An interview with Shane Williams, Wanderlust

Shane Williams, Australian Entrepreneur and Founder of Wanderlust, the travel tribe takes half an hour out of his busy schedule to answer questions on social media, digital, his journey and advice for digital professionals interested in working in a social-tech start up.

Posted by Hannah Hodgkinson, Tuesday November 3 2015

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Australian entrepreneur, Shane Williams, has been growing an international team of travel enthusiasts with the aspiration of creating “The World’s Biggest Travel Tribe”.  The team are combining the spirit of adventure with an enthusiasm for emerging technology. The Wanderlust app aims to transform the ability to meet like-minded travellers into being as easy as pulling out your smartphone. Shane spent 20 minutes with me to tell the story of how the business has developed so rapidly and imparts some insights for those interested in working in a social-tech start up.

Where did the idea of Wanderlust come from?

“The first time I thought of the Wanderlust concept was when travelling in Guatemala in January 2014, I was on a trek through an underwater cave network, during which I met some cool people that I really clicked with. After the hike, I never saw them again and it made me realise that there was something missing from the travelling experience. There is nothing out there that directly allows you to search and connect with other people travelling in the same area as you. Facebook is the most obvious current way for travellers to connect with each other but it’s not set up to fulfil the individual needs of travellers.  A month later, I returned to Australia and began working on developing the concept.”

What do you believe is the biggest shift in digital in the last five years?

“Facebook has pushed the privacy boundaries of social and digital users to the brink.  This has removed barriers to entry for many similar app and social media developers whilst in turn, accelerating the freedom of digital to create products that weave technology into the details of our everyday lives.  A prime example of this shift is the Google Now app that tracks my regular activities and uses what it has learnt to make predictions about things that might interest me.

Technology is becoming increasingly disruptive to traditional businesses, Uber has completely nailed it and become the biggest taxi company in the world without actually owning any taxis.  Digital and social platforms have now shifted the main focus towards convenience for consumers rather than pure sales and information channels.”

How do you build your knowledge?

“I experience anything that I can get my hands on; my knowledge is based on a lot of trial and error. Replacing the time I would have usually sat in front of television with reading, watching webinars and TED talks instead has had a massive impact. My recommended reads would be ‘The Lean Start up’, ‘Zero to One’, ‘David and Goliath’ and ‘What I Know For Sure’. These books are not only amazing for business, but they also challenge the status quo and question how we think in the context of our everyday lives.

I also have amazing mentors, including Adeel Kahn who has 15 years experience in the tech industry, I only moved into the digital scene when Wanderlust was conceived so it’s been a steep learning curve for me – if you have a vision that you believe in, you have to put the hours in to build up the knowledge and contacts you need to pull it off.”

Shane Williams_Founder of Wanderlust - The Travel Tribe


What keeps you up at night?

“Do you want the real answer? Haha. No, what keeps me up at night is my driving passion to realise my dream in making the Wanderlust movement a reality whilst creating something great for the people I love, with the people I love.”

What traits do you look for in your employees?

“The first things I look for are passion, intelligence and a willingness to give before they get; these are what I believe makes a great employee.

The first question I will ask someone is “what do you love doing and what are you good at?” I really believe that there is no point employing someone if you can’t give them a role that fulfils their needs. I would much prefer they worked at another organisation where they are offered a role that gives them a chance to do what they are passionate about.

I’m currently looking for a Social Media Manager and it’s important to me that their own social accounts are impressive. If you say you are passionate about social media then this should be reflected through your own social networks to show that you’re passionate about it on a personal level.

However above all else, I want to be convinced that potential employees are keen and interested in the company’s vision and willing to commit wholeheartedly to the journey we’re on.”

What did your five year old self want to be?

“I wanted to play Rugby League in the National Rugby League competition. I was lucky enough to almost realise that dream, I played for the Queensland Team in the Junior State Of Origin when I was 18 and was due to play for the Gold Coast team, but before that happened I was in a serious motorbike accident and injured my leg badly, so that was the end of my Rugby career!”

How do you stay creative?

“I’m very much into photography and arts, but my greatest passion is music. I was a Deep House DJ for 15 years so music has always been important to me – the experiences I have had meeting new people on the dance floor and at festivals has been a constant source of inspiration and happiness throughout my life and has been a core motivating factor in the creation of Wanderlust.

On the flip side I find clarity when I’m walking through nature and have the chance to step back and just experience the world. Being from Australia’s Gold Coast I am lucky enough to come from one of the most beautiful areas on the planet. “

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“It’s a cliché but it’s true: be yourself and let other people be themselves. Even though she is 12 years my junior, it was my best friend Kayla who really hit that point home for me.

I have been successful so far in this business because I do what I want to do and because I’m passionate about it, this allows me to be myself.  That’s the best piece of advice I have been given, just to be yourself, find out what you love doing and do everything you can to do it.”

To become part of the Wanderlust Tribe, visit the Wanderlust website to pre-register.

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