Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Journey of UCD student is to help others ease theirs

The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis is just one of many local destinations that would appeal to travelers on a budget, says UCD student Ryan DeForest, who has created an online travel database, Bagonize.com. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

In days gone by, people generally wouldn’t depart on a journey without a destination mapped out. These aren’t those days.

With the Internet, wanting to travel but not having a destination in mind can be easily remedied. One can simply visit a website such as the one UC Davis student Ryan DeForest is developing, Bagonize.com.

DeForest, who established the beta version of the website himself last August, has created an online database that’s specifically designed for those who may not be set on exactly where to go. To this end, it uses a different set of parameters than most search tools.

“The aim is to take the old-fashioned travel search paradigm and flip it upside down,” he said. “Instead of having to input where to go and how long you want to go for, you start with just entering where you’re located, how far you’re willing to travel, how many you’re traveling with and what your budget is.”

From there, the website’s users will find a variety of destinations with activities that fit their preferences: from cost-free nature walks to moderately priced museums to thrilling but expensive theme parks.

The impetus for the creation of Bagonize.com was simple enough; DeForest and his roommates were bored as they sat in a Davis apartment on a lazy Saturday. The group searched the Web for something that was both local and cheap to keep themselves occupied.

“We had trouble finding a site that didn’t just have a list of like 200 different things,” DeForest said, “and that didn’t force you to click through 15 different things and refine your search a bunch to find something relevant to you.

“I felt like there was a big disconnect, and that’s when I realized that there was some room for improvement.”

A bit of trial and error and a whole lot of YouTube videos later, DeForest had learned enough about programming and web design to create a travel database and bring it online in a usable form.

To get the word out, he’s starting with — among other things — introducing it to travel agents. DeForest’s mother, who also works as a travel agent, has experience in how it can be used to bolster these services.

“One time she had a client that was coming from New York to San Francisco, where he was staying for a few days,” DeForest said. “He didn’t want to do the typical stuff, like Alcatraz tours or the Golden Gate Bridge.

“She used my site to find the Walt Disney Family Museum, and other stuff that not a whole lot of people know about. I thought, if she is using it, that’s a good sign.”

To further promote the resource, the startup received some financial support from the ASUCD Entrepreneurship Fund. That capital has been allotted to marketing.

He’s also talking with the Orbitz Worldwide Inc. development team about establishing further vacation-planning functionality, such as flight and hotel information, on Bagonize.com.

However, there remain some obstacles and benchmarks that need to be reached first, the first of which is having others understand the seriousness of his commitment to the business.

“I always wanted to start a company, but — as many do — I believed that I needed to graduate college first,” DeForest said. “When I tell people that I’m starting a company now, most don’t believe I’m actually doing it.

“Another struggle is that I’m over here working a day job at Unitrans as a mechanic, studying as a full-time student, trying to organize stuff with Bagonize and also working at Oracle. I’m juggling a lot.”

DeForest expressed a desire to focus more on overseeing the online travel website’s success in the future. He also had a few choice words for his entrance into this particular niche: ”The online travel industry is the biggest, most profitable market, yet the least innovative. No one knows that, per se. That is, until you get a 20-something that comes into the field and shakes things up.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

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