt industries in a good way. Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- What is Matador? (3:30)
- Becoming a video-first social media company (6:19)
- Creative innovations on different social media platforms (8:10)
- Guide Geek: Matador’s AI-powered travel agent (9:20)
- Training AI to be a traveler guide (16:17)
- From a media company to a tech company: GuideGeek (21:01)
- The power of AI (22:46)
- How AI can disrupt industries (26:43)
- The power of branding (28:29)
- Monetizing GuideGeek (32:12)
- The ultimate goal for GuideGeek (36:58)
- Ross’s advice to entrepreneurs: Don’t give up! (39:10)
Those who utilize AI to its fullest extent will replace those who don’t across every single industry. So my advice to entrepreneurs is to really sit down and think about how could AI play a role in my organization. It doesn’t need to be as central as GuideGeek is to our organization.– Ross Borden
I think some of that gets back to the power of building brands, right? Like, you know, Matador is a brand, and that itself is not easily copyable….15 years ago, when I worked in automotive, people would always want to take inventory of all the car dealers and then compete with Autotrader and Cars.com. They thought they were going to be the next Autotrader and Cars.com….But nobody knows you exist. You don’t run Superbowl ads like Autotrader. You’re not a household name….there’s always a certain power and the brand and the go-to-market strategy and the business model and all those things.– Matt Watson
Other than use AI, you know, which is kind of a boring tip. You know, taken from my story, just never give up because I never gave up, and it was a slow start. We bootstrapped to the Bejesus, but it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve met a ton of interesting people, and now I run a really exciting business. So I really have a ton of respect for other entrepreneurs. And I know it’s very difficult, but keep going.– Ross Borden
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson, very excited this week to be talking about various entrepreneur powers. And the first episode of the series today is the power of AI. We’re talking about how AI could help make your business different, your product different or how you could use AI to help your business in various ways. Ross Borden is with us today. He’s the founder and CEO of Matador network, and they’ve been doing some cool stuff with AI. We’re gonna talk about that too. And before we get started, I do want to remind everybody that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by fullscale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit full scale.io to learn more. Ross, welcome to the show, man.
Ross Borden 00:44
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it, Matt.
Matt Watson 00:47
So are you calling–? You know, you’re all in the travel and I’m excited to learn more about your company. But I guess my first question for you is are you somewhere cool? Are you traveling the world as part of your, you know, endeavors? Or…?
Ross Borden 01:01
I’m not, I’m boring at home. You know, I actually have a newborn baby right now. I’ve–
Matt Watson 01:07
Ross Borden 01:08
Oh, nice. Congratulations, boy or girl?
Matt Watson 01:12
I have four boys. And I just had a baby girl. So that’s kind of a big deal.
Ross Borden 01:17
Matt Watson 01:19
Yeah. Seven week old.
Ross Borden 01:21
Amazing. I just had a baby girl as well. So yeah, six weeks. So we’re right next to each other.
Matt Watson 01:27
Ross Borden 01:28
Yeah, like, oh, yeah, I’ve taken a beat off from travel. For now. I’m just taking some time off of the flights. And honestly, like COVID kind of saved me in a weird way. Obviously, you know, that was our hardest year of our history during COVID because travel was just flat. Now, meaning we’re media based business, so standing at the intersection of travel and media was a pretty shitty place to be standing during a pandemic. But in a weird way, everything bounced back really fast. And then in a weird way, I like all of the sort of more soul-sucking travel that I used to do is completely gone forever. And all those meetings are going over Zoom. So I never fly to New York for two meetings anymore, which I did as a matador. And so it’s actually been great. And I do I just booked my first trip, post-baby. I’m going back to Tonga, which I haven’t been to since pre-pandemic to swim with humpback whales with some friends of ours there. And it’s just like, one of the most probably the most amazing wildlife encounter I’ve ever had. I’m big Africa. I’m obsessed with Africa, been on safari many times. But nothing is like being in the water with humpbacks that are– you know, the mom is 60,000 pounds. The calf, depending on when you catch them, they’re anywhere from like five to 20,000 pounds, and very curious and will come right up to you to the point where like, no matter how adventurous you are, you’re like, Is this safe? What is going on here? And it’s just like, it’s almost like meeting aliens, because you can’t, you can’t talk to them. But they come by and they look at you right in the eye with their [unintelligible]. And we’ve been dying to go back since 2019. And so I’m really excited for that go in there and second week in July. So I’m excited for that. That’s my first big trip post-baby.
