Disrupt Awards Q&A: John and Dee Lee, CultureMee

While our work lives are becoming more global, it appears there are still local habits and scenarios that catch travellers off guard. John and Dee Lee devised and set up CultureMee to help. As one of the five finalists who will battle for the trophy at next week’s Business Travel Show Disrupt Awards, we caught up with John and Dee to find out more about the app

When were you launched?
We launched the full version of our CultureMee app in Dec 2017.

How many people are working for the company?
Just us. We have travelled all over the world with our baby daughter Rosa to help bring this app to the world.

Sum up what your company/product does in one sentence.
CultureMee is the first app in the world to help travellers navigate other cultures. We were nominated for the National Start-up Awards of Ireland in May 2018.

Why is it unique?
We have fun with culture, like telling travellers the dos and don’ts of a country in a very engaging way. We also have an AI-enabled video platform to crowd source culture videos. On top of that we have social content where you can see where your friends have travelled through our interactive travel map.

What problem does it solve?
Fifty-five per cent of business travellers navigate other cultures before travelling (according to FCM) and culture is the second reason people travel (according to Visa), so there is an enormous curiosity around understanding other cultures. We tap into that curiosity by bringing the local culture to life.

Did you know that nodding your head up and down in Bulgaria means “no”? Or that the Japanese have very specific chopstick etiquette? Or that Dutch business people are very direct and shoot from the hip? These kinds of cultural tips are crucial to know when travelling.

What platforms is it available on/can it integrate with?
It is a free app available on iOS and Android. We can integrate our content into any platform and have already identified implementation partners in the travel industry.

In what markets is it available?
It is available worldwide and we have already had more than 120 different nationalities download CultureMee.

Which companies are using it already?
We pitched at the GTMC conference in Wicklow, Ireland last year and are currently in discussions with a number of TMCs to licence our content. We will be announcing these in the next few weeks.

What do travel managers like about it?
From the travel managers and TMCs we spoke to, they are mostly interested in licensing our CultureMee content. They see this as a novel, innovative concept which can help differentiate brands and drive ancillary revenue.

This is such a new concept that many travel managers are still wrapping their heads around it, as it is such an obvious solution, so the important part is finding the right point in the travel journey to introduce our content.

Why do travellers like it?
Travellers like it because it is something they have never seen before, and it really opens their eyes to other cultures in a very fun and engaging way. People are at the very heart of what we do with CultureMee and if you can better understand the people you travel to or do business with, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to have a more enjoyable trip and at the same time become a more self-aware business person.

It took John 30 years to realise how indirect people from the UK and Ireland were, which you see in how we don’t like to be too forthright in criticising other people. But within 30 seconds I can find that out in our app.

What are your growth plans?
Having spent three years building up our content, used up all our savings and sold our apartment in Amsterdam last September, we’re in the process of raising seed investment over the coming six months. Once we secure the travel partners that we’re in discussions with, our ambition is to raise between €1 million and €3 million seed and use it to expand our team.

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