Who is Pete Bryant?
Pete Bryant has been in technology investing since the mid to late nineties and was part of the venture capital group Pioneer Venture Partners, which focused on early-stage investments in primary software platform businesses.
He also worked with a portfolio company aggregating and transforming premium TV and movie content globally. After selling this business, he took on his next project in 2017, which began his start in travel marketing. In 2018, Pete became the CEO of the travel discovery platform Steller.
What is Steller?
Steller, the market-leading travel discovery platform, was founded in 2014 to help travel-interested individuals go from inspiration to planning to booking authentic travel experiences inspired by their favorite creators.
Currently, they distribute experience to more than 1,000 destinations globally with exclusive partnerships with travel booking websites and top search engines.
Pete shares, “Steller is a dedicated travel community made up of travelers and creators that share experiences with one another from all over the world. We have creators from over 180 countries, and it’s a great place to be and hang out because you know people are sharing their experiences. It’s very powerful.”
How Did the Pandemic Affect Steller?
During the pandemic, the Steller team focused even more on building connections between users and highlighted three steps: Discover, Connect, and Book Direct, on the platform.
Pete adds that Steller is helping millennials and Gen Z users connect directly with local guides to contribute to local communities while they travel – a common priority among younger generations.
Steller also began integrating with other platforms, including Trivago, a hotel search application with extensive price comparison.
Steller’s Revenue Model
Steller’s revenue model starts by inspiring users with the many destinations and experiences their creators share online. From there, they take that curiosity to market destinations.
Pete explains, “We’ve been very fortunate, very early on, to work with countries and destinations such as Ireland and beginning to showcase harder things for them to achieve, which is the notion of dispersal, like how do you drive not another million visitors to Dublin, but how to do you drive visitors that come to Ireland and experience the Wild Atlantic Way and all of the other elements that are really fascinating and foundational for a trip to Ireland?”
To accomplish this, Steller has built targeted campaigns with specific destinations to promote these foundational, curiosity-driven experiences.
Pete adds, “Long term, we see a very unique opportunity to not only just create content for the travel supply side of the industry, but to provide a direct connection, that is not intermediated by a large company, but rather putting supply directly in touch with demand and having it traverse our platform in a way that is very user-friendly.”
As part of its revenue model, Steller hires creators and deploys them to experience the best the destination has to offer, including hotels, activities, food, stores, and more.
For example, Steller has a great serial partnership with the state of Louisiana that focuses on Main Street America. Louisiana has reinvested into its main streets and has many certified ones worthy of tourism. With Steller, they’ve generated more creator-driven visits to Louisiana.
Pete shares, “We’re so creator-driven. They bring not just content but trust and authenticity to the platform where we make money, they make money, and wherever that model takes us, we’ll continue to stick to that, so ultimately, you can envision a world of total attribution when a creator builds a piece of content.”
The creator’s content inspires users to take trips and book similar experiences, which can lead to compensation for them.
Acquiring Influencer Marketing Agency Travel Mindset
Founded in 2012, Travel Mindset is the only influencer marketing agency that specialized in travel, very frequently speaking at prestigious events like the eTourism Summit, PRSA, the Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) and Skift and Destination International. Their clients include Airbnb, San Antonio, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and Visit California.
Recently, Steller acquired Travel Mindset and added Rik van der Kooi to the company’s Board of Directors. These additions give Steller more opportunities to expand its influencer marketing offerings.
Pete explains, “It [the acquisition] was critically important. We had been looking for quite some time to achieve a Chief Revenue Officer, and Harley [Schachter] is a fantastic leader in that area… He’s developed quite an extensive network over the years, and for us, it was very synergistic, not just with Harley, but with the entire team.”
Another key element of the acquisition was prioritizing the human touch, perspective, and experience in travel booking rather than solely relying on software to book your next trip.
Pete says, “There’s no human bearing on that. What is the human perspective? We think it will forever be part of the decision-making process for travel purchases and that human perspective can’t be lost. We are fortunate in terms of our platform not just authoring [and] not just being a community.”
Working with Creators
The Steller team has spent extensive time trying to understand creators, their goals and interests, and more to make working with them as seamless as possible.
Pete shares, “I have so much appreciation and many times am in awe over their art and their craft and their ability to connect to a certain audience whether with a vibe, or a perspective around energy and adventure.”
Pete adds, “Some of the best advice is to know who they [creators] are, respect who they are, and work with them to achieve that.”
Pete has watched the emergence of early travel technology like Expedia and Travel Advisor and is excited to continue seeing shared travel experiences.
He explains, “We think that sharing travel experiences with one another can drive and build its own economy, and we’re really kind of at that inflection point now where we want more and more people to help and participate in that, share their experiences with one another. We’ve seen in the case of the Republic of Georgia that we’ve been tremendously successful in partnership with them in the USA and other partners in bringing a global audience to a destination that many people still think is a state in the United States, not its own country.”
Some of the results of the Republic of Georgia campaign include greater awareness of the country’s food, wine, mountains, and many available adventures, which results in significant economic impacts like job creation.