In The Silicon Tropic

By South Florida entrepreneurs, for South Florida entrepreneurs. All things tech in the sunny Silicon Tropic.

Meet: Jake Santangelo of Adventurate

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Adventurate is an Amazon.com for adventures. Not only does it enable users to see all of the fun adventures and activities within an area, it allows them to book the adventure on their own schedule. After a successful pilot in Michigan, the startup has expanded to Florida, and is based right here in Miami. HE LEARNED TO CODE and CREATED HIS APP ENTIRELY FROM SCRATCH ON HIS OWN. Impressive dude. Tagged by me, because I thought as a startup new to the scene, he deserves a warm Silicon Tropic welcome. That and I genuinely think it’s something we’d all have fun using.

Who are you? Jake Santangelo. I’m from Holland, Michigan.”

What is your background? “I worked in public policy and politics and worked on campaigns and was a white house intern.”

Tell us about Adventurate. “It’s an amazon.com for adventures. People can find adventures and book them in seconds and it’s cool because you don’t need to follow up with a phone call to your tour guide or leader after. It just works, all you have to do after is show up. It’s also great because we offer deals that are exclusive to Adventurate users.”AdventurateWhiteScreen

What is your role? “CEO & Founder.”

When did it launch? “It launched this summer in Michigan as a pilot. This past week we expanded to Florida. We have adventures all over Florida: Orlando, Keys, Miami.”

How many people are on your team?It’s just me.”

How did you get started, or how did you come up with this idea? “I was actually traveling in Florida last year and wanted to book an airboat ride and I noticed that the whole process of finding one and booking it took an hour. To find the activity itself, there wasn’t one central place, like an Amazon, that has all the pricing or options. I also had to play phonetag with the tour guide. Although we piloted in Michigan, the expansion to South Florida has brought things full circle.”

You had no real business background or startup experience, but as a consumer you saw a problem. Why did you think you could fix it? “I always thought about business. I would always follow tech, being in policy and politics I had a keen interest. I was observing the industry while doing my own thing. The last campaign I worked in, I was in a terrible car accident. Following that experience, I thought to myself that if there was ever anything that required courage or something that I didn’t do before, I would do it this time. I had that inspiration when I was in Florida.”

Who is your target market? “Travelers and I’d also say people discovering new areas, and people rediscovering the areas right around them. Just adventurers.”

Talk to me about your pilot: “In startups, there are a lot of people who don’t know much about their product. I think it’s really important to master the product and make sure it’s up to high standards. The first part of the pilot was just making the product, I didn’t start with going to investors with an idea.”

So how did you do it? “I coded it myself. In iOS with Swift and Objective-C.”

WHAT (I was impressed; this is a super complex booking system, coming from a guy who spent his years out of college in politics, with no tech background)? Where did you learn to code? “Through tutorials on through textbooks.”

Did you target adventure companies or consumers first? “Adventure companies. The key element is having the right companies on there, and having a diverse range of activities. So once I had created the product, I had started reaching out. I drove around the state and demoed the product to people. Very grass roots.”

How did you get users? “I got a lot of press around the launch in Michigan, so that helped attract people to an app that would make what they love to do easier.”

Where is your office located? “I work out of wherever I’m staying.”

Have you raised money? “Seed money. Right now, I’m just focused on the product. You see a lot of people that start without having a product and then try to raise money, I tried to focus on making an excellent product.”

Who are your biggest competitors? “No one else is doing this in Florida. What people kind of think first is Groupon, but what really makes us different is that you can also book the time. You know after you buy a Groupon, there’s a lot of follow up. I’m closing the gap with that. Groupon is like an eBay for adventures. There are a lot of companies that turned down Groupon but they felt ok moving forward with Adventurate. They liked us more because our approach is respectful to their companies.”

What has been the hardest thing about Adventurate? “The hardest thing was learning to code. I think it’s so key and fundamental, so that I can be a founder that understands the technology. When you set a vision, you can overcome a lot of hard things. I was picturing what I wanted Adventurate to be, it helped me overcome it.”

Do you offer any products or services that Miami startups/businesses can buy, use, or otherwise benefit from? Go to the AppStore on iPhone or iPad and download Adventurate. You can immediately start looking for adventures you love. You can simply tap on an adventure you love, book it, and show your confirmation email when you arrive at the scheduled time.”

What types of services do you have in Florida? “One that’s in Miami is a kayaking cruise; a sunset kayaking cruise. Really cool, really awesome, must do thing. Not just for travelers, but for people who want to rediscover their own city. There are everglades tours. It’s a lot of fun and a very authentic Florida adventure. We also offer walking tours, like a Little Havana tour, and even a Ghost Tour in Key West.”

Best marketing trick/strategy: “Get press [i.e. email The Silicon Tropic 🙂 ]. Think about what the readers of the writer you want to write about you want to read. Find out that relevant story, and pitch it.”

Why Miami? “I had actually never been to Miami. When I really thought about where to move, I definitely wanted to expand to Florida and I chose Miami somewhat because drive-time wise. Between Key West and Orlando, I can drive to both. Practical considerations. So much about Miami that I knew was huge. People coming from all over the world in Miami. Now, thinking about tech, being new, I had heard about Wynwood, kind of seeing what’s going on there, a similar resurgence that’s happening in Detroit right now. Trying to rebuild technology. I think this is a good time to start, in the right place for my concept.”

How can the Miami startup community help you, or what are you looking for? “I’d love to meet with some programmers and coders down here. Having software engineers is really an important part of the tech ecosystem. Software developers, reach out and talk about being a part of the Adventurate Adventure.”

What was the last book you read? The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Does Adventurate have any partners (other than the adventure guides): “Adventurate was recently accepted into FBStart (Facebook Start), and the resources that are available through that have been really helpful.”

What’s your vision? “I want to be able to spin the globe, throw a dart, and no matter where the dart lands, there will be a variety of adventures available through my platform.”

Follow Adventurate on Twitter: @adventurateapp and Like it on Facebook.

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2016 by in People, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
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