Cardiff University student start-up Alpacr – the social network for travel and adventure lovers – has journeyed far since it was launched two years ago. Here, CEO and Cardiff graduate Dan Swygart (BSc Econ) explains Alpacr’s trek from Wales to Silicon Valley as he closes a major funding round.
“Alpacr came from an idea we’d talked about at Cardiff University Mountaineering Club. What if adventurers could meet up and share life’s journey as they travelled? And what if there was one simple platform for sharing content, meeting others, searching out and discovering new places to visit, and booking trips?
“The second generation of social media is rising with concentration on big ‘niche verticals’ – businesses that serve a specific audience and their needs. They can reach a global audience with minimal overheads.
“With the rise in the next generation of social media, such as Twitch, and TikTok, social networks of the future concentrate on niche interests.
“Alpacr aims to dominate the global social media market for travel and adventure. Our app simplifies the use of many different platforms: TripAdvisor, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc – and we offer unique user-enhancing and usability features which currently do not exist on the market.
“Our interface is highly distinctive – it’s your ‘voice of adventure’ – and brings people together, whether they’re backpacking around Asia, kayaking in the US, or skiing in France.
“We’ve been based in Cardiff since we began, and have just closed a £160k ($200k) seed investment round. To date the company has raised over £320k ($400k). We’re on track to create an entirely new market.
“And just like backpacking, running Alpacr has been a journey of discovery. I set up the business shortly after graduating in Economics (2017) and have set about bringing together a world-class team of software developers and advisors.
“We’ve also welcomed Tyler Droll onboard as our Non-Executive Director. He’s the former CEO of YikYak, a social networking app which raised $74m in funding. With Tyler’s expertise, we expect to grow exponentially in 2020.
“We originally launched across Europe and South East Asia, with large marketing events in Barcelona, Bali, Thailand, and many more.
“A large overseas investor showed interest, and committed £250k. After working closely with UK and international Governments and teams of lawyers – basically, six months of hard work, commitment and paperwork – the deal fell through, and our investor failed to deliver.
“I was now massively in debt. I had to take a chance. So I took out a credit card and jumped on a flight to Silicon Valley – this was the one place I knew where I could keep the Alpacr dream alive.
“As soon as I got there, I drew up a homemade cardboard sign and stood in the centre of Silicon Valley, announcing that I was raising investment. I must have picked the right spot – Palo Alto – about 10 minutes from Google, Facebook, Apple HQ, and many more.
“The sign began to grab a lot of attention, and soon I was having coffee with one of the guys who set up Apple with Steve Jobs, and pitching to some of the biggest Angel Investor groups in the world.
“Since then, Alpacr has been able to raise investment from investors from all over the world, and we’ve finally closed the round despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Soon, Alpacr will be delivering some major software updates. We’re launching our largest global marketing campaign and setting up a satellite office in Silicon Valley, where the management team will be based.
“When Alpacr began, we were helped with £200 from Cardiff University Enterprise – and we’ve grown to close a funding round that’s worth a thousand times more.
“If Alpacr was writing its own travel diary, it might say it’s been a real voyage of discovery. We’re looking forward to more great adventures ahead.”
CEO and Founder, Alpacr