Matt Watson 03:30
Well, so tell us more about Matador and what you do. Looks like you’ve been doing this for more than 15 years. You know, tell us what do you guys do?
Ross Borden 03:40
Yeah. So, we basically are bootstrapped a media company. So Matador network.com is our flagship website. You can think of it like Nat Geo has a love child with BuzzFeed. And so we we sort of the network in our name, Matador network is a network of contributors, filmmakers, photographers, writers, social media influencers, and creators. And we essentially like crowd sourced travel content. So you know, this is going to show us just how ancient we are as a company how long ago we got started, but I was originally impressed by YouTube before Google acquired them. I had a corporate job I hated and I was like, Man, I wish I could do something and travel. I’d been living in Latin America, climbing mountains for like eight months and living on a shoestring and Buenos Aires having the time in my life. And then I came back I got a corporate job. And I just was like, my happiness index crashed in the mountain. I was in a cubicle doing 100 cold calls a day and I was like, What just happened to me like, what you know, searching for kind of like something I was passionate about. And then my friend came over my cubicle. And this is like, you know, about a year or two before we even started Matador. He’s like you have you heard this new site YouTube, and I’m like, now he’s like, youtube.com people’s videos are getting like 25,000 views. Is which it’s easy to forget how, you know, that was actually crazy back then this was before social media. And so I was like, This is what I should do. But for travel, I want to crowdsource travel content. And so a couple of months later, I quit that corporate job, I, you know, stripped my life down to the bare bones, so I could afford to do a startup with basically self funded for for a couple months. And then we sort of, I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it, it was, it was a long road. But now, we’re, you know, been very profitable for a very long time, we built an amazing business, we have a team of about 80 people, we’re a leader in travel publishing, we have a 40 person production company in house. So we work with a lot of the biggest brands on really cool video projects all over the world. Both you know, travel brands like tourism boards, airlines, global hospitality, as well as brands like REI and Yeti, and Samsung. And we are just kind of like, you know, building the company of our dreams in control of our own destiny took on very little funding, and, you know, banking millions of dollars a year and EBIT, da. So, it’s been really exciting. It’s been a very long road, but now, we’re, you know, very excited about the direction we’re headed in.
Matt Watson 06:19
Well, so I’m, I’m gonna need to go on a trip to South Florida. And I went to your website earlier, and, and I see all these great articles that come up about South Florida and Florida Keys and all these things. And so is that a lot of your content is is aimed for somebody like me, or it sounds like you guys also kind of work as a marketing agency for some of these brands and sites and stuff.
Ross Borden 06:39
Yeah, I mean, first and foremost, we are a publisher. So just like you said, people come to our website and find inspiration and information about places to travel. Also, you know, we’ve got pretty massive platform at this point. We have a couple brands on social media at Matador network, where we’ve got millions of followers across Facebook, Instagram, tik, Tok, YouTube. And then we started a new brand just for tick tock called visit. That’s the number one brand in travel on tick tock. So that’s got 7 million followers, over a million on Instagram. And so all in we’ve really rapidly become a video first and social first media company. So we do produce original, long form episodic shows, we produce original documentaries that we sell fun stuff that we want to make, but we’re kind of a beast, in the short form video space are doing about 150 million video views a month. So that’s another place where kind of no matter if you’re if you’re looking for videos on South Florida, you might find a video for Matador for your trip there. If you’re you know, just stumbling around you love travel and you’re getting content fed to you by the big platforms, you’ve probably watched Matador —
Matt Watson 07:55
Yeah, so, that’s what I’m thinking I’ve been on probably been on Tik Tok today or Tik Tok before and I see these you know, I’ll see some couple in some like crazy place in Maldives or whatever and in this incredible experience and it sounds like there’s a chance it was from you.
