Not everyone can build one of the largest travel agency by the ripe age of 24. Find out how Jens Oreel made it in Asia.
Growing up in Belgium as a teenager, his step father’s interest in marketing was passed on the young Jens and gradually imprinted on his mind ever since. As a high school dropout, he worked for one of the lowest paying jobs in town sorting out CDs and DVDs. Shortly, he was promoted to the position of Salesman after breaking every sales record in Europe.
However, not everything worked out as smoothly as he explains the harsh realities of his childhood. “My father’s business failed, and he passed away shortly after that,” he recalls. “I was lost and locked myself up in the room. After working hours, I read books about business, psychology and marketing. Then something miraculously happened, I won the title Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010.”
1. Can you tell us how you got won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at such a young age?
Several years ago, the only coffee shop in Bruges was Starbucks. I remember sitting there and noticed half of the customers left empty handed because the queue was too long. So I thought ‘What if half of the people who left came to my store?’ So I focused on the speed of customer service, and a built an app called Cup’O in Belgium where you could order coffee via an app without the wait. Eventually, I ventured into exotic drinks by combining alcohol with jelly boba. I was one of the first to import boba to Europe.
However, Cup’O broke down, so I went travelling, and by chance, I discovered a new concept- travel hacking. I found flight tickets from Amsterdam to Bangkok for €200. Eventually, my friend and I came up with the idea to share travel deals on social media. People commented on our Facebook Pages asking ‘What’s the best hotel in town? What are the best restaurants around?’
2. Can you tell us how you started your company?
As a startup, we’re fortunate to be connected to the biggest websites in the industry Skyscanner and Uber. We are a business app called Octotrip where you can book your trip and we have gathered all the fine details which mean we know if you want your room close to the elevator or if you prefer aisle seats.
3. What is the aim of Octotrip?
The name links to the company’s vision which is being limitless. Our goal is to help customers with everything, from planning to booking to finding local shops. Everything you need is done in one snap.
4. Can you describe your team?
We are different, but we are friends. For example, Jarrich is always happy if you give him his laptop. Pieter is the real party animal. After that, you have me who has the crazy ideas all the time and then you have Jappe who calms everybody down.
5. If I want to use your service, how can I do?
We’re a closed system so you can’t just access it. You need to go on the website and ask us. That’s how it’s working right now. We give away 5 quotas to some of the travel companies. In the future, we are going to plan marketing strategies and target other travel companies.
6. Let’s say, if it’s not for me…?
It’s only for travel business. Do I want to do B2C? Of course, my heart lays there but we focus on B2B at the moment because the investment is bigger. Moreover, Google is targeting B2C right now. So let’s see what will happen after we develop the technical issues in 3-5 years.
7. Any tips for first-time entrepreneurs?
1. Stay positive
I ask people how we could make things more fun? We have to remind ourselves, ‘it’s not important what you are doing but why you are doing it.’ I’m a fan of staying on focusing on people’s talent and having deep conversation with them.
2. Make friends
A business is built on partnership. We are building something together. I am driving my business to them and I took my time for that. Knowledge isn’t just knowledge. Knowledge is knowing people. It’s important for you to show who you are and to show your passion as a young founder.
We are in the most competitive industry. But no, we don’t compete. We are making partnerships and taking risk. If I want to achieve goals in 4 years, it’s all going to be about trust investment.
If you invest your time on people, you gain trust. And trust can be spread all around you to places and people you don’t know about.