ERIC BJORNDAHL27, co-founder and chief executive, TravBuddy.com, Manhattan Beach
Business: Social networking site for travelers
Fact: Bjorndahl started the company with his brother, David, after the two graduated from college.
What does Eric Bjorndahl like best about being chief executive of his own company? When the surf calls, he can answer it.
Bjorndahl, 27, co-founded the social networking site TravBuddy.com with his brother, David, 28, five years ago. They work on the site from afar: Eric Bjorndahl lives in Manhattan Beach and David Bjorndahl, president of the company, lives in Austin, Texas. The brothers are TravBuddy’s only employees, and that means Eric Bjorndahl can set his own hours – a good thing considering his apartment isn’t far from the beach.
“There’s just something about having that freedom to do what you want,” said Bjorndahl. “If the surf’s good, I like to be able to head down to the beach and then work later in the day if I have to.”
He acknowledged that there’s a flip side to being half of a two-man show: “If something goes wrong with the site, like the server goes down at 3 a.m. or something, you’re the one who has to deal with it.”
Both brothers had experience working in the corporate world. Eric Bjorndahl spent a summer at Microsoft and David Bjorndahl worked for Sun Microsystems and Rupture, a social networking site for gamers.
But working for larger companies didn’t suit them. So the duo started TravBuddy, a social networking site for travelers. People use the site to find hotels and travel companions, arrange meet-ups, and post photos and information about their trips. The site makes money from advertising and referral fees whenever a member uses it to book a trip, flight or hotel room.
They contract with two or three freelance writers. The brothers handle all the work of maintaining the site and adding features. TravBuddy claims it has a monthly audience of 1 million and has helped thousands of travelers meet up around the world. It’s even led to a few marriages.
Eric Bjorndahl, who does most of his work online, said he’s rarely found it a handicap to be an entrepreneur in his 20s. His contacts don’t know his age and they don’t ask.
“On the Internet, it’s fairly anonymous,” he said. “If people want to set up a business partnership, I don’t think they necessarily know how old we are or that we’re a virtual company and we only have two people.”
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