Ross Borden 08:10
Yeah, TikTok’s been fun. I mean, we started visit it just instantly blew up and then we’ve so we’ve got almost 10 million followers now on TikTok with our combined accounts, we even started new ones like food WTF, which looks like food, what the f but its food worth traveling for. We have Epic Stays. That’s like the coolest Airbnbs and hotels. So it’s been a really exciting platform for us. And we’re very much like creator-first, so I still think kind of regardless of all this madness in the US, so like it was TikTok going to be banned, is it not? It will remain to be sort of the center of creative excellence where like creator innovations coming from.
Matt Watson 08:53
if Tiktok gets banned, something else immediately will take its place.
Ross Borden 08:57
Yep, I think so.
Matt Watson 09:00
That’s pretty much the deal, right? It’s like you can ban the Silk Road or whatever that sells drugs online. But the next week, there’s some other thing just pops up.
Ross Borden 09:09
I would be shocked. I think more likely they’ll be forced into a sale at the federal level to USSC if that comes to pass. But I would be shocked if they just like, you know, let it—
Matt Watson 09:21
I’d be shocked to so So the topic of the episode today is about the power of AI and love to talk about how you can use AI as an entrepreneur and a lot of different ways and love to learn more about how you guys are using AI obviously you’re in the content generation space, you know, or are you guys using AI to help with video ideas and topic ideas or outlines for videos like how do you guys use AI?
Ross Borden 09:47
Yeah, so a number of ways actually. So I started playing with AI over a year ago even sort of with as soon as we could get into open AI and and start playing with their models and the different ways we could use it. So we started at first looking at it as like not a way to replace the human editors and writers that we have creating content. Because I don’t want to put out just a bunch of AI content and Matadors really always been about storytelling, so you can do your, like best restaurants in this town or coolest hikes in this area, but to have a story and a human elements really important to us. So we’re never gonna go, like, we just make all of our content with AI, because it’s cheap, we still want to work with creators, many of whom are writers. And we’ve built that that global network of about 70,000 people across the world who we call on to create local content from a local perspective. So But that said, you know, there’s a way that, you know, we can make more content faster. So we’re, we’re looking at at, you know, sort of dabbling of like, you know, is this even accurate? Does it work and it works pretty well. The thing that really caught our attention, though, is that if you if you deliver AI now this is obvious with chat GPT. But this is pre launch of chat GPT were impressed with open AI and the answers that were given a chat interface. So before the launch or chat GPT we’re already kind of playing with this. And we launched a product called GuideGeek. And basically, it’s like a travel agent, like an AI travel agent. So delivered through WhatsApp and soon will be live on Instagram, Facebook Messenger. So our strategy is have the best AI and travel which consists of using big LLM, like open AI, chat GPT for but then combining that with real time data on flights, hotels, Airbnb ease, and adding like a human layer of you know, people who could point you in the right direction, connect you with an agent, if you wanted to book something, add an extra layer of sort of expert knowledge about that place. And so right now we’re doing as well as vertical video, which we as I said earlier, we’re a leader in so we’re really like, between humans, and human takeovers, what we call it vertical video, all the content that we have on Matador and open AI’s language model, we’ve combined all of that into a single experience called GuideGeek. And so if you go to guy geek.com, you can just connect to it for free via WhatsApp. And you essentially have a travel agent in your pocket. And anytime whether you’re traveling now, or you’re planning a future trip that has read every single restaurant review, read every single hotel review knows every single vacation rental out there every experience every tour best times to go festivals, dangers and annoyances, like any really anything that you could think of. And instantly, this was a hit product, like just we’ve got, we’re getting 1000s and 1000s of users every day. And now we’re they’re all hanging around, they’re coming back to plan new trips to plan bigger trips to ask more specific questions. So it’s probably the most exciting thing maybe that we’ve ever done. Certainly in the last like 10 years. We’re really, really bullish on AI for travel. And if you think about it, like, there hasn’t been innovation since the 90s, for how we plan research and book trips, like the last major innovation was the launch of the OTAs, like Expedia and booking in the 90s. And we think that, you know, going to an OTA or even coming to Matador site and clicking on things to do or typing in a destination is going to look really, really old school a year from now. So we think this could be an entire new sort of paradigm shift on how to plan research and ultimately book trips.
