The Poshpacker V.1


My co-founder, Anna Kojzar, and I met in Barcelona in September 2010. At the time, Anna was a graduate business student, and I was traveling on my first Euro trip. We took a few trips together, and when searching for places to stay we found ourselves frustrated having to spend so many hours to find the best budget options online. It was always a hit or miss. Once you arrived at the place is when you would know that the place was friendly and clean, or that it was not the right fit for you.

On a trip to Gran Canary Island, after reading many reviews, asking friends, and visiting many sites for more than 7 hours in 3 different days, we got lucky and found a lovely apart-hotel for 50 euros, with a pool and just two blocks from the beach, Judoca Colors. We were happy with the place, but wished it could be easier to find places like this gem.

We thought that with today’s technology, travelers should be able to easily find the best budget places to stay all around the world.

Anna wrote a 100 page business plan for her master’s thesis, which she presented in Barcelona, Taiwan, and San Francisco.

In October 2013, PoshPacker was a 100 page business plan. Now in 2013, I was pursuing my MBA in Design Strategy, and Anna was working as a venture analyst; we were both living in San Francisco. We were inspired by the Valley’s startup scene and decided to bring the 100 pages plan to life by applying design thinking methodologies, using business model canvas, creating videos, and taking advantage of San Francisco networking events.


In getting a deeper understanding about the audience we were designing The Poshpacker for, we performed in-person interviews with travelers and hoteliers in San Francisco, performed secondary research, and sent out online surveys to hoteliers and travelers.

Through our research, we discovered that there was no way for design-driven properties to differentiate themselves in the budget sector. We also learned that curation was only available for the high-end market.
On the travelers side, we learned that they were seeking authentic and well-designed/cool lodging experiences at an affordable price point. We also learned that searching for budget-nice places to stay was very time consuming, visiting about 12 websites before choosing a place to stay.

We discarded the 100 page business plan, and went to our white board and post it notes to visualize everything we had learned from potential users and partners and decided to follow the “discovery site” idea.

We created a user flow and presented to a few testers. Then, we went and found a WordPress theme that best matched our intended user experience. We modified the site to match the brand Anna has created in her business plan.




In December 2013, we soft-launched a WordPress site with 40 hoteliers. We created a page for each of the properties and linked it to the hotel site. Anna and I learned how to work with HTML and WP to improve the site and add features. We also created and activated a few social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We started talking about the idea and building a community. The message started spreading.

A few months later, The Poshpacker got its first feature in Los Angeles Times.

In June 2013, The Poshpacker received its first seed funding and moved near the investors in Washington, DC, and incorporated as a DelawareC Corp, becoming Poshpacker Inc.

In late 2013 contacted us to partner as a white-label to enable reservations through the WordPress side.

Process: Created with a combination of graphic images > Recorded slow-motion keynote effects with Quick Time > Video clips and edition with iMovie

In September 2013, Poshpacker was named “Top Travel Site” by The Guardian UK.
“Budget doesn’t have to mean roughing it. There are hundreds of boutique hostels across the globe now, and a new generation of independent websites is picking out the best of them… read more

In validating our business concept, on January 2014, we emailed various hotels in Mexico’s Caribbean area for performing an “Official Validation” to be on our site. We went to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, and met in-person with hotel managers and received complementary nights at the properties. We got to experience the places, connect with travelers staying at the properties, and create better content for the site.

To compare what we offer relative to price and comfort-design, we first started our trip camping out in Tulum, Mexico.
Staying Camping
Price: $20 per person

Staying at Coco Tulum in Tulum
Price: $76/2 = per person $38
Other hotels in the area: $100+

coco tulum - tania cruz - poshpacker - mexico   coco-tulum-tania cruz  coco tulum- tania cruz- poshpacker


Staying at Hotel Kimbe in Playa del Carmen
Price: $78/2 = per person $39
Other hotels in the area: $85+

coco tulum - tania cruz - poshpacker - mexico   coco-tulum-tania cruz  coco tulum- tania cruz- poshpacker


Staying at Maya Fair Design Hotel in Cancun
Price: $71/2 = per person $35.50
Other hotels in the area: $120+

coco tulum - tania cruz - poshpacker - mexico   coco-tulum-tania cruz  coco tulum- tania cruz- poshpacker



After we came back from our trip, in Spring of 2014, we decided to bring-in 4 MBA Design Strategy consultants from CCA in San Francisco as interns. The MBA students helped us re-evaluate and re-think our business through design thinking and strategy.  We had the following objectives: Convert target audience into paying customers (increase sales), Establish and engage a user community, Grow into a larger brand and become the leader in the market for millennial travel (brand recognition).

From their new customer development and research, three customer segments emerged — The Eat Pray Love Traveler, The Self-Identified Adventurer, and The Social Storyteller.

“We discovered that these customers are not necessarily looking for “design- driven accommodations for > $100.” Rather, they seek 1) authentic and affordable travel experiences, 2) a trusted user community, and 3) opportunities to discover and share stories with other travelers. We also found that the PoshPacker name and visual identity did not resonate with many of the customers we interviewed, particularly men. In order to best deliver the value customers seek, we recommend a phased approach to implementing key changes to PoshPacker’s business model”:
Phase One: Quick Wins
• Re-evaluate name, brand, and visual identity
• Redesign website to establish user community and capture customer metrics
Phase Two: With Investment
• Explore ways to increase inventory and diversify revenue streams
• Facilitate co-creation and storytelling through user-generated content
• Ramp up marketing efforts and advertising campaigns to build brand awareness
Phase Three: Blue Sky
• Implement thoughtful and robust user features that leverage deeper, more integrated partnerships
• Develop mobile app for on-the-go use


In May of 2014, our team moved to Portugal to participate at the Lisbon Challenge. Lisbon was one of the destinations to first adapt to the poshtel (higher-end hostels)  movement. During this time, we spent time meeting travelers and hosteliers, and met our programmers.

During these months, a backend and frontend programmer joined our team. As such, we went back to the white board and started re-designing our product from scratch, according to new knowledge gathered at properties with travelers and hotelier’s interviews and user testings. I was in charge of leading the product vision, creating the visual and writing specifications, determining functionalities, and the overall user experience and flow.

The Poshpacker on a TV Show: As part of the program, we were also participating on a TV Show in Portugal with the TNBI (The Next Big Idea).

1st DEMODAY: At the end of the program, we had a DemoDay. I was in charge of storytelling and deck.

AWARDS: At DemoDay the Poshpacker team won “Top 10 Startup” and “Best Pitch by Jury.”

Just right after our DemoDay presentation, we got interviewed by TechCrunch.

Promotional Poshpacker
Designed and produced the video graphics, storytelling, and editions.

Continue the story >>POSHPACKER V.2