Meet Ventoura: the latest startup seeking its fortune by building a peer-to-peer platform. This one is playing in the travel space, and has just launched an app where travelers can connect with others headed to the same destination so they have some drinking buddies when they land — a la Tinder Passport, or a travel app like Tripr.
The other half of Ventoura’s app-based platform aims to link travelers with locals offering off-guidebook tours to unlock the inner secrets of foreign cities. Locals can charge a fee for these tours, with payments taken via the app to keep things low friction, and Ventoura taking a commission on any booked tours so it has a built in revenue stream.
If you’re getting a sense of deja vu that’s because there have been plenty of attempts to build the ‘airbnb of travel guiding’. One such attempt at socializing travel, Gidsy, deadpooled back in 2013 — acquired by a more straight laced travel startup, GetYourGuide, which focuses on hawking mainstream tours and attractions.
But Gidsy was not alone in the space. Trip4Real is still around offering local guiding via a web platform, rather than an app. There’s also the likes of Vayable, GuideMeRight, Peek, Musement, LovliLocals and MeetJune all playing in a similar space. And of course there’s the veteran social travel community which combines local drinking buddies with freebie accommodation, Couchsurfing.
You could even say Airbnb has some skin in this game too, with hosts on that p2p platform encouraged to offer tips and advice to guests on where to go in their home city — and sometimes even being willing to take a guest to their favorite watering hole themselves. (Airbnb has also tested a local concierge feature which lets users ask its hosts questions.)
So Ventoura is entering a very congested and contested space. But one it reckons is still ripe for a big platform play to emerge. Co-founder Raymond Siems argues there is a “gaping hole” in the travel market, one which he says both Tinder and Airbnb are starting to move in on — illustrating the sizable opportunity — but which neither has owned yet, leaving room for a fleet of foot startup to elbow in. And that’s what Ventoura is hoping to do.
“Ventoura combines social discovery and sharing economy,” he tells TechCrunch. “We hit the market in the space between a Couchsurfer or Airbnb host that goes above and beyond the call of accommodation to share their city and their culture with guests, and a travel guide whose profession is to take travelers on tours. It’s still a substantial gap in the market.
“Ventoura Locals offer a less rigid experience than a sightseeing tour, and cover a wider range of activities. Students love the idea of earning extra income creating a tour around their degree/passion/hobbies. It’s like Couchsurfing or Airbnb, but travellers aren’t fumbling around in your kitchen at 5am the next morning.”
Siems says Ventoura has tweaked the social travel guide business model, learning from previous peer-peer guiding services that failed to go the distance. That’s why it has both traveler to traveler matching, to quickly grow traffic on its platform, plus local guiding to pull in revenue and offer something grounded with local flavor. It’s also taking a mobile first approach, with apps for iOS and Android, which he says makes it easier to take payments.
“Our functionality combination is powerful,” he says. “Most people don’t arrive in London and think ‘Hey I could meet someone and go on a coffee shop crawl’, but they will go there and think ‘I want to meet travelers’, and in Ventoura, they’ll see the coffee shop crawl and other travelers through the same screen.”
“Traveller-traveller gives the app volume an potential for rapid growth, most P2P guiding services can’t grow fast enough — and it makes the app a one stop social app for travelers,” he adds.
Ventoura was founded last May, and is based in Finland. The app was trialled in Helsinki with around 50 Local guides, prior to the public launch at the end of last week. The startup has closed a $250,000+ extended seed round from a private VC to get it this far.