Meet Alex Tong, the Co-Founder & CEO of Glide
Without a doubt, the idea of Free Independent Travel has become increasingly popular in recent years. Instead of following the traditional itineraries provided by the travel agencies, people now tend to buy low-cost air tickets and plan their own travel routes. However, before we actually start our adventures, the countless time and effort needed in travel planning is a nightmare to most of us. Alex, as a passionate free independent traveller, sees the problem and wants to provide a hassle-free travel planning solution to all the travel lovers, and hence, co-founded Glide.
In this interview, Alex shared how he shifted his career from aviation to founding Glide, and some of his learnings of being a first-time entrepreneur.
Q: What is Glide?
A: Glide is a data-driven mobile solution for Free Independent Travellers (FITs) to build travel itineraries with ease. We aim to deliver a more seamless digital experience in travel planning with technology and design.
In English, “Glide” signifies a smooth and continuous motion as if it takes no effort. We envision redefining travel planning to be a more seamless and pleasant experience.
Q: How did you come up with this idea and how did you validate your idea?
A: As a travel enthusiast, I often feel isolated to look for relevant travel insights efficiently. It was always a time-taking process to find something that best fits my preferences and travel styles, especially when it is hard to reach out to like-minded travellers.
Plenty of platforms offer excellent travel booking services. Yet how do we plan which route is the best for us? From my personal experiences, I realised that there is an unfilled gap between organised authentic travel insights and people who plan their own trips, which in turn could hugely facilitate travel planning. Growing the conversations beyond, my team and I started testing water with different means. We have received feedback on how people would like our product to save them from inefficient and one-off travel planning and that has reconfirmed and validated our idea.
Q: How can Glide help make travel hassle-free for tourists?
A: Travel planning has been a pretty isolated exercise for FITs in the past years. By forming a sustainable travel planning ecosystem, Glide believes that our users could exchange their travel insights and experiences within the travellers’ community. Travel planning will no longer be an isolated and one-off exercise and that valuable insights and knowledge could be utilized and exchanged swiftly.
We believe travel planning should always be a pleasant experience. Our mobile solution brings FITs a better pre-travel digital experience by enhancing values & reducing time and effort in travel planning.
Q: What are the things that you think will make you stand out from your competitors?
A: Team is our core strength. We believe in “one plus one is greater than two” and that’s where we lay our foundation of collective and continuous success.
We spent a lot of time building the product from the users’ perspective while maintaining a situational awareness of what’s going on out there in the market. Our team places a high priority on improving our products to better serve our target audience. Time is precious, we have to be selective when making use of our resources, especially in the startup ecosystem.
Q: What motivates you to change your career path from aviation to a startup founder?
A: It’s a combination of choice and timing. Few years ago, I attended various startup events in Hong Kong and overseas. I very much clicked with the innovativeness and challenges to create something from scratch.
Since then, I became more self-conscious about where I am heading in this journey. I started to actively talk to more users and experts from brainstorming ideas and solutions to making prototypes, to reassure myself on the entrepreneurial path.
Q: How does it feel to be a first-time startup founder and has the journey turned out to be different from your expectation?
A: It has been exciting to grow and learn for myself and the team. At times, it can be daunting as I come to realize how much and what I don’t know.
I usually describe myself as a well-planned person. But as an early-stage startup founder, life is always unpredictable and uncertain. Therefore, one big learning is to develop a flexible mindset and embrace changes. I have learnt to encourage our team to crawl our way forward step by step together amidst uncertainties.
I am also thankful to work with my founding team in this journey. It requires a lot of passion and dedication to start a company and work together on something (hopefully) extraordinary. There is never a moment of loneliness while working with my team.
Q: As an entrepreneur, what would you do to encourage yourself to keep walking when things are not going as smoothly as planned?
A: The best solution is to face the brutal reality and deal with it as much as we can. Honestly, it’s not easy and we know it never will be, so we focused on making use of the situation and time to gain more opportunities to aid our development.
When things do not go as planned, I would ask myself “what would the world be if our product ceased to exist?”, which would motivate myself to focus on making the product better and lovable by our users.
Q: Do you think there is a pattern or formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
A: During startup events and talks, I used to raise my hand and ask the guest speakers about “How to make a (my) product unique?”. Apparently, there is no hard rule to this question.
I have a strong belief in the business philosophy of “people, products, profits – the order matters” as the foundation of building a long-lived company. The first step is to have the right talents in the right positions. Through developing internal alignment and vigorous discussions, we will then be able to find ways to create products step by step and provide services that people will love and value. Once we attain that, it’s time to review progress and drive it even better.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve been given as an entrepreneur?
A: Angela Lee Duckworth made an inspirational TED talk. There are times when I am frustrated and sometimes it is easy to doubt myself along the journey. People might put the blame on themselves easily when things did not go as planned. However, Angela reconfirmed that talent does not necessarily lead to success, but grit does. She said “Grit represents passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is a marathon not a sprint.” (Full TED Talk: https://bit.ly/3enU2H5), and that has reassured me not to give up easily.
I constantly feel like standing at a crossroad with a state of confusion along the startup journey, and it is GRIT that keeps me going and doing my best.
Q: What is Glide’s long term vision? What are some exciting developments you envision in the future?
A: Starting from Hong Kong and eyeing APAC and beyond, we envision Glide to be the best go-to travel planning tool for Free Independent Travellers (FITs).
Travelling has become an essential part of our lives over the years. It gives us opportunities to explore, connect and experience different cultures and stories around the globe. Meanwhile, we are more aware of the ever-growing importance of protecting our planet and sustainable travelling, like reducing carbon footprints while travelling or travelling to more sustainable destinations. Individual travellers can make a positive impact on our planet. We hope that Glide would be able to support some of these missions and grow relevant and conscious awareness in the future.
Q: How can we learn more about you and your company?
Alex Tong, Co-founder & CEO of Glide
August 3, 2021