Startup-O Stars is a series that captures stories of authentic tech entrepreneurs from Asia, to share their insights, learnings, tips & resources with the community. It aims to foster a deeper understanding of these journeys, direct from the trenches.
Alex Simon, co-founder of Elude, talks to Startup-O Stars about the adventure of their lives.
How does a young first-time founder get to attend an illustrious gathering like Davos, armed with only an idea and a web beta? The answer, says Alex Simon, is a deep excitement about the idea, coupled with grit and confidence.
When the opportunity to attend Davos arose, Alex grabbed it with the knowledge that even as a newbie founder, he was representing an idea that was worthy of being showcased. With odds against him, Alex managed to secure a ticket 3 days prior to the event. On the flight to Switzerland, his luggage was misplaced; he also stayed in a campervan for the week, as no hotels were available. Even within these circumstances, his belief in his idea remained confident, as he was driven by Elude’s mission to revolutionize travel.
This daunting “trip from hell” paid off. Their first investor was someone he met at Davos. Furthermore, being in the same room as representatives of government and industry yielded him advisers from Lyft, Snapchat and Skyscanner. Three months after the trip, Alex resigned from his Wall Street job to become a full-time founder.
Alex’s journey into entrepreneurship took him somewhat by surprise. Poised at the threshold of a Wall Street career in investment banking, he had embarked on a linear and lucrative path that he loved. This was the culmination of his education, and the pinnacle was in sight.
This was also a time when his own love for travel was taking flight. His first trip was to Israel, which opened his eyes to the impact that travel has on communities and growth. Thus, Elude was born out of his search for more travel options within a fixed timeframe and budget.
“For every one place a traveller wishes to visit, there are dozens more that their money can buy them,” says Alex, of the thinking that helped launch Elude. This was an opportunity to disrupt how travel is planned and booked. Key in preferred dates and a budget and Elude will show you several feasible itineraries to choose from. As Alex describes the lightbulb moment, “this was problem-solving on a mass scale – by shifting the focus of consumers.”
Alex and his co-founder Frank knew early on that they were on to something good. At this time, Alex was working long hours in New York and would begin his commute to work at 3am and catch the train home by 9pm. All Elude-related work was done whilst on his commute to his office and back.
Soon thereafter, Frank resigned from his job in marketing and dived into Elude, creating a web beta where he made itineraries for clients. The travel bug spread, and within a few months, they had created hundreds of bookings. No money had yet been raised, and Alex was funding the whole operation from his earnings at his full-time job.
It is often said that persistence and consistency are essential in the toolbox of an entrepreneur. To illustrate how important this is to him, he talks of his 3-year long effort to bring an adviser on board. Having set his sights on an adviser whose work he greatly admired, he then made contact over social media. Several Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook messages yielded no response. But rather than give up, Alex kept him updated on developments over a three-year period, until the adviser came on board.
Alex explains this as, “it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.” This has been one of his key learnings, not to give up on investors and advisors, but to keep them apprised of developments in Elude and ensure that their message reaches far and wide.
“One rejection is not a burned bridge,” he says, of the need for continued communication with all potential stakeholders.
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