Travel has a way of uniting people, and reminding us that we’re the same,” says Gilad Berenstein, CEO of Seattle-based Utrip. But travel isn’t always easy. “When I went to France a few years ago,” he says, “I found a hotel on Expedia, but I didn’t realize how far it was from everything, which got me thinking.” This experience and others led him to quit his job in the financial field and round up a team of engineers to build a unique solution: Utrip, which creates day-to-day vacation plans. “I was 23 years old, with no real responsibilities, so this was a good time to jump in and take a risk,” he says. Berenstein and his engineers talked to psychologists and travel experts, trying to understand the process people go through when planning a vacation. The result was a phenomenal success, reaching over 100,000 users within a few years.
Berenstein was born in Israel, and when his father decided to take a job in the U.S. he found himself in Spokane, barely able to speak English. Things were going so well that their one-year adventure became two, then three, and now they have lost count. Berenstein got involved with the local Jewish community, including United Synagogue Youth, Jewish Family Service, and Camp Solomon Schechter. “I still consider myself more Israeli than American,” Berenstein says. “Even though I’ve spent more than half my life in America, Israel provides me a comfort level that I don’t have anywhere else.”
Berenstein likes learning the why of things, as well as building his own stuff and tinkering. “I like to think that entrepreneurship is in my blood,” he says. “Even when I was a kid, I started a sort-of business in my parents’ basement, selling things to schoolmates and friends.” He loves the start-up lifestyle and work-style. There’s plenty of work left for him with Utrip as the service expands to multiple new cities every month and integrates with more companies like travel agencies, airlines, hotels, and even cruise lines. Berenstein believes that cultural understanding is something we need now more than at any time in history, and he hopes that his service can enable people to not only see the world, but see it in their own way, and together.