Marbl Media wants to be the mobile app that a new, millennial generation of jet setters goes to flip the script on how to share tips and plan trips.
Starting with an Instagram platform for content distribution and development, and now with the beta launch of its new app, the Los Angeles-based company is looking to be the first tap for a generation of wanderlusting twenty and thirty somethings with no ties but great expectations for travel experiences.
The company was born from the frustrations of co-founders (and longtime friends) Tatiana Koffman and Sheila Merchant, who first met during a semester abroad program in Amsterdam.
Sheila Merchant, COO, and Tatiana Koffman, CEO, of Marbl Media
The new, rootless generation of untethered remote and mobile workers means greater freedom to both work and play -- something that folks are increasingly taking advantage of, Koffman said.
An angel investor and startup advisor (and former chief counsel for Linkin Park's actually really successful seeming venture capital and project development business Machine Shop), chief executive Koffman knows the Los Angeles startup scene and the world of the new and newly "flexible" creative workforce.
The MARBL app is intended to be a social network and hub for this mobile mass of new entrants into the labor force, whose spending on travel has grown to $400 billion annually since 2013.
“We set out to create the next big travel platform for our generation that operates the way we do and taps into our innate desire to connect,” said Koffman, in a statement.
The app's functionality is still limited (it is in beta at the moment) -- and is confined to tagging destinations that are on a would-be traveler's bucket list; connecting with people on the ground through a geolocated network of users; pinning travel finds to locations; and creating communities through forums for mutual interests (it's a pretty standard social network).
Where the business becomes more promising is future products that could integrate shoppable packages and the potential for partnerships with organizations providing the kinds of experiences that millennials seem to want (and that strikes me as a freaking nightmare as I approach my dotage and twilight years).
Indeed, the Marbl team is already carving out some partnerships that will do just that. They've enlisted Unsettled, a global co-living and co-working community, and Journey -- a service promoting voluntourism (and offering experiences like house-building in Latin America followed by a week-long yoga retreat).
"Our dream is create a larger community and platform where other smaller travel communities catered to millennial travelers can live on," Koffman wrote to me in an email.
Signups for the MARBL beta require the submission of a would-be user's Instagram handle or be invited by a current app user. It's a step that the company says is designed to support a "community of likeminded individuals".
“To test the concept before launch, we created an Instagram community featuring interviews and recommendations from travel influencers, athletes, musicians, yogis and entrepreneurs. In the first six months before launch, @marbltravel grew to more than ten thousand followers,” says Sheila Merchant. “We chose Instagram as our entry point because that’s where our generation most often shares the highlights of their journeys.”
MARBL is currently available for download in the iTunes store and is exclusively on iOS.