Rate my start-up story: Laura Stembridge, Jambo

Meet Laura Stembridge, founder of Jambo: a social networking app for travellers to meet likeminded people. This is the story of how she launched her business.  

(This blog is part of a series to celebrate our event, Virgin StartUp Ignition: business tricks and insight for amazing women. Laura's blog is one of five published on Virgin StartUp, and the blog with the most views will win the entrepreneurs behind it the opportunity to present their business to our all-star panel at the event. So if you like it, share it!)


"Jambo is a social networking app for travellers to meet like-minded people in a fun and informal way.  Jambo, meaning hello in Swahili, encourages users to say ‘hello’ and connect with people whom they may not ordinarily meet, whether they are travelling solo or with a group of friends.

I came up with the idea for Jambo when I was on a career break earlier this year following a rough 18 months. I had a good job, however it was extremely demanding and the symptoms of exhaustion took hold. At the end of 2013 I decided that my health and a work life balance were more important, and made the decision to take a career break.

In April 2014 I embarked on a life changing travel adventure. I didn’t want to travel alone so booked onto a tour. I arrived in Bangkok and checked into a hotel when it soon occurred to me, how would I meet anyone to hang out with before my tour started? During the tour, the memories of my experience in Bangkok kept coming back to me. It started to spark a couple of ideas but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, on a long bus journey in Vietnam that I came up with the concept for Jambo.

I talked about and tested the concept with people I met on my travels, all the feedback was positive – market research, done! When I returned home I researched the competition and quickly identified our Unique Selling Point. I used my network to find an app developer and graphic designer. The team were soon in place.

I was lucky enough to be put in touch with the team at Virgin Start-Up who have been fantastic in offering help and guidance. I don’t know much about tech start-ups, but I’m learning fast! I love business and love travel; being able to combine my two passions and run my own business is the perfect next step.

To date, we have developed the app and are soon to commence beta testing, we have developed our marketing/PR strategy and have started building relationships with providers.

It has been a rollercoaster of a ride so far, there have been highs and lows and moments of ‘wow, this is really happening, scary!’ but I have loved every minute of it and can’t wait to see the vision become a reality – to be the #1 social networking app for travellers. If I had never suffered with exhaustion, I would have never left my job and I wouldn’t be on this amazing journey – everything happens for a reason.

I met some amazing people travelling. Knowing that I can make other people’s travel experiences richer by connecting them with like-minded people motivates me.  When you travel you instantly have one interest in common, travel.  All it takes is for someone to smile, say ‘hello’ and new friendships are instantly born.


Virgin StartUp Ignition - business tricks and insight for amazing women - will see the UK's top female entrepreneurs come together to celebrate Women's Entrepreneurship Day. A day of workshops and keynote talks, the aim of this event is to inspire and help more women to start their own businesses. Find out more information and grab a ticket, here.