UT alumni use UT entrepreneurial resources, create mobile platform to improve group travel experience

Celesia Smith

Exploring, studying or vacationing abroad is often unforgettable. For those traveling in large groups, however, the stress of coordinating during trips often clouds the beauty of experiencing another country.

In 2016, UT alumni Diego De Stefano Ramos Arizpe (‘17) and Daniela De Stefano Pachon (‘17) used UT resources to clear the coordination stress from international skies. They founded Trip Loop, a platform that allows groups abroad to stay organized and remain communicative.

The idea for Trip Loop was born out of De Stefano Ramos Arizpe’s experience abroad in which he assisted his trip coordinator in managing a group of high school graduates. After noticing persistent communication difficulties, he decided to assist the coordinator in an unconventional way.

“I was receiving feedback from both the students and the trip coordinator, and I thought that the problems could be solved by digitizing a couple of the resources that they were using,” De Stefano Ramos Arizpe said.

Trip Loop became more than a few digitized resources, however. The app includes a real time itinerary, emergency location sharing settings and a closed social network. Additionally, the platform is built on an offline mesh network that allows communication without Wi-Fi in a local setting.

“(Trip Loop combines) all these different apps that people use when they travel — Facebook groups, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Google Maps — different social apps that are not necessarily made for traveling,” De Stefano Pachon said.

Maricarmen Hernandez, sociology doctoral student and liaison for the McCombs Business Honors Program Management in Buenos Aires study abroad program, said Trip Loop’s features, specifically the offline network, would help students stay organized abroad.

“A handful of the students didn’t have data in Buenos Aires,” Hernandez said. “It’s expensive and not everybody can do that, so (the offline network) would be a really great tool.”

As useful as Trip Loop is to study abroad coordinators, De Stefano Ramos Arizpe found that his idea’s utility reaches beyond the educational sphere.

“I saw it as an opportunity to help (my trip coordinator) at the beginning,” De Stefano Ramos Arizpe said. “It wasn’t until months later that I realized Trip Loop was a huge business opportunity.”

He and De Stefano Pachon used UT and Austin’s resources to start their entrepreneurial journey. They participated in Capitol Factory’s 3 Day Startup program and UT’s Longhorn Startup Lab.

In addition to being a co-founder of Trip Loop, De Stefano Pachon is also a new mentor for UT’s Genesis Program, an investment fund that provides startup capital to student entrepreneurs. She said programs such as 3 Day Startup, Longhorn Startup Lab and the Genesis Program give students an accurate taste of the entrepreneurial experience.

“Entrepreneurship is a high pressure thing,” De Stefano Pachon said. “There’s a lot of sacrifice. Anything that you can do to put that stress on yourself will let you see if that sort of work is right for you.”

Ultimately, De Stefano Ramos Arizpe and De Stefano Pachon put that pressure on themselves and founded Trip Loop to solve an international problem.

“People all around the world are very similar and have similar problems, no matter if they’re from Jamaica, Japan, or Russia,” De Stefano Ramos Arizpe said. “We all travel in groups. This solution is a global solution.”