A trip to Torres del Paine in the south of Chile became an opportunity for Álvaro Silberstein to put his startup idea to the test. Most travel platforms provide basic information about price, location, transportation, accommodation, and excursion options. However, few platforms cater to the specific needs of people with disabilities.
Álvaro is the co-founder and CEO of Wheel the World, a travel platform that goes one step further by empowering people with disabilities with travel experiences around the world that are more inclusive and accessible.
In this episode, I sat down with Álvaro to talk about how Wheel the World changes the user experience for people with disabilities that want to explore the world. We also discuss their fundraising process and participation in different accelerator programs, as well as how they’ve responded to the COVID-19 pandemic which has put traveling on hold for most people.
Entrepreneurship, a family legacy
Being an entrepreneur was something that was expected in Álvaro’s family. So when he started a fantasy soccer platform or when he tried to build an Uber for people with disabilities, his friends and family weren’t surprised. While studying abroad he discovered his next venture when he realized that it was much easier to explore places as a person with a disability in the US than in his home country Chile.
Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about the story behind Álvaro’s decision to found Wheel the World.
Pitching Wheel the World to investors
When Wheel the World was just starting to seek investors and accelerators Álvaro explains that they were seen as a business for a very small market. However, the market research and the traction they were achieving proved otherwise. Naturally, the first investors were angel investors who were involved with people with disabilities and saw the value of what they were trying to build.
Find out how Wheel the World quickly caught the attention of key players in Chile and Silicon Valley in this episode of Crossing Borders.
Adjusting to the pandemic
Many startups were forced to switch gears as the world was taken by surprise by COVID-19. With the travel industry being one of the hardest-hit sectors, Wheel the World refocused its efforts on fine-tuning its systems in the meantime. Due to the travel downturn, Álvaro and his team were forced to cut down on salaries, which he explains was an experience that only reinforced the trust he has in his team.
Learn more about what Álvaro and his team have been up to as the travel industry gradually revives in this episode of Crossing Borders.
Álvaro Silberstein believes that people’s curiosity to explore the world will be stronger than before the pandemic as traveling reactivates, and Wheel the World will be there to make those experiences possible for people with disabilities. The startup offers information on accommodation and tours in 40 destinations in 8 different countries and has a community of 60 thousand people supporting their mission.
Outline of this episode:
- [1:56] – About Wheel the World
- [5:27] – A family of entrepreneurs
- [8:03] – Why this business?
- [11:21] – The inflection point
- [14:00] – Fundraising process for Wheel the World
- [18:48] – Impact of COVID-19 on business
- [21:09] – Advice to Alvaro’s younger self
- [22:05] – Books, blogs, & podcast recommendations
- [24:00] – What’s next for Wheel the World?
Resources & people mentioned:
- Alvaro Silberstein
- Wheel the World
- Wheel the World videos: Torres del Paine, Mark Zuckerberg presents Wheel the World, and other destinations
- Booking.com accelerator
- Fondo CLIN
- Plug and Play
- Documentaries: Crip Camp