Jeremy Jauncey isn’t your average hoodie-toting tech dude. With an enviable tan, chiseled frame and charming British accent, he seems—at least physically speaking—more like a man-about-town than a guy who geeks out over data science. While you might not be familiar with his name, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon his Instagram account, @BeautifulDestinations, which has 4.4 million followers—including celebrities like Kendall Jenner—and is, as he calls it, the “largest travel influencer on Instagram.” The feed is a collection of awe-inspiring images from around the world: hot-air balloons descending over craggy rocks in Cappadocia; sprawling lakefront castles in Ireland; miles of scenic coastline in Cape Town.
Jauncey launched the @BeautifulDestinations handle as a passion project while he was working on a healthcare start-up in the UK. The idea, he says, was to “showcase the most beautiful places in the world through the lens of everyday travelers, rather than traditional, corporate photography.” As the account grew, Jauncey realized he could collect data about which posts garnered the most engagement from followers, drilling down on criteria like preferred color schemes, proportions and even the word choice used in captions. @BeautifulDestinations eventually drew the attention of the Dubai tourism board, and Jauncey was hired to create social-media buzz around the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. He invited a few influential Instagrammers to chronicle a five-day stay at the property, and following their visit, the @BurjAlArab Instagram account jumped from 6,000 followers to 65,000. It also translated into big bucks: the hotel saw a 38 perfect increase in bookings online.
Before long, @BeautifulDestinations was a full-fledged business, expanding its scope to include food, fashion and other luxury goods through spin-off accounts like @BeautifulCuisines and @BeautifulMenswear. Jauncey also hired a staff. But rather than scooping up Instagram power users, he assembled an eclectic team of people who specialize in what he calls “visual analytics.” That group includes computational music theorists, theoretical physicists and statisticians, all working to predict what kind of content makes ‘grammers tick. The information has proven to be extremely compelling for major companies—media brands, airlines, tourism boards, fashion labels and hotels have hired @BeautifulDestinations to help grow their accounts, amplify user engagement, test potential ad campaigns and foster partnerships with Instagram influencers. He now counts The Bellagio in Las Vegas, Travel + Leisure and Forbes Travel Guide among his budding list of clients. “We tell brands who’ve spent all this money on print campaigns, ‘It’s not working on social because it’s not social-first content,’” he says. “It definitely flies in the face of how things have been done: it’s my job to tell you what looks, and works, the best.”
Pursuing a career as an entrepreneur wasn’t initially in the cards for the 31-year-old Jauncey, who started out on a path to be a professional rugbyman. He played for several years in Scotland, where he was raised (his father is Scottish, his mother from Colombia), before moving to New Zealand and discovering his affinity for technology. Through @BeautifulDestinations, Jauncey has also found another purpose. “It’s about inspiring people to travel and see the world,” he says. “Whether it’s the food they want to eat, the places they want to visit or the clothes they want to wear, people are turning to Instagram to be inspired. It’s powerful.”