Interview: Bo Irik from SeaBookings on growing up in Portugal & startup life

Bo and Femke, founders of SeaBookings.com

Lisbon-based Bo Irik is the co-founder of Sea Bookings, a Portuguese startup that makes it easier to book maritime tours and activities such as cave tours, fishing, and scuba diving in Portugal and abroad. She was kind enough to speak to us and tell us a little about how she ended up moving to Portugal and launching a web startup here in Portugal. 

The post is part of our “People of Portugal” series where we interview interesting Portuguese (and adopted Portuguese) people. In the previous post in this series we chatted with Zara Quiroga, a travel blogger and author of a book on food in Lisbon: Lisbon in 100 bites.

You’re originally from Holland, but you grew up in Portugal. Is that correct?

Correct! My parents moved to Portugal when I was 10 and my sister and co-founder (Femke Irik) was 8 years old, in search of a better way of living and more sun and nature.

And growing up in the Algarve, you have a special bond with the ocean.

Yes, as soon as we got to the Algarve, my sister and I started sailing and later surfing.

The SeaBookings team

What made you decide to start SeaBookings?​

For many seasons, we were selling ticket for a boat tour in Lagos, on one of the ticket stands on the main avenue and here we realized three things that made us want to create an online platform to discover, compare and book coat tours and water sports:

  1. This market has a huge potential.
  2. For the tourist the process of buying a ticket was a hassle as the information online was very fragmented and did not allow for online bookings in most cases.
  3. We could help the tour operators gain online visibility, increase sales and improve processes.

What’s been the hardest part of getting Sea Bookings going?​

Making sure that tourists find our page.

Sea Bookings is available all over Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores. Has running Sea Bookings given you opportunities to see more of Portugal?​

Yes, even though we can bring on board new tour operators without meeting them in person, we’ve been travelling to Madeira and Azores to keep good business relations and try some of the tours provided.

Take us through a typical day for you. Is it all work, or do you get to play as well? I know, amongst other things, that you’re a keen runner.​

Yes, usually I wake up and work from 9h to 19h. My tasks consist of assisting customers per email and phone, confirming bookings and also creating new partnerships with tour operators. After work, I like to go for a run or to the gym, yes.

In the weekend I try to have some time to “test” some of the tours we provide on SeaBookings to then write blog posts about our own experience.

With Web Summit coming to Lisbon, there’s been a lot of chatter about Portugal as a startup capital. What’s been your experience of launching a startup in Lisbon?

We’ve got nothing to complain about. For us Portugal was the right place as the maritime tourism market is huge here and besides, we love the sun! Another benefit is the low cost of living. We’ve been bootstrapping (building the company with our own money without investors) and do not have a huge monthly budget during these first years of SeaBookings.

Finally, some people reading this interview on Portugalist will be planning to visit Portugal for the first time. What are some of the key maritime experiences that they should try and fit into their trip?​

We always recommend the Cave & Dolphin trip from the Marina of Albufeira. This boat trip combines a coastal cruise along the most impressive caves and the thrill of searching for wild dolphins in the middle of the Atlantic.

Cave tour in Albufeira

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