Matt Watson 13:57
I really love this. And, you know, for example, recently I I’m in Kansas City, I did a trip from here to Dallas, but it was a road trip. And so I actually went on Chachi VT and I asked it like, I’m driving from here to here, what are ideas of places that go to, you know, from here or there or whatever, and it would have an off it. It’s gave me a sort of good answer, but not a super great answer. But it’d be it’d be great like for all those sorts of use cases to have like I’m planning a road trip, where should I go? Where should I stay? What should I do like, and but but those are questions that are not a single blog post, right? Because it’s like, I’m going from this part of the world to this part of the world. And there’s a million things in between. So the answer needs to be answered by AI.
Ross Borden 14:42
Yeah, and it’s like, you know, everyone’s gone through this experience where you’re kind of tearing your hair out. You’re excited for a trip but you’ve got like 30 browser tabs open. Yeah, I’m trying to figure out like the train schedule and like if you can rent a car in this town and like how far Is this drive and all these things that AI just knows immediately? So it’s been amazing and really like granular specific stuff like, what forms do I need to fill out to take my dog on this train or her like on this plane? What’s a what’s a pet friendly family, a pet friendly or family friendly restaurant or hotel? A lot of these like sort of needle in the haystack questions. One of our early users said like, this is like the first day we just launched and I was like, wow, this is crazy powerful. She’s like, I’m taking my daughter to DC and she’s autistic. What would you recommend for an autistic child in DC, to see all the, you know, coolest, most important attractions and monuments. And right off the bat, you know, it knew all of the sensory sensitive hours at every single Museum and had really great recommendations for outdoor activities, specifically for an autistic child and had like, like, really everything covered for her whole trip. And I saw like, how long would it have taken her to figure all this stuff out with such a granular, specific thing? And just the AI instantly gave her a full blown itinerary, which was just amazing.
Matt Watson 16:17
Well, what’s what’s awesome about this is this is the next evolution of things. Right? So chatty. Vt is a very generic AI model. It’s kind of trained generically to do a lot of things. But it’s not really an expert at any one thing, right? Where you guys are like, Okay, how do we create the world’s best AI engine trained engine on this one specific topic, right. And there’s people that are training AI on other different topics for computer programming, there’s very specific ones, for example. So that’s cool that you guys are doing this. And so I guess the question then is, how did you do that? What was the process of of trying to train AI on these various specific topics?
Ross Borden 16:57
Yeah, so it was a lot of just experimenting, honestly, you know, the bait, the first thing you got to figure out is the prompt. We also are bringing this to our clients. So brand safety is really important, both for Matador and then definitely for all of our clients. And there’s sort of the sort of unknown with AI, that there’s hallucinations, there’s inaccuracies, there’s potential that someone can, you know, really coerce it into saying something bad or doing something bad, that could be construed as sort of like some sort of a PR disaster. So we had to think about that stuff. First, we had to think about how it would converse with someone and I think I’ve seen this like, you know, Expedia now has chat GPT integration, their app, but I think it’s just poor integration, the way they do it, because I went in there and was like, Hey, I’m going to Amsterdam. And it’s just like, Amsterdam, like top 10 this and that, like knowing nothing about who I am, how to travel. Whereas with Guy geek, we went in another direction, where instead of just like blurting out a massive answer all of this text that you have to read, that doesn’t really apply to you. It’s first going to ask you qualifying questions can say Amsterdam. Amazing. But let me ask you a couple questions. What’s your budget, what time of year? How do you travel, and maybe people don’t want to give all of that information at once. But even if I say, you know, traveling as a family, with a newborn going in summer, the what it’s going to come back with in terms of an itinerary recommendations, hotels, restaurants, it’s all going to be tailored to those things that I just shared with it. So that’s been a real game changer is this back and forth conversation where it’s not just a q&a, but it’s actually wants to learn about you as a traveler, because if I’m a single guy, and I’m adventuring around the world, I’m going to travel completely differently than I am with, you know, a six week old daughter and a seven year old, and an a wife who’s a vegetarian, right? If it knows those things, the output it’s going to give me will be completely different. So that’s, that was a big deal for us. And then, obviously, the other big limitation of open AI and just LLM in general is that they’re only up to a certain date. They only