Alex Simon

Alex Simon

– Co-Founder, Elude

Alex Simon, co-founder of Elude, talks to Startup-O Stars about the adventure of their lives.

How does a young first-time founder get to attend an illustrious gathering like Davos, armed with only an idea and a web beta? The answer, says Alex Simon, is a deep excitement about the idea, coupled with grit and confidence.

When the opportunity to attend Davos arose, Alex grabbed it with the knowledge that even as a newbie founder, he was representing an idea that was worthy of being showcased. With odds against him, Alex managed to secure a ticket 3 days prior to the event. On the flight to Switzerland, his luggage was misplaced; he also stayed in a campervan for the week, as no hotels were available. Even within these circumstances, his belief in his idea remained confident, as he was driven by Elude’s mission to revolutionize travel.

This daunting “trip from hell” paid off. Their first investor was someone he met at Davos. Furthermore, being in the same room as representatives of government and industry yielded him advisers from Lyft, Snapchat and Skyscanner. Three months after the trip, Alex resigned from his Wall Street job to become a full-time founder.


The Bug that Wall Street Could Not Cure

Alex’s journey into entrepreneurship took him somewhat by surprise. Poised at the threshold of a Wall Street career in investment banking, he had embarked on a linear and lucrative path that he loved. This was the culmination of his education, and the pinnacle was in sight.

This was also a time when his own love for travel was taking flight. His first trip was to Israel, which opened his eyes to the impact that travel has on communities and growth. Thus, Elude was born out of his search for more travel options within a fixed timeframe and budget.

“For every one place a traveller wishes to visit, there are dozens more that their money can buy them,” says Alex, of the thinking that helped launch Elude. This was an opportunity to disrupt how travel is planned and booked. Key in preferred dates and a budget and Elude will show you several feasible itineraries to choose from. As Alex describes the lightbulb moment, “this was problem-solving on a mass scale – by shifting the focus of consumers.”

Alex and his co-founder Frank knew early on that they were on to something good. At this time, Alex was working long hours in New York and would begin his commute to work at 3am and catch the train home by 9pm. All Elude-related work was done whilst on his commute to his office and back.
Soon thereafter, Frank resigned from his job in marketing and dived into Elude, creating a web beta where he made itineraries for clients. The travel bug spread, and within a few months, they had created hundreds of bookings. No money had yet been raised, and Alex was funding the whole operation from his earnings at his full-time job.

“For every one place a traveler wishes to visit, there are dozens more that their money can buy them.”


The Why that gave them the How

Through his unanticipated deep dive into entrepreneurship, Alex says, “having the vision to create something out of nothing is hard to pass up.” As Elude took shape, the desire to create and grow superseded everything else. Building, connecting and funding Elude became a constant stream of thought for the two founders.
Alex’s organic path into the startup world arises from a mission that is uniquely and intrinsically his. Regardless of setbacks and failure, his mission stands, and he sees no reason to give up or lose hope. “Nobody can stop you from holding on to your goal,” he says, with the confidence that allowed them to drive their idea forward.

Alex and Frank remain excited by the idea of shifting the way people approach travel. Given how personal travel can be, especially when linked with memories and life events, they strongly believe that their work adds value.

“Nobody can stop you from holding on to your goal.”


Breakthroughs: Sought or Created?

The next steps involved putting together the puzzle pieces to grow a successful business. The learning curve for Alex and Frank has not been a linear one; it is littered with ups and downs. Elude at its core is a technology startup, a field in which Alex and Frank had no prior experience. Throughout the early obstacles, Alex says, “we navigated the system and sought advice from others who have managed successfully.”

For their early successes, he credits their backgrounds in business and marketing. Exposure to operations and business gave them the experience to focus and steer the business in the right direction. Early validation came in the form of an appreciative Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, where Alex worked, who indicated a willingness to invest.

The next breakthrough came from their introduction to Kairos Society, which matches young entrepreneurs with business elites. This was a great help as it put them on a clear path to action and accountability. Kairos was their segue into Davos, and the rest is history.

"We navigated the system and sought advice from others who have managed successfully."


What’s a Journey Without Bumps on the Road?

Although the two co-founders are exhilarated about their journey so far, no journey is complete without challenges. Fundraising has been one such arena. “Raising money is never easy,” says Alex, “even for a founder with an investment banking background.” Potential investors do not generally fit the demographics of their target clients, and therefore many do not appreciate the “why.”

However, Alex and Frank continue to see Elude from user’s perspective and focus on the value that it provides. Feedback from users has been very good, and this provides them with a sense of validation. Since the start of 2019, Alex says Elude has experienced a tipping point in adoption. He calls this the “head down and focus” phase, where execution is key. There is a welcome sense of momentum, brought about by funds raised so far, as well as help from trusted advisers.

A second unexpected challenge has been the need to balance personal and work life. Alex and Frank are keen to hold on to the ethos behind Elude – one of enjoyment, fun, spontaneity. It is easy to lose sight of this amid endless tasks and demands, calls, legalities, and paperwork. The key to maintaining this sense of excitement, is, of course, travel!

"Raising money is never easy, even for a founder with an investment banking background."



What to Pack for the Adventure of Your Life

It is often said that persistence and consistency are essential in the toolbox of an entrepreneur. To illustrate how important this is to him, he talks of his 3-year long effort to bring an adviser on board. Having set his sights on an adviser whose work he greatly admired, he then made contact over social media. Several Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook messages yielded no response. But rather than give up, Alex kept him updated on developments over a three-year period, until the adviser came on board.

Alex explains this as, “it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.” This has been one of his key learnings, not to give up on investors and advisors, but to keep them apprised of developments in Elude and ensure that their message reaches far and wide.

“One rejection is not a burned bridge,” he says, of the need for continued communication with all potential stakeholders.

"It’s not about who you know, but who knows you."


The name Elude conjures up images of escaping the mundane and temporarily entering another world. The company’s purpose is to encourage spontaneity. And Alex and Frank’s journey has been just as spontaneous as their mission, with life-changing inflexion points like Davos appearing as welcome avenues of change.

The co-founders look forward to Elude growing and impacting lives with a global footprint, breaking barriers along the way. They are set to change how people travel and open up new and exciting possibilities for travellers – ultimately changing lives.

Startup-O is South East Asia’s leading platform for startup assessments, investments, and venture building. It was created with ‘Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs’ ethos at the core of its design. The assessment platform coupled with venture funds helps with systematic discovery & investing in high traction tech startups. These promising growth startups are selected through a transparent process which is a blend of multi-stage online evaluations conducted by seasoned global experts & proprietary ranking algorithms on the platform.