Australian duo crack China market with crypto-based travel app
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Australian duo crack China market with crypto-based travel app

Cracking the Chinese market is tough, but using blockchain has helped Teresa Truda get traction with her start-up, Chozun.

Chozun uses blockchain technology to generate personalised travel recommendations for users.

"When you are travelling, you are always looking for new and exciting things to do and we thought there was a opportunity for an app that allows you to do things when you travel based on your specific tastes," Truda says. "There are review sites, but they are based on other people's tastes."

Building blockchain

Blockchain uses computer code to engender trust in digital-economy transactions and Truda and co-founder Zia Word could see it would be valuable in the travel market.

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"The biggest thing is listening to our customers and looking to the data and looking at what they are searching," Truda says. "We have built our own private blockchain. All our providers are going onto the blockchain so we can authenticate that someone went to the service and this will eradicate fake reviews. To make payments a lot more efficient, we are expanding to enable people to pay in cryptocurrency."

This innovative use of cryptocurrency has led to Truda and Word being featured in the upcoming Netflix documentary Crypto Rush.

Teresa Truda has spent the last two years living in China launching her travel app Chozun.

Teresa Truda has spent the last two years living in China launching her travel app Chozun.

Targeting Chinese outbound travellers

Initially, Truda and Word launched a "really basic prototype" of the travel app in Australia. They were then accepted into Chinaccelerator, an accelerator program based in Shanghai, which really kickstarted Chozun's growth.

"We stayed in touch with Chinaccelerator ... and they said there was a gap in the market for Chinese outbound travellers," Truda says. "We spent three months at the accelerator rebuilding the product and two years later we are still there."

Truda and Word funded the app with $50,000 from Chinaccelerator and $250,000 of their own savings.

Co-founders Teresa Truda and Zia Word.

Co-founders Teresa Truda and Zia Word.

Expansion

China proved to be the perfect launching pad for Chozun, with the country already accounting for more than a fifth of the money spent by outbound tourists, twice as much as the next biggest spender, the United States, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

"There is a real movement with Chinese outbound travellers to independent travellers who are not travelling so much in big groups," Truda says. "Spending two years in China really established that base in China."

In 18 months, Chozun has launched in 22 cities across China, South-East Asia and Australia and has partnered with brands including Hugo Boss, British Airways, MetLife and the NBA. Its turnover since launch is about $1 million, with revenue generated through a 10 per cent fee for consumers.

Providers are listed for free on Chozun for the first 12 months and then pay a $29 fee to be listed. "For them, if we send them one job a month, they make that money back," Truda says. "We also make money through corporates who pay us retainers to service their business travellers."

Challenges

Truda says living and working in China as a female entrepreneur has brought challenges as well as opportunities.

"I think starting a business is really hard, regardless of your gender, but there were some challenges in China when it came to fundraising and being taken seriously as a female in China," she says. "It is all about building trust in China and showing people that you are legitimate."

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Cara is Fairfax media's small business editor based in Melbourne

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