know so much. So for example, out of the box, it thinks COVID is still raging, right. It’s like there’s a pandemic I gotta recommend all these like vaccine certificates and, and regulation around COVID. So we had to build that in and train it to say like COVID pandemics basically over you know, you can stop alerting people about vaccine requirements and stuff like that entry requirements, and so we’ve had to do some of that sort of work to get it up to date and then also travel is such like an up to date you want like things now especially flight information, hotels, Airbnb. So that’s where API’s came in that we’ve added. So we’re integrating with some really amazing API’s from we got Skyscanner, which is searches pretty much every OTA and every airline database for available flights and pricing. So we’ll sell it, we’ll send you like best, fastest, cheapest flight options. We’re also integrating with accommodations. We’re also doing currency conversion weather so that you can say, like, what’s the weather like in Spain next Tuesday, and it’s gonna give you like an accurate representation, or what’s the weather in Madrid next Tuesday? What’s the cheapest flight from SFO to LAX? On Monday, it’s gonna give you like real flights, you can actually book rather than like, saying, like, typically, you know, these are what the prices are, but I don’t have access, we’re building our travel AI to be the best. So it has to have all that access to real time info.
Matt Watson 21:01
Well, that sounds like a lot of software to build. And reminder, if you need help building software, it doesn’t have to be difficult, Full Scale can help, especially in visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and see what developers are available to join your team today. Visit full scale.io to learn more. So I guess my question along those lines is, you know, traditionally, you guys have been more of a media company. And this is, in some ways turning into a little more of a tech company, right? Like, this is sort of a whole different endeavor for you.
Ross Borden 21:33
Yeah, it’s it is a different endeavor. And you know, I don’t take that lightly. This is kind of going to be a new adventure for us in that, you know, in our business model for guy geek is really kind of like SAS actually. So yeah, that’s definitely something we’ve never done. We built apps before we we do feel like even before AI, we were a tech, not technology minded media company. This is like a whole nother adventure. So we are half you know, we’re hiring support staff, we’re building our team, both our engineering team faster than we normally would have. And we’re hiring folks for to do software support and user support for that human interaction. So it’s definitely a new adventure for us.
Matt Watson 22:18
So as we talked about the power of power of AI for you, it his I wouldn’t say it’s changed your business model, but it’s created a whole different opportunity, right, it’s create a secondary opportunity for you. And so I’m curious, what are your thoughts of that as an entrepreneur of like, you know, looking at like, well, how can I use AI to dramatically change my business? Or in your case, create a secondary business? And, and, and, you know, what, what are your thoughts about him? It seems like it’s a little bit of a its own gold rush right now.
Ross Borden 22:46
Yeah. And I think, you know, I’ve talked to people in the last couple of months since the launch of chat GPT, because now everyone knows, obviously has tried it, play with it. Some are impressed. Some are not some are scared about AI, which I think is valid. But I, I don’t think it’s like a hype cycle, the way that you know, crypto and web three was everywhere. And then it was like total bust, total disappointment, all these sort of embarrassing failures, like FTX. And all the naysayers were essentially proven right? I don’t think that’s going to happen with AI. Never, ever have we seen three or maybe like considering $5 trillion companies pivot their entire business model towards a single technology in the span of four months. That has happened. And so what does that tell you? I think it tells you that not only are they going to really put AI first, but AI will work its way into every single industry. I don’t think it will, like is AI going to replace humans in this or that? Probably not immediately, but I think it will. Those who utilize AI to its fullest extent, will replace those who don’t across every single industry. So my advice to entrepreneurs is to really sit down and think about how could AI play a role in my organization, it doesn’t need to be as central as GuideGeek is to our organization. But it can you know, if you build anything with code, it could make your coders 10x coders. If you do any kind of marketing, it could make you way more efficient with regard to testing different headlines making different copy writing different blogs. So kind of I look at it as like no matter what business you’re in, there’s probably room for AI to improve it make you faster, better, smarter, but essentially for free. So I think those who just say oh, this is the next hype cycle or I don’t believe in AI. I think it’s could be some cautionary tales of those folks, because I would not ignore this technology.
