Yervana exists to bring outdoor adventures online and make it easy for people to find, book, and pay for the adventures they love to do. Yervana is a Canadian outdoor adventure marketplace built on the belief that people want authentic local experiences led by local certified individuals and businesses. You can find anything on Yervana, from unique hiking, sea kayaking, backcountry skiing, caving, and Via Ferrata. Through the Yervana iOS app or website, users can search, discover, and book unique outdoor adventures.
Our vision is to spark discovery, passion, and connection by changing how we experience the outdoors. Our values include trust, passion and fun, sharing, community, innovation and respect, and integrity. We aim to provide safe, fun, epic experiences where users can learn from locals and be part of a community of people who love the outdoors. We’re never afraid of challenges and express innovation through our marketplace technology and creativity.
We believe in empowering local small and medium-sized businesses in the adventure tourism industry by providing an instant marketplace and enabling them to improve their digital marketing and e-commerce capabilities. By helping small and medium-sized tourism operators operate online, we’re able to make outdoor adventures more accessible and easy to find for adventure-seekers across Canada.
Tell us about yourself?
I spent most of my career in the investment industry, specifically the capital markets, working closely with corporate issuers and institutional investors. My past has helped get the company funded. However, I am not sure any background could have prepared me for the journey I embarked on to launch and get Yervana to where it is today.
The idea for Yervana stemmed from my experience as a local to Whistler, showing friends ski spots that only a local would know, and an idea to bring that experience to all travellers with a love of outdoor adventure. This idea evolved as I researched and tried to understand the changes that were happening in the global corporate world. From 2010 to 2018, we saw huge companies created, seemingly out of nowhere, such as Airbnb, Shopify, and Uber, that disrupted or changed how old-school businesses interacted with their customers.
I realized that the collaborative or sharing economy could be the most significant change in the global corporate world since the Industrial Revolution – I often refer to this as my first “ah ha” moment. People wanted to work differently and be more independent. It was an entrepreneurial spirit like we had never seen before. How customers made their purchasing decisions was changing. It didn’t matter what corporations were saying about their products. What mattered was what a person’s community was saying about the product. Peer-to-peer reviews were the new currency.
As I started to vet the idea of Yervana by people I respected, I soon got to where I knew I would regret this if I did not try. Do I regret starting Yervana? No. Was I naive about how easy the problem would be to solve it? Yes.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
There are two pieces of advice I would give myself or anyone starting up a new venture:
The first is not to confuse what your number one asset is. It is not technology or IP; it is your team. Be sure everyone you add supports your vision and culture.
The second one, and almost as important, is to trust your gut.
In the beginning, I made several wrong hires. Yes, they were good people and good at what they were hired to do, but they weren’t the right fit for the culture I was trying to build. For me, the positive was that I learned this early in the journey, and today we put a lot of focus on hiring the right fit and skillset, knowing we can teach what people may not know. A lot has been written on how culture eats strategy, but until you live it, you do not realize how destructive and counterproductive poor culture can affect a team and a company from executing. The second point is to trust your gut. It can be hard to go against a hire, strategy, or technology change because it is like admitting you were wrong. I started to ask myself, would I hire that person again, or would I go after the market again? If the answer is no, then why are you still doing it?
What problem does your business solve?
The adventure tourism industry is essentially an un-digitized space. Industry research says that over 70 per cent is offline, meaning these small and medium-sized local adventure tourism operators cannot capture a transaction (payment) online.
Our technology and marketplace were created to remove barriers to operating online, allowing SMBs to bypass technical, operational, and financial barriers. An excellent example of one of the operational barriers we worked on was insurance. Working with the insurance industry, we created insurance for local guides that is a pay-as-you-go model. We take a percentage of each booking to pay for the SMBs insurance so that these small operators are not writing a large cheque upfront for their liability coverage. Instead, they pay for it over time out of their cash flow.
Our marketplace is designed to showcase outdoor adventures and make them more accessible and easy to find for both Canadian and international users.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
The vision for Yervana came from two different personal experiences. One, how difficult it was to find non-tourist authentic adventures – the things locals would do in their backyard if they were to showcase their city or town to you.
Two, as an avid skier and local to Whistler, I would take friends from out of town around for a day of skiing. The outcome was always similar; even if they had skied there before, they saw more of the mountain than they knew existed. The spots the locals knew where to go. These two experiences were the genesis for Yervana and started me on the journey to create the technology and marketplace for finding authentic local adventures.
What is your magic sauce?
We differ from our competitors in two ways. One, we view ourselves as collaborative technology that works with the bricks and mortar of the community. Two, during COVID-19, we used the time to solve some of our data issues, which led to creating our proprietary real-time data analytics and insights platform, YervAnalytics.
YervAnalytics works hand-in-hand with our marketplace and allows us to follow the money from marketing to booking. This allows YervAnalytics to provide real-time data insights on customer journeys from marketing to booking, which enhances the tourism industry as a whole and provides insights that can be acted upon quickly and efficiently. We share these insights with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and our Locals (our brand for the SMBs on our platform) to help them better understand their marketing spending and customers.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We believe we have a made-in-Canada solution for a global tourism problem. We aim to take Yervana global and become the go-to place for “cool things to do” outdoors wherever you travel. This year we went from 150 Locals with 260 adventures in BC and Alberta to over 460 Locals and 1,000 plus adventures from coast to coast in Canada. Our website is now in both official languages in Canada, and we will be looking to add more languages and different currencies in the near future.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging for the tourism industry as a whole, and Yervana was no exception. We needed to reduce our team’s size and do everything we could to keep the business operating. However, the silver lining of this time period was that we were able to turn our attention more fully to our data and analytics platform, YervAnalytics, and use the time to solve some internal challenges around understanding our data. Now that tourism is returning to Canada, we’re prepared to meet it head-on. We’ve been able to grow our team again, improve our platform, and channel more energy and motivation to re-invigorate tourism in Canada.
How can people get involved?
If you are a DMO, business, or you are looking to start a business in the outdoor activity sector, you can reach out to us at [email protected]. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit our website at www.yervana.com
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path and support local businesses, check out our website and book an outdoor adventure with one of our trusted local guides!