Written by Stuart Foxman

One of Cody Dillabough’s favourite trips was to Jardin, an Andean town in northwest Colombia. The hilly landscape and colourful homes looked surreal, “almost like something out of a Dr. Seuss book,” says Dillabough.

There are countless fascinating destinations on the road less travelled, he says. The challenge, and fun, is finding them. That’s what Dillabough is looking to do through Avoy (goavoy.com), an app that helps users find hidden travel destinations perfect for their next adventure.

As Dillabough notes, the notion of personalization now applies to everything from music playlists, to shopping experiences to even our mattresses. Yet the travel sector is behind. People can certainly find all sorts of information on every destination in the world, but it requires a lot of digging. And how do you unearth the hidden gems?

With Avoy, users enter their travel tastes, goals, preferences and history. The system’s algorithm then uses that data to find matches with less-than obvious destination options. Users can save that in their wish list.

Avoy will then notify users if they find flight deals, ground deals, interesting events related to the destination, and creative ways of visiting multiple destinations. The app can also provide notifications of other intriguing destinations that users might want to travel to one day.

For users, Avoy is free. Avoy’s business model is to get a commission on any travel that users book, along with revenue from content providers (e.g. travel publications).

Today, people use apps and websites to book flights, hotels or tours, all after they’ve decided on their next trip. But there’s a missing ingredient in travel tech.

“We’re a travel inspiration application,” says Dillabough.

His own inspiration for the Toronto company is having the travel bug. Dillabough had been working in finance, for a hedge fund, and was a frequent traveller.

“One of things that I found quite frustrating is finding somewhere unique to travel. I get a little more about travelling off the beaten path. You’re around less tourists, and exposed to more everyday life.”

Having the “entrepreneurial itch”, Dillabough set out to create an app that could make personalized travel recommendations. Avoy was formed in 2018, started as a web app, and transitioned to a mobile app. The company secured a round of financing in October 2019, and has done repeated testing with beta users. The app was released in February 2020.

Dillabough says that as an entrepreneur it’s important to be both passionate and detached. It’s not an either/or proposition.

Here’s how he explains it. When you’re passionate about the business, you’re more likely to be immersed in the details, notice problems and have the drive to solve them. However, it also helps to be a bit detached at time, so you can have the proper perspective about your idea and what’s needed to make it fly.

“Emotional detachment is an incredibly useful skill,” he says.

In any business, founders like Dillabough have to take the plunge into the unknown. It’s invigorating. He’s hoping that Avoy users will feel the same about their travel choices.

“We think people are more and more comfortable throwing themselves into new situations,” he says.

Photo credit: Plexman Studio