“Our dining experiences were the highlight of our trips…”

Eating with local families while travelling was the catalyst for VizEat, one of Apple’s top three apps last year. Now cofounder Camille Rumani always makes time for food…

After graduating from the Neoma Business School in her native France, Camille Rumani moved to Beijing. While there, she was invited to eat with the local friends she’d made and the seed was sown for a business back home. Today, the 27-year-old is the COO of VizEat, an online platform that enables travellers to enjoy authentic dining experiences with hosts in over 110 countries. Here, Rumani tells us about the three-year journey that has seen her company hire 20 staff and attract a staggering 100,000 members.

Inspiration can come from anywhere “I created VizEat with my cofounder, Jean-Michel Petit, after being invited out for dinner by local families in Beijing. It was such an honour, and it struck me that eating with local hosts was the best way to get a feel for what a place is really like. Jean-Michel had recently taken a trip to Peru, where he’d been invited to eat with locals by Lake Titicaca. We agreed that our dining experiences had been the highlights of our trips and the idea for VizEat was born.”

Embrace the internet “This business could never have existed a few years ago. At the heart of what we do is a network of hosts that are spread all over the world. We evangelised about our mission, spoke to friends and friends of friends, but the internet is so powerful that our message soon spread farther than we could have imagined. Today, we have over 22,000 hosts and are growing.”

Keep an eye on your diary “I travel and work lots, and sometimes the two don’t mix. I’m constantly almost missing flights and once nearly missed my summer holiday, because I was busy interviewing someone for a job. My phone kept vibrating – it was my friend trying to reach me as we were due on a flight that day, not the next like I’d thought. I only just made it. And, by the way, we hired the guy I was interviewing.”

Love your job “This is my dream. I’m quite young and optimistic and, while it can be difficult to build a company and navigate all the challenges you face, it’s such a joy to see your concept grow into a successful platform. It eclipses all the bad moments.”

Invest in your own training “There’s an organisation in France called Girls in Tech, which runs free coding classes for women. I took a lot of lessons with them on Tuesday nights when we started out, because I wanted to be able to talk the same language as the technical people in our company.”

Enjoy your successes “It was a fantastic feeling to be selected by Apple as one of the top three apps of 2016. Tim Cook [Apple’s CEO] actually came to visit and we took him out to one of our hosts for lunch. It underlined what we do and why we do it.”

Your recruitment needs change “As the company has grown, we’ve taken on more staff and now employ 20 people from nine nationalities, split over two offices in Barcelona and Paris. At first, it was a question of finding ‘doers’, but now it’s about recruiting experts.”

Work together, eat together “Even though we are split over two cities, there’s a definite team spirit. We try to leave our computers and eat together every day. On Mondays, one of the team cooks one of their national dishes for everyone else in the office to try.”

Adapt and grow “When we started, people were only able to host dinner, lunch or brunch, but hosts soon started to tell us that they wanted to organise other things, like tours. At first, we resisted and tried to control it, but that was a mistake. The richness of what we do comes from our community, so we decided to be open to what they suggested. It’s been a huge success.”

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