Probably no other startup founder has made the cut at TechCrunch Disrupt, NPR's How I Built This fellowship program, and Babson's WIN Lab. But Lizia Santos is not like any other founder. She built a travel tech startup as a non-tech entrepreneur while simultaneously a mom to three little ones. But she almost lost it all, ran out of money and had to start over. She was ridiculously resilient and came back better and stronger. Now despite the pandemic, her travel platform is growing and expanding internationally. Hear her story, how she did it, what she learned and wants to pass along to aspiring entrepreneurs creating what's next.
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Opening: Allen & Lizia are on opposite sides of the Florida peninsula. Lizia in Orlando near the Space Coast, Allen in Tampa on the Gulf Coast.
4:05 Lizia gives the origin story of City Catt. She was a journalist with a big idea for better travel. She is from Brazil and travel was always a big part of her life and family growing up.
7:10 One day Lizia and her Dad were discussing their passion for travel. Lizia had her ‘aha moment’ - how can people get access to local information when visiting a location where they don’t know people?
10:40 She did her competitive research and found no websites or apps that did exactly what she was envisioning - there were personal guide solutions but those did not include background checks. This did not feel safe and family friendly.
12:15 Discussion - what’s the first thing you should do when you want to start a software, web, or app company? Lizia describes how she did it wrong by jumping right in to build the product.
14:50 From feedback she would have discovered that her first version could have and should have been much simpler than what she was building.
15:50 Discussion on the non-coder founder dilemma of when and how to work with programmers.
23:40 Allen asks about the dark period when the project was not coming together, cash was running out - how did she cope and pull through.
26:05 Lizia talks about what she had to do personally to survive the difficult time - she brought back her exercise, diet, family, and faith to overcome the stress.
29:30 Lizia is not a proponent of going all-in on your business at the expense of personal health and balance. You need to be equally as intense with your personal life and health as you are with your startup.
30:25 You wouldn’t sprint the first several miles of a marathon - because if you do, you won’t finish the race.
33:50 Allen and Lizia are both TechCrunch Disrupt alum. Amazing experience, amazing connections.
36:10 Growing up in Brazil, Lizia talks about being a pastor’s daughter, a go-getter and a big dreamer.
41:35 Met her husband at a wedding in Boston. Stayed there and started a family until moving to Orlando, her son’s asthma was not good with the cold weather.
48:00 Discussion on how she inadvertently raised seed capital from family.
49:32 While building City Catt, Lizia lost her tech team and ran out of money, and without a working prototype.
52:10 She realized she needed help and mentors. She applied and got accepted to the Babson WIN Lab. There she was challenged to use her resources and creativity.
55:20 WIN Lab taught her to set short-term reachable goals - and believe in herself as a CEO. As a woman and a mom, you are a natural multi-tasker - use this skill in your startup.
1:01:50 The WIN Lab experience woke up the SUPERWOMAN inside of Lizia - felt she could conquer the world.
1:02:20 HOW I BUILT THIS fellowship summit opportunity came up - 16 fellows will be chosen. Lizia believed she could be selected - and then she was.
1:05:47 Met Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia at the registration sign in table and had a great one-on-one conversation - fellow travel tech founders!
1:08:30 Lizia and Allen talk about the importance of being bold and taking chances.
1:10:00 Being authentic and honest with your startup’s journey, especially when small and vulnerable, people are drawn in to help you.
1:14:00 Lizia builds her team on skills, personality, and culture fit - not resume.
1:16:00 With the pandemic, Lizia shares how her user's needs have elevated so the level of City Catt service has been elevated also - more trust and transparency.
1:20:25 City Catt also offers a trip planner that works seamlessly with the City Catt full experience - she calls it a ‘Social Trip Planner’.
1:22:30 Lizia says she is now addicted to the startup life - pivoting, improving, and living by the lean startup method.
1:26:45 City Catt is now international - opened by an opportunity with the Olympics in Japan.
1:29:05 SUDDEN INTERRUPTION! A very delicate off-camera negotiation unfolds...
1:30:55 Lizia answers Allen’s final question on how does CityCatt drives traffic and leads?
City Catt: https://www.citycatt.com