Q&A: Dee Lee (CultureMee Founder & CEO)
From: Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, Ireland
So, Dee, tell us about CultureMee?
CultureMee is the first app in the world to help prevent culture shock for people who travel. I came up with the idea while travelling around Africa in 2015 and after 2 years hard work researching the cultures for over 70 countries, we were thrilled to launch the app in the last few months.
How does it help prevent culture shock?
Well you can never fully prevent culture shock (nor do we want to), but we try to make life easier by providing a high-level overview of the culture, the do’s and don’ts and some fun facts for the country you’re visiting. Through our partnership with Hofstede Insights and Geert Hofstede, one of the world’s leading culture experts, we also offer graphs to compare your culture to the culture you’re visiting.
Ok, so you cover everything around culture. But people will probably want to know more than just culture when they travel, right?
Correct, and that’s why we also offer practical travel advice on things like visas, vaccinations and plugs. Can you remember the last time you travelled abroad and didn’t have the right adapter? Well CultureMee solves this in a very user friendly way.
Is this not already done by TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Booking?
When you’re travelling abroad, there’s no app available to help you transition into another culture. Many guides will tell you the Irish are friendly and like a drink in a pub, but they won’t tell you our communication style, how to negotiate with Irish people, or what really drives Irish people crazy when you come here. In Bulgaria for example, people nod their head up and down to mean “No”, this is not covered in any existing app on the market.
Why has this not been done before?
The world of culture has been extensively studied by academics in universities and B2B consultancies for the past 30 years, but nobody has thought to bring culture to the B2C market like we’re doing. Even the research around culture and travel is extremely limited. As for why this has this not been done before? I really have no idea. Sometimes it is the most obvious things in life that get overlooked!
What drove you to come up with CultureMee?
It was when we were travelling around East Africa in 2015 that the idea came to life. I spent so much time researching very basic travel advice around visas, vaccinations, and plugs for all the different countries we were visiting. However, when we arrived in Zanzibar (island off the coast of Tanzania), it was a completely different plug than I had researched for the mainland. I thought this is ridiculous, and decided that night that there needed to be an app where you get all this very straightforward practical travel advice. That night over dinner, John and I brainstormed, and we quickly realised that culture also had to be a core part of our app. So CultureMee was born!
Who are typical CultureMee customers?
What defines our customers is they have a deep curiosity about the world, and especially other cultures. Our customers include everyone from expats, students studying abroad, business people working internationally, as well as backpackers. Even people who don’t travel, but who work with different cultures, would find CultureMee useful.
What is your business model?
Our app is a free app as we’re focused on building a global community around culture. We receive commissions when we send some of our B2C traffic to our B2B business partners. Medium-term we can introduce in-app purchases (e.g. for business culture) or do in-app advertising, but we’re keeping the interface clean for as long as we can to avoid clutter and distractions for people using our app. If we can build a strong community around culture, we’re confident that through the power of the community we can learn unique insights around travel and culture which have never really been explored in any great depth before.
What is the biggest culture shock you ever got?
When I was in India for the first time and saw men holding hands. I later realised that it’s perfectly normal for men in India to hold hands with their friends!
Tell us something different about you.
I hate presenting! I gave a really poor presentation when I was in college and it definitely scared me. Up until now, I’ve run away from every opportunity to present – every single one! However, with the importance of us building our own CultureMee story, it was crucial for me to stand in front of the camera to present our culture tips for the countries we’re visiting. Slowly (but surely) I’m becoming more confident and comfortable in front of the camera, but it took a lot of work, preparation as well as encouragement from John.
What is your passion?
Aside from family, which is my number 1 passion, it would have to be travel and meeting other people. I’m never as excited as when I’m booking the next trip abroad.