Matt Watson 24:59
Well I see the same thing. So I work at a digital marketing agency for home services. And, you know, it’s about once a week somebody that works or asks a question that Chet GVT could have answered instantly. And it’s like, those are the people that I’m thinking like, you’re the person who’s gonna get replaced by AI because you don’t know how to use AI. Like, how do you not go just go as check up the answer this and would have gave it to you instantly? Like, why are you sitting there pondering about the answer and then asking us on slack just go as Chad GBT out, I want to let me Google that for you button except for the let me chat. GBT that for you. Like, yeah, I swear about once a week.
Ross Borden 25:38
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I and I think, you know, too. I think just like any technology, we who are in technology, and in the startup world, we kind of like, we feel like everyone must surely would have heard about this by now. But even with the millions of users that Chachi PT has in the millions of users that I’m sure testing barred, and the other big models like we are still on the bleeding edge. And most people in the world still haven’t interacted with these technologies. And it’s going to take a couple years. But I think by the time the late adopters catch on, the AI will be integrated into most things out there that that we’re all touching in terms of software and services.
Matt Watson 26:22
do you how do you feel about how AI based content could disrupt like what you do it Matador right, because, I mean, theories, make it use AI to take every article you have, copy them, slightly changed them and republish the whole thing. Right? And they could do that today. Almost Right. Like, which would be crazy. But you could do that with AI?
Ross Borden 26:43
Yeah, I mean, a couple of things there. One, I think, you know, I’m sure someone will try that to build like a content farm for travel using all AI generated content. I think it’s gonna be harder than they think to do. I think we’ve we found in our testing that sometimes the content can have inaccuracies in it might be written fine, grammatically, but it’s not it, there’s a lot of hallucinations that can pop up. So things that definitely need to be fact checked. The other thing for our specific business is that we’re not just a straight media business, where everything’s about traffic and CPMs. and display ads, we are heavily into branded content, custom video production for major brands, that that requires a level of service and back and forth and creative, that, you know, AI, maybe one day will be, you know, capable of if, if people are right, that you’re built to, like dictate your own Hollywood movie with AI in a couple of years. But we’re nowhere near that right now. So our business seems to be insulated from that. Plus, I’m hoping that GuideGeek will be an entirely new business opportunity for us. That is totally wrapped up in AI and in a great way. But I think that there are, there are going to be things there is going to be disruption for sure. And there are going to be people who are able to accomplish a lot with very little capital using AI and launch competitors to industries or organizations that are just not ready for it. So I think we are going to see a lot of that and it’s going to be interesting to watch. Well,
Matt Watson 28:29
I think some of that gets back to the power of building brands, right? Like, you know, Matador is a brand and that that itself is not easily copyable. And I saw this in automotive all the time. 15 years ago, when I worked automotive, people would always want to take inventory of all the car dealers and then compete with auto trader and cars.com. They thought they were going to be the next auto trader and cars.com. But in real it didn’t matter. It’s okay, you know that there’s these millions of cars for sale, and you have a website that lists all of them. But nobody knows you exist. Like you don’t run Superbowl ads like auto trader, you’re not a household name. And that’s, you know, there’s always a certain power and the brand and the go to market strategy and the business model and all those things. It’s not just the content, right? I think we’re getting more and more aware, yeah, AI could generate all this content, just like somebody can get a list of all the cars that are for sale. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to build the next auto trader you don’t there’s a lot more to the business than just the content.
