Ahead of #CultureTrav, we interviewed the CEO and Founder of Citizine, Philip DeBevoise, and their Social Media Associate, Melissa Karlin, to learn more about what the company does in the travel world!
Read more about Citizine, and chat with us at 2:30 PM EST!
Please tell us what inspired the creation of Citizine.
Philip DeBevoise: As I explored my own city (Los Angeles), as well as the rest of the world, there were a number of things that frustrated myself and others who shared the same passion for discovery. These “pain points” seemed to be tied-together, yet they were being addressed separately, if at all. As I discovered content that “engaged me” emotionally, it was difficult to further explore and “transact” with that content. I couldn’t easily save, share, and transact with those places that I wanted to “never forget.”
Hence, Citizine was born with the idea of building a unified social cultural platform that addressed these needs. With our profile and functionality, one can easily save, share, and transact with any places mentioned in our content (whether produced by us or curated). Taking that one step further, I can add my own new places to my social profile, irrespective of where I discovered them (i.e. via an article in a magazine, through a TV show, etc.).
What sets Citizine apart from other social travel platforms?
Philip DeBevoise: Citizine, as a social platform, will facilitate the experience of discovering content that engages you with the ability to “take action” — whether it be saving, sharing, or transacting with those places. Your personal social/cultural profile will become, in essence, a publishing platform for your cultural self. No longer are you forced to write long emails recommending places to a friend when you can easily email your Citizine profile to them. Friends can simply filter through all the places you love and save them to their own profile with a click.
It’s a bit archaic how we save and share the places we love today. People use Word documents that are several pages long, or Excel spreadsheets, or find themselves with infinite numbers of bookmarks, or might use other “systems,” which I won’t name, that have terrible interfaces and poor integrated functionality. We are trying to replicate, as much as possible, the simplicity by which we think of a place and want to share it.
Citizine, as a channel on the platform, seeks to explore the world through story-driven lens (i.e. journeys told through filmmakers) as well through the lens of the people shaping our culture (i.e. chefs, artists, musicians, fashion designers, etc.). I say “Citizine, as a channel…” because we will be one of countless channels on the platform – whether it’s an individual, a tourism board, a hotel, a lifestyle/travel TV show, magazine, a lifestyle brand, among others, we know that everyone wants to share what they love about their cities and their journeys. Everyone will be able to publish content to their profiles, follow other profiles and then easily (whether via push or pull technology) retrieve and filter places they or others they follow, like and recommend. This also extends to the ability to easily filter and retrieve the places recommended by the cultural tastemakers we featured and curated.
Why embrace social media platforms? Why do you feel this is important to utilize?
Melissa Karlin: Because in the end it’s the best way to immediately connect with our audience. It’s a way to market through engagement. And in the end, this platform is all about engagement and connecting with fellow lovers of travel and exploration.
What destinations are currently live, and what destinations are you focusing on in the (near) future?
Philip DeBevoise: We have seeded a number of destinations with some content to suggest that we’re a global platform, which will explore all the places our audience wants to discover. During our BETA period, we’re diving deeply into Los Angeles to build a “model” for how we want to expand to other destinations. In the meantime, we have a small amount of content for the destinations of Australia, Brazil, Cape Town, Greece, London, Miami, New York, Paris, and Shanghai.
What methods do you employ to encourage people to travel and explore the world? How does, or should, Citizine inspire travelers before or during travel?
Melissa Karlin: We strive to create and curate inspirational, entertaining, and otherwise useful content by interviewing tastemakers, creatives and writing original stories.
Some stories include: “If Los Angeles were Cheese”, “Street Artist WRDSMTH revealed … his top spots in Los Angeles”, and our interviews with chefs, baristas, bartenders, artists, and musicians.
Why do you feel local experiences enhance travel?
Melissa Karlin: Because you get a taste of the everyday. To step into the shoes of a different space and way of living. When I travel, I want to get to know a place. I thoroughly enjoy to wander, because everytime I do, I feel like I find something great. I may have an ultimate spot in mind, but to explore and truly be in the specific moment is something that makes travel completely worth it. This local perspective enhances travel because it removes the way that travelers can sometimes fetish of the other. It allows you to remain open to the space, place and culture that you are being immersed in.
What is your favorite destination in your “backyard,” and why?
Melissa Karlin: I love Santa Barbara. It’s a great weekend escape with a great combination of beach town, affulencience and grimmy hipster wine drinking paradise that also feel like going to Spain. And it’s only an hour and a half away!
What is your favorite destination abroad? Why is it special to you?
Melissa Karlin: My top place in the world will forever be London. The city means so much to me. I lived in Oxford for a couple years for school and would go down about once a weekend. I mean, I love it so much, that I went back for my MA and spent a year there. And though I’ve been home and travelling a lot for a couple years, it will always be my home away from home. In fact, I think about it practically all the time. It’s left its mark on soul. It just represents this place that was so different from Los Angeles where I’m from, and how powerful it is to be somewhere where the culture is not only different, but so ancient and visceral and drunk all the time.
Philip DeBevoise: Oh that’s a tough one, as I was lucky enough to live and travel to so many special places. There’s so much I want to discover. Given that I was born in Rome and grew up in Italy for the first 12 years of my life, Italy overall holds a special place in my heart, especially the island of Capri (off the Amalfi Coast), where I used to go every summer as a child.
What are the top 10 destinations remaining on your wander list, those that you’d absolutely love to visit?
Melissa Karlin: In no particular order: Morocco, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Ireland, Japan, Greece, Estonia, Canada, Colombia, and Mexico. Yes I’ve been to South Korea, Guatemala, and Bolivia, but I’ve not yet been to Mexico or Canada.
Philip DeBevoise: I share a number of the same destinations as Melissa: Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, China, Turkey, Colombia, Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand…and many more.
How has Citizine grown since you launched, and where do you envision it going in the next five years?
Philip DeBevoise: We officially launched our BETA in January, but Citizine has been evolving as an idea for over a year or so. It started as more of a content-only concept with some transactional hooks and it has evolved into this lifestyle and travel social platform that I described above.
Since launch, we’ve been experiencing so much positive response from our users, lifestyle publications such as EATER LA and Huffington Post, as well as from the tastemakers whom we’ve featured. We’ve been fortunate enough to interview such top chefs as Curtis Stone and Jose Andres, among many others, incredible street artists such as WRDSMTH, and now expanding to feature many more tastemakers from various disciplines – fashion, music, etc.
The overall feedback has been that users love the “curated” experience offered by our content and platform that reflects how they truly behave in real life – meaning that each person has and continues to “curate” their own world when it comes to discovery and recommendations. They have friends they trust, tastemakers they trust, other informational sources they trust (magazines, TV shows, etc.).
Many are becoming frustrated with those platforms that offer reviews that are sourced from a multitude of strangers offering conflicting opinions. This is not how we truly behave in real life. We don’t stand up in the middle of a crowded restaurant and ask everyone for their opinion as to where get a drink after dinner. We haven’t vetted these people to see if we trust their opinion.
Citizine focuses on providing “curated” recommendations and not the traditional “reviews.” We focus our energy on bringing to you the places you’d want to explore and don’t focus on the negative with respect to the places or things you shouldn’t go to.
Over the next five years, we will continue to provide the most curated, advanced, and integrated social lifestyle/travel platform for our users. We will continue to integrate partners to facilitate all types of transactions for your daily life and for when you travel somewhere (i.e, UBER, OpenTable, Airbnb, hotels, airlines, event and travel ticketing services, etc.).
Our users will be able to publish content on their profiles and push that content out to other platforms, as well as integrate content from other platforms into their profiles. You will be able to powerfully find what you’re looking for through a “trusted and curated” lens – yours. Our system will suggest places based on your network of trusted resources, as well as “match-making” with others that share the same sensibilities and taste.
Finally, I see us continuing to provide a breadth of content, including virtual reality content (VR), where you can experience the world through engaging stories and people and save all the places you discover in those journeys to your profile.
How is Citizine making a difference for travelers around the world? What mark are you hoping to leave on the world?
Philip DeBevoise: We just launched, so I’m not sure yet of the “mark” we’re making on the world. However, the initial response has been that they’ve never seen anything like this before – the ability to transact with videos and editorial, how easy and simple it is to use, and how it makes sense to them and that it’s needed – and most importantly, something they would use in their daily life and when they’re traveling or planning a trip.