Adam Siegel's latest venture is a company called Academic Ambassadors.
As an academic traveler, Mr. Siegel wanted to find alternatives to the big chain
hotel companies. With that in mind, Mr. Siegel created Academic Ambassadors,
whose company objective is to match academic (and other) travelers with full-service
high quality boutique hotels at discounted prices while allowing users to directly
book their reservations through the website. Currently, the company provides referrals
to US and Canadian hotels in major cities; however, it will eventually go global.
It was through his career as a traveling non-profiteer that Mr. Siegel was inspired
to start up his own business. "I have experienced first-hand the sometimes unglamorous
life of a traveling development professional. Academic Ambassadors was born of those
bouts with isolation, exhaustion and dreariness on the road. To help my peers avoid
another "where am I today?" moment, I have matched them with unique and intimate
hotels around the country. These are stimulating places, all downtown boutique hotels,
and all well discounted."
Academic Ambassadors started approximately seven years ago, and began
its online referral operation with eight hotels. Today, the company has almost 5,000
users and a growing list of fine boutique institutions. The company's website also
offers an opportunity for its users to engage in dialogue, providing an interactive
platform for networking and hotel recommendations. Academic Ambassadors is
an official hotel discounter for MIT, Harvard, and Duke, and is extensively used
by Tufts and several non-profit companies. Although the website does not yet provide
the option for users to book the hotel directly, adequate information is provided
to contact the hotel and book reservations. Usually, each major city has at least
one hotel recommendation.
What challenges do you encounter as an entrepreneur?
"The challenges are actually creative opportunities, almost a form of commercial
recreation!" As the creator, president and lone employee, Mr. Siegel draws on life
experience (as a traveler and as a person), his own idiosyncrasies and various perspectives
to provide valuable service to others through this venture. There is a sense of
independence in running your own company Mr. Siegel describes, with "no one looking
over my shoulder, but I do try to be in tune with my members. So, I confer with
them, provoking constructive criticism and recommendations for improvement".
Another challenge that Mr. Siegel describes is persuading potential users that
his website is different from his competitors such as Travelocity, Hotels.com, and
Orbitz. People are so accustomed to the impersonal or non-existent service at these
websites that it is hard to convince prospective users that Academic Ambassadors
can offer an engaging and personable web-based service. "I've actually had a large
group of non-profiteers in the arts balk at signing up because they were sure there
must be strings attached. There aren't!"
What Experiences helped you to become an entrepreneur?
Mr. Siegel discusses how he wished he could have initiated his entrepreneurial
skills at an earlier age. "Perhaps, I could have better developed my entrepreneurial
side. That way I might have been able to control my own destiny sooner. "Before
attending college, the earliest interest he had developed in entrepreneurship was
when he worked as a "Cabana Boy" on Long Island, New York. It was during this experience
that he "saw a direct connection between personal contact, service, and profit".
Ever since, Mr. Siegel has recognized the need to "match individual interests with
institutional needs", something that he has defined as "a classic entrepreneurial
puzzle". He has carried along this entrepreneurial spirit as a fundraiser, and uses
this logic in his company.
Mr. Siegel advises current Tufts students, "I would advise current students to
carve out something of their own even as they are working within a system. This
is likely good for mental health and might just provide a jumping-off place at the