Ross Borden 29:26
Exactly. And that’s that’s something that we’ve done a lot not only being around for more than 15 years, but we’ve really taken care to build a brand around how we think people should explore the world. You know, travel is a very in some arenas, very transactional kind of like dry place but we always knew travel is like the most magical thing ever. It’s a human first experience. You have some of these like life changing experiences, you come back different from trips. You meet new people, you try new food you listen to new music, Like this incredible magic that that within travel that we tried to capture with our brands. So I appreciate you noting that and I totally agree. And then the other thing is like even taking it a step further, something that will become a commodity AI, and is already sort of commoditized out, you know, from Chachi, PT and the big, big models. Were even building a brand around GuideGeek, where it’s like it is the go to for travel specifically. So I think branding is maybe increasingly becoming important in the world of AI.
Matt Watson 30:34
What you mentioned using API and that becoming commonplace and that right now that’s the buzzword of everything are like a we do this, this this and we use API, you know, we use AI, and just like people do it with web three and crypto or blockchain like, but I welcome the day when like nobody mentioned that because it’s like, does everybody does that, like you’re not like, oh, we were great, because we’re hosted in the cloud. And we use, you know, this programming language. Like, who cares? Everybody does that. Like that’s not a differentiator anymore, right. Like, I woke him that day, because it annoys me when people are like, I built I built Twitter, but it’s on blockchain, or I built Twitter and it uses AI. And it’s like, well, Twitter already uses that. Like, who cares? Yeah.
Ross Borden 31:20
Yeah, I mean, I think what you’re gonna see also is a lot of companies that raised a lot of money trying to rebrand and say that, like, now we’re a we’re now we’re an AI focused company. You know, you’ve you’ve been around this world, for the last few years, seeing the crazy amounts of money all the unicorns with these valuations where these companies are burning through millions of dollars per month, in the red, and nowhere near to toe profitability. And, and I think a lot of them are not only scrambling to cut workforce and figure out if they can reach a profit, but they’re also trying to rebrand and we’re not just this anymore with this with AI. So yeah, I think there’s gonna be a lot of that for like the next probably a year plus, but I agree with you, it will be not even worth mentioning at some point.
Matt Watson 32:12
So GuideGeek is, is this great new business that you’re creating sound likes, it’s still in its infancy and excited to see you get it available outside of just WhatsApp and all you know, all these other things. So I guess the big question there for you is, you know, have you figured out how to monetize this, like it’s a whole new business and product for you. You figured out how to monetize this thing?
Ross Borden 32:32
Yeah, so one of our goals for guy geek is to keep it free forever, for all travelers and all consumer users. And so, you know, most people, when you when they use a service are like, this is incredible, like, so are you going to start charging, you know, eight bucks a month or 20 bucks a month, we’re never going to do that. We also we are seeing revenue come through our affiliates. So when someone books a flight, there’s there’s a small piece of revenue. But that’s, you know, at this, you’d have to have a crazy scale to build a multi million dollar business just off of that. So what we’ve done is we’ve actually built a white label version of GuideGeek that we can sell as a software as a service product to our existing clients. So Matador works with about almost 300 DMOS, destination marketing organizations, so tourism boards, essentially, each Tourism Board has their unique things about them that make them special, unique things about their destination that they want people to know whether they’re currently in that destination or thinking about visiting that destination. So a one size fits all something where everyone’s using GuideGeek and we are, you know, shooting leads and traffic out to these different organizations wouldn’t really make sense because each of those destinations wants to speak and have their own relationship with a potential visitor or a current visitor. So we’ve built a way on our software platform to give them sort of the keys to their own castle where they can, you know, promote this promote the service, we’re giving them an asset pack with QR codes, links, they can connect it to their Facebook, their Instagram, and it helps that you know, for the international destinations that we work with that it speaks you know, 45 languages fluently, they have a lot of inbound questions that are coming in Mandarin or Japanese or Portuguese or French or German or Spanish. All those can, you know, Guy geek obviously just effortlessly flows in all those languages. With with with ease, and I liken it for them to essentially like being able to reach backwards through Google and have a one on one conversation with anyone who’s ever typed in the name of their destination to a search engine. So if I’m visit California, obviously, you know 1000s of people all the time are Googling things about traveling California, this is a way for them to one learn a ton about who this person is, how they travel, what their budget is, when they plan on coming. And then to have a way of sending that person the exact most helpful link or the biggest opportunity for a transaction. And then having that kind of like one on one relationship going forward. So it’s essentially like CRM or first party data on steroids, but you don’t have to be creepy with data, you can actually provide value to the people that are interested in visiting your destination. So we’ve seen just started having demos with this software, but tons of interest in it. And I think it’s going to be a new thriving revenue stream for Matador in a way that we can keep GuideGeek free for everyone forever.
