The Silicon Review
Nothing else beckons you to live in the moment more than being in the midst of an incredible experience. At Headout, we build the future of happiness: Varun Khona
Headout is a mobile on-demand concierge that helps travelers discover and book local ‘things to do’ at the very last minute. Evolving the way people discover the world, the company connects them with exceptional experiences in cities around the world at the push of a button. Headout is combining a delightful product experience along with data-driven decisions, sophisticated supply side logistics network and world-class operations to build a platform that gets everyone to head out and have fun in a matter of seconds; no matter where they are and what they want to do. Headout has also been featured on the App Store multiple times and has offices in New York, London, Dubai, Bangalore & Berlin.
Headout leads the last-minute segment for spontaneous millennials and travelers looking for in-destination experiences around them in 3 taps and currently serves 15 cities across 3 continents. Headout aims to be a global leader for mobile-first in-destination experiences and will invest aggressively in its inventory & data systems and branded experiences to enable digitization and standardization of last-minute experiences as it helps bring the massive $185 billion in-destination services market from offline to online.
Getting off the ground
The idea behind the company’s inception was sparked by a European road trip that the co-founders, Varun Khona and Suren Sultania once took. They were annoyed with spending a great deal of time in calling multiple parties to plan their trip instead of enjoying the trip. They noticed that the online marketplace had certain gaps like the lack of availability and “long-tail” activities which were offered at the same price as buying directly as a walk-in. One also had to print out physical vouchers, which seemed fairly dated.
After much thought, three entrepreneurs took a step ahead and built the business considering the hiccups that people go through while booking their holiday activities. In late 2014, their hard work paid off, and Headout emerged. Started as a small team of five, the company has currently spread out in multiple cities around the world including San Francisco, Bengaluru, and Dubai. While the Indian office includes the engineering and operations teams, San Francisco and Dubai make up its marketing, sales and business development backbone.
Headout: The go-to app for last-minute plans
By handling the logistics, Headout empowers people with one of the most valuable things in life, i.e. time. With Headout, people can easily skip the waiting line and dive straight into the experience. The company understands the fact that the majority of demand for the $189B tours and activities market lies when travelers are already in the destination. This demand is not being serviced by the current web-first aggregators that have almost no same-day inventory of substance, a below-par mobile product, and flat pricing. On the other hand, Headout places a world of opportunity into the palm of the individual’s hand by building a mobile brand from the ground-up to connect travelers with local experience providers and shift this massive industry to mobile.
Through the consumer-facing app, travelers can choose a variety of travel experiences ranging from theater tickets to helicopter tours to dinner cruises and a lot more with just a few taps. The app breaks these down into various categories within the app for easy access and even makes it own recommendations in an “Editor’s Choice” section.
Headout has grown its revenues by 8x in the last 12 months with strong unit economics and is backed by some of the finest investors in Silicon Valley who are behind companies like Alibaba, Lyft, Snapchat, Snapdeal, Angellist, Instacart, Product Hunt, Postmates, and others.
The roadmap ahead
In the near future, Headout aims to expand from its current base of 20 cities to 100 cities across North America, Europe & Asia-Pacific. Talking of his expansion plans in India, Varun said that Headout is closely observing the Indian market and will soon launch customized experiences for them. Going forward, Headout aims to better understand usage patterns and personalize experiences based on user preferences and history. “At the end of the day, you can look at it as a matchmaking process, where we need to understand the user’s emotions and needs to recommend appropriate experiences”, said Varun.
In addition to helping fuel the expansions, Headout is currently hiring across the board in engineering, sales, operations and more. The company has been beta-testing branded experiences since early 2018 to standardize and modernize this fragmented industry and plans to scale this later this year. Headout has partnerships with the likes of Google Trips, Wall Street Journal, Handy, and other lifestyle brands. Varun says that the business has been multiplying every month, and is expected to grow ten times this year.
The people behind Headout
Varun Khona, Co-Founder & CEO
An entrepreneur since an early age, Varun left the opportunity to continue working with Goldman Sachs after finishing his under-graduate degree to setup his first startup, also in the travel sector. Travel is his passion and he has visited places such as Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Hong Kong & Sri Lanka on a next to nothing budget.
“From day one, our ambition has been to help people discover the lively beat of our cities and connect them with the cultural revolution we’re witnessing and the explosion of experiential events and fascinating activities around us. Our focus is on understanding the city and going deep in a category rather than spreading ourselves thin across the globe.”
Vikram Jit Singh, Co-Founder & CTO
Vikram has been dabbling with all things code since a fairly early age. He is the man behind Headout’s magical platform and has previously worked with Oracle for almost 4 years before founding Headout. He has a passion for everything musical, is a keen vocalist, guitar player, and idols Led Zeppelin.
Suren Sultania, Co-Founder & COO
Suren is responsible for keeping things moving and brings direction and coordination to the team. With a keen analytical mindset and the ability to meaningfully stream information, he is the de-facto number cruncher and the go-to man (almost) whenever there is an issue that needs solving.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth over the past year while improving our unit economics and capital efficiency. As a last minute marketplace, we’ve helped customers save an average of 18% on their reservations with Headout, thereby making these experiences both accessible and affordable.”