MyGola is taking a technology approach to easing trip-planning pain. Algorithms may cost a lot less over the long term than human travel planners, but let's see if there is enough of an audience for the service.
Another day, another pivot as trip-planning service MyGola transitions from a human-curated trip-planning process to an algorithmic-driven approach.
Yes, “human guides” are still involved, but to what extent is unclear.
Here’s part of an email that the company sent to users today about the “new mygola:”
The new mygola is all about real people, real trips. We have compiled thousands of trips taken by the world’s savviest travelers into a beautiful collection. We also built some seriously smart tech for you to use these inspiring stories to create an amazing plan for yourself.
Of course, you can always pull in your friends or mygola travel experts to help you out, whenever you need them.
And, this is what MyGola co-founder Anshuman Bapna, a former Google employee, told me about the pivot and its “automated travel-planning engine” when I first learned about the pending move in September:
“In the past 2 years, we planned over 25K trips to 100+ countries. In the process, we noticed that a large fraction of our users were asking for complete, day-by-day trip plans, i.e. itineraries. We looked around the web to see who was doing them and found none. In fact, they do exist in the millions, but as articles in the NYTimes, trip blogs, ugly pages on tour operators’ sites etc.
“So we created technology to build the world’s largest structured database of trips. Then, we aggregated data from tons of sources (foursquare, flickr photos, panorama sites, local tour sites, youtube, etc) to make every attraction, cafe, shop in these trips shine in their full glory on an iPad. We’re also using our massive distributed workforce to curate these itineraries when we can’t do them automatically.
“These structured trips have led to another insight. We now have the core algorithms and the base data to automatically optimize any trip by distance, and soon interest and cost. This means we’ll be able to create the world’s first completely automated travel planning engine.”
UPDATE: The new MyGola is a month away from launch, Bapna says, and interested people can get early access at next.mygola.com.
Asked whether the pivot means the MyGola team has been downsized, Banpa says:
“Our core team remains the same — 18 people (in fact, we just made offers to 2 more engineers). In our guide workforce, in any case most of the answers were being done by a much smaller community of guides. We’re assigning the other guides to help us with curation instead, and that’s going quite well. We’ve built our own Mechanical Turk equivalent to solve some hard problems like transit, great pictures etc. And we continue to recruit for our guide positions.”