Interview with fbFund Winner Trazzler

Trazzler is a personalized travel-planning tool that was one of the most recent recipients of the fbFund. What started out as a Facebook application has since expanded to a standalone site. With new Facebook Connect features launching today, and Trazzler’s standalone site growing as a result of leveraging its Facebook app, there are a few lessons to be learned in taking advantage of Facebook’s Platform. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Trazzler founder Adam Rugel:

Kristen Nicole of AllFacebook: What’s the story behind Trazzler? How did you come up with the idea and when did you launch the first version?

Adam Rugel of Trazzler: Our goal is to place you emotionally into specific moments and locales all over the world. Every Trazzler trip is hand-picked and written by a real writer. While technology is a big part of what we do, at the core our site is made up of real trips by real people. By the way, a consistent percentage of our budget (10-15%, same as newspapers like the New York Times) will always be carved out to pay for meaningful travel writing so we can compensate the best contributors at a professional rate.

Ultimately, our goal with the Facebook Platform is to get Trazzler trips — which we believe are the best available content source available for the subject we cover, travel — circulating in the News Feed in a highly relevant ways.

I used to work at Odeo, the podcasting company which latter morphed into Twitter. After the transformation, I stuck around the Twitter office as a squatter for about a year and worked on my own project, During that period, I had a bunch of brainstorming/pistachio-eating sessions with Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s founders. One day, Biz suggested a crazy idea involving “virtual teleportation.”

From there, we created a Facebook app we called Trazzler — a simple quiz that provided folks with a travel personality and some trip recommendations. That was back in the fall of ’07. From there, we came up with a lot of the concepts — action phrases (“Kristen is Camping in —–” or “Adam is “Admiring the Sculptures in —–“); localization by IP address; travel personalities — that you see on Trazzler today. Evan Williams, Twitter’s other founder (Jack Dorsey is the 3rd) invested in us — this allowed us to hire a full time developer. From there, we created the website, then we got a grant from the fbFund to build out the Trazzler experience on Facebook.

Kristen Nicole: What were your first thoughts on implementing the Trazzler Facebook app when you received funding from the fbFund?

Adam Rugel: After we got the grant, we attended f8 over the summer where there was a lot of excitement about Facebook Connect. Even though we already had an app (albeit a rudimentary one), we had a hunch Connect would be a better fit for us, even back then. It was a big undertaking building an app, because our website had significant functionality at that point and to do it right, we had to build a full API to expose all of that functionality.

Kristen Nicole: When did you decide to create a Facebook application for Trazzler?

Adam Rugel: That was the first thing we did.

Kristen Nicole: So in terms of building up the standalone Trazzler site, how are you taking advantage of the Facebook platform?

– We get proxied email – Allows us to send our email newsletters to email FB Connected users. Required extended permission. We’re hopeful this address will be users primary email and will lead to higher open rates.

Kristen Nicole: Now that you’ve got an established Facebook app, what are your next steps?

Ultimately, our goal is to get Trazzler trips circulating in the News Feed in a way that is highly relevant to the Facebook users who see them. We’ll continue to explore the best ways to make that happen with the tools Facebook makes available, and for us, that probably means via Facebook Connect.