Mita Carriman ’01 just wanted see Philadelphia.
She was on a work trip in the city in 2014 and had stayed for a couple of extra days to do the tourist thing — visit museums, eat in nice restaurants, take a historic tour or two. But she preferred not to do it alone and began reaching out to friends in the area to gauge their availability. Carriman spent hours trying to coordinate meetups through phone calls and social media channels, and when she couldn’t make the schedules mesh she took the last-resort step of using the dating site Tinder to find a companion for some nonromantic Philly fun. She had one reply, which is unprintable here.
“By this point, it’s close to 7 p.m. I get take-out to eat in my hotel room, and I’m bummed. I remember thinking that I wanted to do so much in Philadelphia, and the only reason I didn’t do it was because I couldn’t align my schedule with other people’s schedules in the city. That’s how I got the idea for Adventurely.”
Adventurely is a subscription-based website designed to connect solo travelers and digital nomads — people who use technology to work remotely — with companions for travel adventures. The site allows subscribers to sync their schedules and interests with those of other like-minded people, facilitating the sort of tourist-attraction meetups that had eluded Carriman during her Philadelphia trip.
Shaping, funding, and launching the site, however, has been Mita Carriman’s most vivid journey.
The Bronx native was working as a New York-based entertainment and trademark lawyer when she began approaching backers to bring Adventurely to the marketplace. For two years, beginning in August 2015, she pitched potential investors, backed by statistics showing a demand for the product and enthusiasm from users already using an early version of Adventurely. There were no takers, though one venture capitalist offered to invest if she could raise tens of thousands of dollars in seed money from a “family round” of investment.
“It’s an extremely daunting task to fundraise as a first-time founder and as a black woman,” Carriman says.
“I come from a middle-class family, but I didn’t have a grandfather who could give me a $50,000 check to validate my business that way. Generational wealth is a real challenge to diverse founders, and needs to be acknowledged if investors are serious about onboarding founders to their portfolios who don’t fit the typical profile.”
During her fundraising years, Carriman lost both her parents to cancer. Emotionally exhausted and desperate to recharge, she stepped away from her startup dream and embarked on an extended sojourn. “I was dealing with the grief of my family loss and also my business loss,” she recalls. “I figured, okay, this idea did not work out, so what am I going to do with the next 20 years of my life?”
Carriman spent the next year and a half traveling to eight countries — each locale reminding her that the connectivity problems for solo travelers had not been conquered. Others she met on the road expressed similar frustrations. The experience reignited her passion for Adventurely.
In October 2018, looking to reboot her site, Carriman pitched Backstage Capital, a company committed to funding fresh ideas from entrepreneurs who customarily are ignored within investment circles, notably women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community. According to demographic studies of startup founders compiled by Project Diane, businesses led by CEOs who are women of color got less than 1 percent of all venture capital funding every year.
Backstage saw a product with potential and brought Carriman on board to bring it to market.
“It means the world to me that Backstage believes in me,” she says. “I’m fired up to take this as far as we can go — we’re here to win.”
Carriman has relaunched Adventurely with three destinations to start — Mexico City, the Yucatan region of Mexico, and Bali — with plans to scale to Medellin, Madrid, Barcelona, and Lisbon by the end of 2019. The site features a curated list of the top 15 to 20 attractions in each location. For instance, if you want to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City, you can go on Adventurely and enter the dates you’re free to attend. The site will match you with other travelers available on those dates and allow you to review their social media profiles (and they yours) before setting plans.
Carriman expects to expand the site’s offerings to 50 destinations worldwide by 2020, adding a dash of community for solo travelers visiting all kinds of exotic places. Including Philly.