Jochem Wijnands has had quite a career. A graduate of the Rotterdam School of Business, where he got his MBA, he first made his name as a travel photographer for National Geographic and other magazines.
In 2010, he co-founded TRVL, the first iPad exclusive magazine in the world and winner of the best magazine app ever Award and best digital Travel magazine award. The traction and number of 5 star ratings was reason for Apple to mention TRVL in the keynote speech of the WWDC (June, 2012).
As a spin off from TRVL, he then co-founded Prss, a mobile publishing platform. In 2014, Prss was acquired by Apple, and then became Apple News.
After working for Apple for 1,5 years, he turned his attention again to TRVL, which he pivoted from a publisher to a peer-to-peer travel booking platform, giving travelers access to the secret world of the travel industry.
In an exclusive interview, Jochem tells us about his exciting career.
You started as a blogger, then created your own online magazine and ended up selling your company to Apple, where you built Apple News. What was it like selling your company to Apple and then creating Apple News?
It’s is great to be working in things you feel passionate about. That is what I have been doing all my adult life. It’s also important not to be afraid – which is easy when you love what you’re doing. Often what feels scary is not really scary once you do it, so take the plunge. In my case, the reward was selling my company to Apple. But of course it was never my intention when I started.
What do you think were the key points that made your company stand out to Apple and have them buy it?
We published TRVL to iPad and the software sucked – it was a serious problem for us and we tried to solve it by building our own software. Because we experienced this problem first hand, we were very well positioned to come up with a solution. In the meantime, Apple was selling zillions of iPhones and iPads, but it didn’t have a publishing solution. That’s why they bought us.
Based on your experience and personal opinion, our young entrepreneurial readers would love to know some life and career lessons you have learned over the years, what advice would you give them?
My advice for entrepreneurs is to try to solve a real problem that you have experienced yourself, and don’t be afraid to think big. Be careful about the advice you’re getting. You’re going to chance the world, most people are not like you.
Your current company, TRVL, has been featured in numerous media outlets, including TechCrunch and Bloomberg. What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs looking to get on the radar of reporters?
Think about what is so special about your company and then try to connect with reporters, preferably those you like. Take a longer term approach, much like dating. Don’t expect anything on your first date. It’s time consuming.
TRVL pays a commission to travelers for every booking they make. How did you come up with this idea? How did you transition from TRVL Media, the iPad magazine, to the current TRVL company?
In my 15 years of active traveling as a National Geographic photographer I experienced first hand that the tips and advice that travelers share with each other on the road, is the most valuable advice there is, and I want to bring this experience online.
When I buy a 3 euro beer there is always a bartender who will help me decide which beer to choose. But if you spend 500 euro on a hotel on Expedia, there is nobody there to help you. TRVL wants to humanize travel again. We envision a booking platform that facilitates, encourages and rewards travelers to help each other take the best travel decisions.
It starts with rewarding travelers by paying them a commission on every booking and giving them access to industry discounts, normally off limits to travelers.
Before all of this, you published 300 pages in National Geographic Magazine and National Geographic Traveler and published two photobooks for National Geographic. What advice do you have for young photographers who want to get published in National Geographic?
What I did is just create awesome features and invest lots and lots of time in stories without any guarantee that anybody would ever publish it, let alone buy it.
Invest in your own future, don’t expect anybody to take a chance with you, because they won’t.
Even when I was at the height of my photography career, nothing would come easy.