Jack Fishl and Kyle Wiggins are two travel founders from Generation 11 of Start-Up Chile working on Keteka, a marketplace for authentic tours and activities. They are both Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (one of the first communities we’ve enabled) and big supporters of Horizon.
I was originally introduced to Jack and Kyle by Start-Up Chile’s director of acceleration, Luke Ball, shortly after they arrived in Santiago as part of Generation 11 (we were Generation 10). As I mentioned before, Start-Up Chile is a great program for founders in the travel vertical - which is why Luke connected us.
The Keteka founders (Kyle Wiggins, Claudio Castro, and Jack Fischl)
We didn’t get to spend an immense amount of time together in Santiago, but like so many others we met, Jack and Kyle did make an appearance at La Mesa Verde for an evening of food and drinks. One of the reasons I got along so well with them is they are both Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). I contemplated applying to the Peace Corps in 2005 after I graduated from University of Washington, and again several years ago following my departure from Zillow. I didn’t end up going down that path, instead deciding to travel on my own and then start a start-up (Oh Hey World / Horizon). That said, I have spoken to numerous RPCVs and have shared a common life value set (& addiciton to travel) with all of them.
I asked Jack to answer a few questions about Keteka, Peace Corps, and their entrepreneurial journey…
What is Keteka, and how is it going?
Keteka is an online tours and activities marketplace that leverages the Peace Corps network to connect travellers with authentic experiences in Latin America and allows them to book online. We have over 100 bookable experiences in five countries in Latin America (Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Chile). We have been selling tours consistently since November 2014, with bookings growing at 17% m/m. We are adding more destinations and more useful and engaging travel content every day.
Why did you start the company?
Kyle and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama and both worked (separately) on community-level tourism projects. We found that travellers loved the authenticity of the tours in our communities, but didn’t have a good way of connecting with more experiences like these. So we set out to create a website that connected travellers with these types of experiences and soon realized that only about 2% of tours and activities are bookable online. We felt that by tapping the Peace Corps network of over 8,000 Volunteers in over 60 countries, we could effectively and efficiently bring offline tour operators online better than anybody else.
How has Start-Up Chile helped your business?
Start-Up Chile allowed both of us founders to make the jump into doing Keteka full time, which has lead directly to consistent monthly sales and significant product growth. It also gave us the time and resources necessary to recruit a technical co-founder, which greatly improved our MVP website and put us in a much stronger position to automate processes and grow the business a lot faster.
You’re both returned Peace Corps volunteers. How did those experiences shape your entrepreneurial journey?
This company was born during our Peace Corps services, as a direct result of community projects we were working on. It exposed us not only to the demand for these types of experiences, but also to the challenges of the supply side, and how to overcome them. The Peace Corps also teaches you to be totally comfortable with uncertainty and to do as much as you can with almost no resources - which is excellent preparation for entrepreneurship.
Have you stayed with or hosted other RPCVs during your travels?
I’ve stayed with PCVs/RPCVs many times while travelling, and have hosted many PCVs/RPCVs as well. In fact, when I backpacked from the south of Peru to the north of Colombia, I planned my trip around meeting up with and staying with PCVs. They were always extremely helpful and fun to hang out with. Piece of advice - if you’re staying with an active Peace Corps Volunteer, remember that they are extremely poor, so be sure to chip in on the groceries! Also, they appreciate even the smallest gift - it will make their day.
PS: If you are a PCV or RPCV reading this and interested in utilizing Horizon on your travels, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll provide you the Peace Corps unlock code.