Matt Watson 35:49
So for example, I’m sure you’re probably familiar with like Branson, Missouri, you’re familiar with Branson, it’s a tourist destination. So I would say you’re talking about like, like some website, that’d be like explore Branson or like visit Las Vegas or something like that, like some kind of some kind of site like that, that you would license this technology for them to reuse for their own site.
Ross Borden 36:15
Not a site but unleashing our technology on their site. So all of them have their own websites and they all have grandson has their own, you know, tick tock and Instagram, YouTube. And so we will just have our AI answering questions in their DMS for those messaging platforms and then we’ve built a chat client site just like right now they’re gonna like chat with us. But that chat is not real AI it’s like basically a shortcut to like are you looking for lodging or things to do attractions instead of something like not sophisticated like that we’ll be able to you know prioritize some of their content but really answer any question no matter how granular.
Matt Watson 36:58
So would the Grand Slam for you be licensing this to like Expedia and replacing their crappy chat is that–?
Ross Borden 37:07
Yeah, I mean I don’t know honestly, GuideGeek in sort of the mothership we want that to be you know, a new OTA essentially. We want to build a brand around it where just like when Airbnb launched, you know, so cool, like, oh, there’s there’s no hotels and you’re like, why don’t you try that weird site air bed and breakfast where you could actually stay in someone’s home and feel like that’s, that’s odd. And now it’s like, let’s get an Airbnb. Let’s Airbnb it. You know, Airbnb has become a noun, adjective, verb, like, it’s, it’s just built into the travel ecosystem now. And that’s where we want to take GuideGeek. So yeah, I don’t know if Expedia would ever want, you know, GuideGeek within their app. But our goal is to have our AI perform much better than Expedia AI or their integration of ChatGPT.
Matt Watson 38:01
Well, very cool. And reminder, if you need to hire software engineers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help we have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit fullscale.io. All they need to do is enter answer a few questions on our platform match you up to our fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers. The big difference is we build teams that work directly for you, like they’re part of your team. Learn more at full scale.io. Well, Ross, thanks so much for being on the show today. And I will definitely be checking this out as I plan my trip to the Florida Keys. This is really cool. And I think it’s a great example of how people are using AI, you know, to change their business models or in your case don’t really change it but but creating a secondary business and so it’s super, super cool.
Ross Borden 38:47
Thanks, man. Appreciate you having me. And we just finished a big video shoot in the Florida Keys. So yeah, look for some videos on Matador and GuideGeek for that trip as well.
Matt Watson 38:56
Alright, once again, this was Ross Borden from matadornetwork.com and GuideGeek.com. As we finish up, do you have any last minute tips, words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs out there?
Ross Borden 39:10
I mean, other than use AI, you know, which is kind of a boring tip. You know, taking from my story, just never give up because I never gave up and it was a slow start. We bootstrapped to the bejesus, but it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve met a ton of interesting people and now I run a really exciting business. So I have a ton of respect for other entrepreneurs. And I know it’s very difficult, but keep going.
Matt Watson 39:41
All right. Well, Ross, thank you so much for being on the show.
Ross Borden 39:43
Thanks for having me.