Students create app to help people explore Europe

Sarah Weingust grew up in Berkeley and Boston,  completed high school in Oregon and ended up at USC, while Meir Razzon grew up in Istanbul before moving to Los Angeles. Now these students are using their travel experiences to create an app that aids the world traveler in finding a secure location fast.

Weingust, a senior majoring in psychology, is the CEO and co-founder of HostelPass.  She was inspired to create this app after studying abroad her junior year in London.

“I was able to really see the world — it just widened my perspective, and I felt like this was an experience everyone should have,” Weingust said. “But there was something missing from it, which was the ability to be spontaneous and not have to plan everything really far in advance. That’s where HostelPass came in. It just really derived from a pain I was having while I was traveling.”

Upon her return from London she shared her idea with her roommate, Razzon, a senior majoring in industrial systems engineering, is now chief operating officer and co-founder of HostelPass.

HostelPass allows travelers to pre-pay for a pass for the length of time they want accommodation in Europe. The pass charges $50 per night and after 10 nights the traveler gets one extra night free.

The reservation can be made anywhere from months in advance to the date of departure. Upon downloading the app the user creates a profile and subsequently is matched with the top hostels best suited to the person’s preferred characteristics.

The app is currently set up for bookings in 10 different European cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, London, Lisbon, Paris, Prague and Rome. They are working with around 225 hostels, some part of the largest hostel chains in all of Europe.

“The main objective was to get people to spend less time planning and more time exploring,” Weingust said. “We also wanted to liberate the free-spirited traveler to just be able to experience Europe in the way that they want to and not feel tied down.”

After creating HostelPass, Weingust and Razzon started by testing it manually with friends, entering pitch competitions and joining the Viterbi Incubation Program.

The two students have been working on the app for around six months. They are currently one of the top six finalists for the New Venture Seed Competition put on by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The app also aims to provide its users with more culturally enriching experiences by partnering with different tourist companies that provide activities from walking tours to pub crawls. They hope to expand the app to even more European cities and eventually extend to different continents such as Asia and South America.

“We want it to be the trusted source of hostel bookings,” Weingust said.

Weingust and Razzon expect to complete the development process by the end of April and begin beta testing May 10. The app’s tentative launch date is Sept. 15.

“It’s awesome just to do something in the travel space because it’s something that I’ve always been interested in, but I never expressed it or even knew it, but once I started doing this, I realized how cool it is,” Razzon said.

Although the app has not been released yet, Weingust is proud of what she and Razzon have already accomplished in what she feels is male-dominated field.

“Being able to achieve this has meant a lot in terms of being a woman. I think that the business space is so dominated by men, and it’s been really cool to stand equally and even excel in that field and not feel like I’m being treated any differently,” Weingust said.