Interview with Bryan Hawthorne, the CEO of an Travel App Designed to Help You


“We are building an app that helps users or influencers like you, find and share experiences they recommend…” read Bryant’s direct message to my Instagram travel page. Bryant is the CEO and Founder of Spotted Places Inc., a travel app that makes connecting with other travelers, exploring, and sharing new experiences easy.  The words that stood out to me from his message were “helps users” and “share experiences.” In a world where indifference is rampant, it’s always satisfying to know someone (or something) has others in mind AND wants to help them. I see traveling as experiences that can change one’s life for the better. However, traveling can quickly turn into a monumental nightmare when you have no idea what to do or where to go. That’s where a travel app like Spotted Places comes in handy—it enables users to easily find things to do and places to go “disappointment free” since the recommendations will be coming from your own network.   As the team of Spotted Places is preparing for a relaunch, I had the opportunity to interview Bryant over email.


Gem LaBranche: Tell us what Spotted Places is about?

Bryant Hawthorne: Spotted Places is a community of travelers who help each other explore the world through our blog, Facebook group, and app. The core of Spotted Places is the mobile app which allows travelers to discover and share hidden gems with likeminded people, in a visual way. You can think of it as a combination of TripAdvisor and Instagram.


GL: The idea to create a travel app must have been rooted from your love for traveling. So what about traveling is special to you?

BH: Traveling forces anyone to become vulnerable and escape from the “known” of everyday life. You cannot travel and fail to learn something new such as the culture, the language, the history, etc. It is so easy to go through life not putting ourselves in vulnerable situations. In this day-and-age, I believe travel is even more important because this vulnerability forces you to depend on others who may be a lot different than you. This allows us to see each other as equals and be more patient with each other when it comes to different perspectives. Traveling forces this and I think we would be in a better place if more people traveled.


GL: Can you take us back to that moment the idea for Spotted Places was born? Was it out of frustration with other travel apps? Or an accident that happened where you’ve wished you had an app exactly like Spotted Places?

BH: I was traveling in Hawaii with my wife and she spent 30 minutes on her phone looking through a friends Instagram. This friend had just been to Hawaii and she received a lot of recommendations from her. From this, the idea of being able to see your networks recommendation in a visual way was formed.


GL: What is one thing Spotted Places does better than any other travel apps?

BH:The default view in Spotted Places is the map, so all recommendations show up visually so you know exactly where they are relative to you. Also, the element of trust is huge when it comes to recommendations. Spotted Places does this well by allowing you to follow people directly in your network or other likeminded individuals.


GL: What is the most common concern by your app users, and how do you address it?

BH: Most users want to find personalized gems when traveling to have a unique experience. By following likeminded travelers, you can find individuals who are sharing unique spots and really enhance your experience.


GL:  I know you also run a travel blog along with the app. What other services do you offer?

BH: We have a Facebook group which allows travelers to share tips & tricks, give advice, and help each other.


GL:  What was the most difficult step during the process of building an app like Spotted Places?

BH: The launch. I’ve always heard that a startup is easy until the launch. Although you work a ton trying to make the thing, once it’s launched you now have more to manage. For instance, marketing, PR, customer feedback, bugs. This adds more to what you were already doing.


GL: Is there a team of serial entrepreneurs, travel lovers behind Spotted Places? If so, what is the vision that you guys share?

BH: I founded Spotted Places with another individual. Fun fact, we met as neighbors! Besides the two of us, we have an amazing team of fellow travelers, even living abroad full time.


GL: What was a problem in leading a team that you never saw coming, but was a problem?

BH: Being able to let go. Although things won’t get done exactly my way, I learned that sometimes it will turn out even better. Once I was able to figure this out, I was able to delegate more and be more productive on the things that had higher impact.


GL: If you were to tell a future new user one key benefit of using Spotted Places, what would you say?

BH: You are joining a community of amazing individuals who will take your travels to the next level.


GL: Entrepreneurs are constantly evolving, what are some cool and exciting things Spotted Places is planning to do in the future?

BH: We have a way that travelers can make money on the road. This will be part of some updates we are making early next year.


GL: What are some of your favorite travel apps besides Spotted Places? And why do you like them?

BH: If used in a hacky way, Instagram can be used as a great app. I also like Momondo for flights.


GL: What advice can you offer anyone who wants to develop an app one day?

BH: Just do it! The road is difficult, but the people you meet and the things you learn will stay with you forever.

You can find out more about Spotted Places at

IG: @spottedplacesapp


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