Emily Geiger, CEO, Vitamin Collective

The term “micro-tripping” sounds like something that could be illegal. But for Pendleton-based venture studio platform Vitamin Collective, it’s the theme behind their new branded lab: RoadX Lab, Micro-Tripping, and a way to take on the $9 trillion travel industry.

RoadX is focused on developing ventures around quick, but memorable escapes that are close to home to meet the needs of the modern-day, post-pandemic traveler.

Cincinnati Future spoke with Emily Geiger, CEO and founder of Vitamin Collective, about the RoadX lab.

Tell us first about Vitamin Collective.

Geiger: Vitamin is three things: It’s a community of builders. It’s a studio where we do the concept creation. And there’s the funding aspect, where we connect people to capital. Those three things are our platform.

What’s the focus of RoadX?

Geiger: People need to get away and explore without boarding a plane. RoadX is where travel, the future of mobility, and the future of work come together and say, ‘We’re going to address this need where people are moving more fluidly between geographies, traveling on the road more, and even living in Airbnbs and camper vans.’ All of that is happening very quickly. There are a ton of opportunities to build new companies around that and serve a new way.

Travel and leisure is a $9 trillion industry. The pandemic kind of busted it down to the studs, if you know what I mean. Now we’re ‘redecorating.’ We have the opportunity to try new things. Moreover, because we’re in flyover country and a lot of remote work is happening, travel is the perfect do-it-from-anywhere industry — especially given its digital transformation about 20 years ago with booking.com and similar businesses.

We’re creating ventures that facilitate escape-like experiences and memorable mini-trips close to home — all with the freedom and independence of travel in a personal vehicle. In our research, we’ve seen several interesting ways this is manifesting, including a need for new tools to safely navigate ‘out there,’ the increased desire to connect with other people meaningfully, and to spend time and money regenerating local economies.

What happens at RoadX?

Geiger: We onboard venture builders who share a vision and passion for the experience economy, starting with the Micro-Tripping / On The Road thesis: We collaborate with existing startups who want to scale; we partner with corporate brands in travel and mobility, and the future-of-work companies who want a first-hand view of consumer patterns and emerging business models; Last, we work with early stage investors who are interested.

What are some of the themes you’re seeing within travel? 

Geiger: People, especially younger [travelers], are looking at recommendations that aren’t from old sources of truth, like TripAdvisor or big brands like Marriott. They’re looking for unique, locally oriented sources. The rub is that these big destination marketing organizations want to deliver that but don’t have the tools. Also, people don’t really trust faceless reviews. You can see restaurant reviews on Google; however, you don’t know if those are real or if people are being paid to say things. Staying in a big travel brand hotel is less interesting. How would a big, international company know what’s cool locally? People want to [experience] that local feel.

They want to travel locally and uncover new things. A poll this summer by AAA said that road travel was expected to increase more than 52% compared to 2020, with a majority in the respondents’ own home region.

What are the advantages of being located in Cincinnati?

Geiger: My background is working with corporations and helping them connect to the startups. Corporates here in Cincinnati are very used to working with startups. A lot of cities don’t have that. Within this ecosystem, you can get connected to clients easier. Customer connections and capital are what you need as an early stage startup.

I would also say that there is a new crop of entrepreneurs popping up alongside the older ones, and I’m pretty excited about them.