9 Q&A: Ready for next stop on startup journey, Off Track Planet CEO says travel should be sexy, easy

CINCINNATI - There's a good reason the Tri-State has a reputation for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship: The region is home to a number of business incubators and plenty of smart, creative people to keep them busy.

Each Monday WCPO Contributor Feoshia Davis talks with local start-up and entrepreneurial all stars. 

Off Track Planet has a cheeky, fun and amorous philosophy on travel, co-founder Freddie Pikovsky says. Started as a blog in 2009, the multimedia platform now reaches millions of readers through its print and digital travel content.

Aimed at the young, budget conscious and independent traveler, OTP's website is undergoing a major revamp, set for Beta launch this Spring.

9 questions for Off Track Planet co-founder and CEO Freddie Pikovsky

1. How did you get the idea for Off Track Planet?

When I came back from my first backpacking trip, I was sick with the travel bug and couldn’t do anything but think about my next trip. I realized after spending hundreds of hours searching for inspiration online, there was really nothing out there for young, budget travelers to call their own. Along with my co-founder, Anna Starostinetskaya, we saw an opportunity to invent it.

2. How do you describe Off Track planet? Travel guide? Travel company? Magazine? Tech company?

Off Track Planet is a multimedia travel brand. We started off as a blog, then made a print magazine that got distributed by Barnes & Noble, which led to our first major book deal last summer, OTP’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy and Broke . Next, we’re re-launching our website with three new city guides and a new publishing platform that makes it incredibly easy, beautiful and sexy for people to share their travel experiences.

3. What’s the company’s ultimate goal?

Our goal is to become the world’s largest and most trusted travel brand for those who seek unique and
local experiences. We’re doing that by building a massive community of travel writers and “super-users” who help us find the coolest recommendations from all over the world. We curate the best of it, add a touch of OTP’s style (by in-house editors) to deliver the most beautifully packaged and branded travel content available.

4. Who reads OTP? What are they like?

Our readers are mainly young professionals and college students from the ages of 18-35. But it’s for anyone who wants to experience local culture, adventure and life through others versus the typical tourist trek. Our philosophy is that in order to change the world, you must see it first. Our readers are an extension of that belief.

5. What one thing has led to the site’s popularity? Many people have great ideas for a website, but most of them don’t get millions of views.

We worked incredibly hard to develop OTP’s writing style, aesthetic, and come up with topics that stayed true to our audience. We weren’t afraid to go where most travel sites shied away from. Three months after launch, we saw our first big wave of traffic and it kept going from there.

6. How has your experience with the Brandery been? What’s the top benefit of the experience?

The Brandery  has been incredibly supportive. The top benefit, by far, is the people you meet and their extended network. The founders and organizers work hard to get you in the door with people who are otherwise difficult to reach from top investors, mentors and partners from all over the country.

7. Cincinnati is known for its conservatism, does that make it more difficult to grow your business here? It’s not exactly a buttoned up take on travel!

We haven’t experienced any pushback, quite the opposite. The startup culture in Cincinnati is very progressive and cutting edge. Most people we’ve met here are excited and impressed by everything we’ve been able to accomplish. Despite some of the conservative values, we’ve been embraced as entrepreneurs.

8. What’s your biggest challenge in moving forward?

The launch of our new website and publishing platform is the product we’ve been working on around the clock for the past six months, and it’s been our biggest challenge yet.

9. What next for the company?

We feel launching the new site will make us totally unique and we’re hoping it helps grow our community and content production exponentially. We’re aiming to launch BETA by mid/end of March. 

Connect with WCPO Contributor Feoshia Davis on Twitter: @feoshiawrites.  Look for a new column each Monday.
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