by Charlotte Cusano
Last week on a lovely sunny afternoon I sat down outside of Mercantile & Mash with Charleston native Landon Sanford, founder of the upcoming travel app, Rayka. Landon is in the midst of making the finishing touches on the project. The app is scheduled for release in early June. As a lover of travel, I was eager to chat with Landon about Rayka’s potential to revolutionize the way that we prioritize stops along each of our journeys, whether they’re across The Palmetto State or around the globe.
Rayka is an app that allows you to connect with friends and family to share recommendations for restaurants, parks, music venues, or any spots that may enhance your travel experience. Landon explained that “the hope is that it will answer the question of ‘where should I go?’... Anything relates to trying a new spot.”
“Where this started was… I travel a lot,” Landon reflected. “I’ve visited 38 countries and 42 states. This past summer was the gap between the real world and college. I just graduated from Vandy in May 2016. All my friends were traveling around Europe or around the country. I got 30-40 text messages from friends asking, ‘Hey, I’m going to Spain. What town should I go to?’ or ‘I’m about to be in Paris. What’s your favorite restaurant there?’ or ‘What’s the locals perspective of what to check out in Charleston?’ That’s how the initial idea came about.”
When I mentioned Yelp and TripAdvisor, Landon explained what elements will set Rayka apart from these out-dated sites. “Those are out-dates dinosaurs in a new era. Specifically with the five-star format. 68% of reviews are between four and five stars -- so there’s no difference between page one, page three, and page ten on either of those sites. About 20% of reviews are influenced by competitors or false accounts.” Meanwhile, Rayka will allow you to view recommendations from specifically people whose opinions you trust and value. If you are visiting a foreign country or if you’re in a friends home town, it is more special to create memories in places that hold a special place in the memories of your loved ones. Why not capitalize on the opportunity for a collective appreciation of your own personal favorite places?
The creation of this app required a combination of creativity, passion, and fortitude of spirit. When I asked Landon if he always knew he wanted to be involved with a start-up, he shared the story behind the app’s inception: “I’ve always loved start-ups. In high school, Landon and his friend, the late Michael Reese, drove their golf carts around Sullivan’s Island with a sign that read: “Beach and Back Shuttle Service - Tips Accepted”. The two of them noticed that there was not enough parking for all the beach-goers on Sullivans and decided to think of a creative way to enhance the experience of the visitors to their hometown while also earning a little bit of money. Landon worked with about five start-up companies during his time at Vanderbilt. After graduation, Landon was about to move to Austin, TX to work on a start-up there when he suffered from a severe knee injury one week before graduation. He was playing beach volleyball when his kneecap popped out. “I was in bed from May 4th until mid-November with a double-surgery that required artificial cartilage to be re-grown in Massachusetts. The Austin thing fell apart and I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I decided that I really wanted to start something. It’s the perfect time of my life where I can start something. That led to me trying to think of ideas -- I came up with 42 my first month on the bed.” Landon utilized the time when he was physically limited to harness his creativity. “Most of my 42 ideas were terrible, and then I realized that all of my friends were texting me for travel advice. And so then the idea of Rayka came about.”
The app is currently in Beta. Hopefully, it will be released on June first but certainly within the next month. One of the main focuses is on students who are studying abroad. I am currently a student of a New York University M.F.A. program that has workshops in Paris, so I am eager for Rayka to be up and running so that my fellow classmates and I can begin to compile a list of our go-to spots. Charleston and Nashville are two cities in the U.S. that Rayka will be focusing on, as Landon grew up here and spent his undergraduate years in Nashville attending Vanderbilt. Growing up in Charleston is part of what inspired Landon to create this app. Charleston has so many incredible restaurants and places to visit that Rayka could be extremely useful in this city alone.
I encourage everyone to look out for Rayka and utilize its ability to make visiting new places more meaningful. The people you love and respect are the best resources for finding trustworthy information. Landon has cultivated Rayka with creativity, drive, and his entrepreneurial spirit, realized with Michael on Sullivan’s, to make the discovery of this information easy and possible. Rayka will allow you to connect socially through place and experience.
Enjoy each of your adventures in Summer 2017 and look forward to discovering hidden gems on Rayka!