“Fundraising became an obsession”

Making money, rather than sourcing it, should be the priority, as the duo behind the live2leave app learned.

When backpacking buddies Léa Bourratière and Céleste Owen-Jones became stranded in the Peruvian jungle, they learned a lot about themselves and sparked an idea for a start-up that became a reality in 2017. Today, their travel app Live2Leave is home to nearly 10,000 trusted recommendations from local experts on places to visit and things to do around the world – including Peru.

Céleste – I had no idea how to start a company. I was a journalist working for Huffington Post and then Agence France-Presse as a foreign correspondent in South America. I moved around a lot for work and pleasure; my life then was about travel. I had the idea for Live2Leave as I would have appreciated trusted recommendations from people in the destinations I went to, but I didn’t know how I could bring it to life. I bought the website URL and carried on with my career, but starting the business was never far from my mind.

Léa – When Céleste approached me to join her, I took some convincing. It wasn’t a case of me not getting on board with the idea – in fact, I could definitely see the business opportunity – but leaving my managerial role at a successful Swiss watchmaking company was not without risk.

Céleste – I’d got to the stage that I needed to stop thinking and start doing. I built an initial version of the app, and asked Léa to use it and test it for me. It was a really buggy version, but it got her attention. I felt she could bring something to the business that I didn’t have: her marketing and business experience. We had complementary skills and I’m happy to say that she agreed to come with me on this journey.

Céleste – We joined a business accelerator called Techstars that turned us from a concept into an actual company. They gave us advice, mentoring, office space and funding, and it forced us to examine and re-examine our model. We learned so much about what makes our business work.

Céleste – At the beginning, fundraising became an obsession. We got sucked in by the industry’s tendency to measure success by a company’s capacity to raise money, not to make it, so we had around a hundred meetings with investors in two months. But it was too early for us and things weren’t going in the right direction. We decided to stop pitching and start redefining who we are and what makes our business different. It was the best move we could have made.

Léa – We knew that we could handle challenges together and that we could rely on each other when things get tough. We’re actually lifelong friends and went backpacking around Peru together a few years ago. While we were there, we bought a cheap bus tour to visit Machu Picchu and the organisers basically stranded us in a village in the middle of the jungle. We had to go to a tiny local police station to explain – in pidgin Spanish – that we had been ripped off and eventually they sent us back on a bus at three in the morning. We decided to get our money back from the tour operator and it was a nerve-racking process that took days. The operator tried to intimidate us, but we were tenacious and finally got it all back – even if he did pay us in single dollar bills.

Léa – Being two female founders in a tech world is not completely unlike being two solo female travellers in the Peruvian jungle. We operate in what can be quite a masculine environment and you need to have tenacity to thrive.

Léa – We often dress the same. It’s not through choice, I should point out, but we are in each other’s lives to such an extent that we are kind of ‘on the same train’. We actually lived together right at the start of the business, and it was crazy and intense, but it was just the most sensible option to get us to where we wanted to be.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight