Alright people, trying something new & exciting out for you today! I "met" Eric a few months back through Instagram. Now I use the "" because we've never actually met but through our common bond being Canadians, his amazing captures from his time living in Edinburgh & our love for sharing our travels through Instagram we had some great conversations. Fast forward a few months & Eric found himself back in the Great White North and with an incredible opportunity that I was definitely interested in hearing more about and sharing with all of you. My first interview through She Who Wanders, and I was able to get in touch with the gang at SHERPA to see what it's all about..and let me tell you I'm impressed.
First things first - who are you, and what do you do?
Max: I’m co-founder and CEO of Sherpa. I’m really interested in how people interact with laws and the government, and how that will change as technology advances. I spend my time coordinating the team and acting as the face of the business to all of the great companies and organizations that we work with. I think that this project will have major implications for the location independence of our users, which will be a major part of the changing business and government landscapes of the future, and I’m really excited about it!
Ivan: I’m co-founder and CPO of Sherpa. In a past life I was a director at a creative agency, where I built and designed products for large companies. I try to make things beautiful and easy to use, and that’s really tough when you’re dealing with government forms. My real passion has always been travel. I’ve been to 25+ countries, and I’m excited to be building tools that will make it easy to add some more to that list.
Eric: I’m the Social Media Manager for Sherpa. I manage the Sherpa Ambassador Project, and connect to travelers and companies in the nomad world. Having lived abroad on and off over the past few years, I’ve grown an amazing network of travelers and built an Instagram following through my adventures. Funny story: as fate should have it, Max and I were throwing battle axes at the birthday party of a mutual friend, and that’s where we got to talking about Sherpa. This is the kind of company that enables the “digital nomad” lifestyle that I’m searching for, and I’m psyched to be a part of it.
So, can you explain to everyone reading -what is Sherpa?
Sherpa is the easiest way to get a travel visa. Our mobile apps are super simple, showing documentation requirements for 200+ countries (for travelers with 15+ passports). The next big step for us is including on the ability to apply for visas through the app, and that is passing our tests this month. Once we have visa applications turned on, applying for a visa will be a 1-click experience, going as far as having one of our partners walk your passport to and from the embassy.
Great name - how did it get started?
Thanks! We have a deep connection to the name. The first time we discussed our mission, the story of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary really inspired us. The knowledge and dependability of the Sherpa people is something that we aspire to live up to, and we take it seriously.
On the outset we were captivated by the stories that we kept hearing from fellow travelers about issues they had with travel visas. We would hear about people who were turned away at borders, held up in airports and charged massive fees for having the wrong paperwork. We had our ‘there must be a better way’ moment about a year ago, and since then we’ve been trying to bring travel visas into the cutting edge of technology.
Alright, so how exactly does it work?
We’ve created a database of visa and vaccination requirements for 200+ destinations, for travelers with 15+ passports, and mechanisms to keep that database up to date. When people download our app, they can see all of the requirements for free. We’re adding the ability to apply for visas directly from the phone, so that by filling out a simple form you can bypass the embassy; we give you a FedEx number, you drop your passport in the mail, and one of our partners walks your passport around for you. We’re starting with 2 destinations by the end of the month, and aiming for 6 by the end of the year. Once that functionality is up and running, Sherpa becomes the digital companion for your passport.
I imagine safety and security is a big concern for many people - with personal information and passports being handled, how does Sherpa ensure security?
We’re paranoid about the security of our users. Not even the CEO has access to the customer’s application data, and we use trusted third parties who are certified to work with personal documents to fulfill the visa application at the embassies. Our back-end is designed to keep as much data encrypted on the device as possible, using SSL to transfer only what’s necessary to our servers, and destroying the central copies once the application has been fulfilled. For non-technical people, your personal data looks like gibberish when it’s stored, and we don’t sell it or hold onto it longer than we have to. We spend a lot of time thinking about information security.
How has it been received?
People are liking it so far, and we’re thrilled! We’ve received requests from users for a ton of additional passports, and we get great testimonials for the current apps. When we mention that visa applications will be included in coming updates we get a lot of excitement. We’re working with some of the largest travel companies in North America, and we’re just getting started.
What’s the future look like for Sherpa?
By the end of the year people will be able to apply for and hold their visa for several countries on their phone, and that’s a huge change in how visa’s are delivered. From there we’re going to focus on expanding our coverage to other groups of travelers, and other types of visas and work permits. We’ve also just released the world’s first Travel Visa Application Programming Interface (REST API), which will enable builders to incorporate our proprietary requirements data. To realize our vision we’re expanding our team, so if you know anyone who’s as excited about travel documentation as we are, we’re super easy to get in touch with.
How can travelers get involved? Download the app (available on IOS & Android), and let us know what you think! We want to build an application that really helps travelers, so every bit of feedback counts. We catch up with everyone who offers feedback individually. If you’re interested in helping us grow, we’ve just started the Sherpa Ambassador Project We’re working with travel influencers around the world to help spread the word about Sherpa, and in return help those influencers grow their following. We see this as a movement behind the ideal of a border-less world, and a long-term strategy to stay relevant with the help of our most excited users. To connect with the movement use #joinsherpa
Anything else to share with the wanderers out there?
We’re really happy with how far we’ve gone in the last year. We’ve successfully tested the world’s first start-to-finish solution for getting a travel visa on your phone, and built the world’s first API to enable a community of travel application builders. We’re going to continue to work really hard to enable people travelling around the world, and we’re going to need a lot of support to make that happen.
Reach out to “@sherpateam” on social media, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come down to our office at the Imagination Catalyst at 230 Richmond St. W in Toronto if you have any feedback about our product or our movement. Get involved here
Thanks for having us Laura! And thank you for reading!