A startup is leveraging local residents’ knowledge to create custom travel plans that take tourists off the beaten trail in more than 45 markets across the globe.
Start Garden, the $15-million seed fund in Grand Rapids, said this month that it will make an initial $5,000 investment in the online platform Localfu.
Localfu allows travelers to explore a new city or plan a trip with the advice of a local resident and $5 travel plans.
Designed to simplify travelling while experiencing a new city to the fullest, the sharing-economy service allows users to pick a Localfu expert with similar interests, describe the help they need and receive feedback within 20 minutes. The hometown expert is then compensated for providing information to the traveler.
Roger D. Graham III, co-founder and chief executive officer of Localfu, said as a responsive web platform, the service is accessible through mobile devices and is meant to make travelling easy for people.
“Theoretically, the idea is you can call a friend in any area, and it is as easy as texting a friend,” Graham said. “Our target market is 25 to 39-year-olds who are already using sharing-economy services — people who are already used to that style of experience.”
Currently, Localfu has residential experts in more than 45 locations throughout the U.S. and international cities: Dublin, London, Vancouver, British Columbia, Madrid, Barcelona, Spain, Los Angeles, Boulder, Colo., Miami, Paris, Honolulu, Boston, New York, Seattle and more.
The idea for a travel-planning service to create a custom local experience for users developed from Graham’s personal experience visiting different places with co-founder Ted Brooks.
After travelling to about 30 different states and six countries, the two co-founders felt they had a better experience when they had received advice on places to visit or see from friends rather than relying on travel books or online resources.
“We have always loved traveling and going to new places,” Graham said. “Whenever we would go to new places, the big thing we would look for is a friend in the area, somebody we could text for suggestions on what to hit up. Whenever we went somewhere we didn’t have a friend, we would have to figure it out ourselves. We felt every time we went to a place we didn’t know, we didn’t have a friend in, it ended up being a worse trip.”
Several potential avenues for advertising may include T-shirts for those acting as Localfu experts and hosting events.
“We don’t need to spend any more on development," Graham said. “We were really excited. We have kind of been struggling to find a budget to actually start spending some money on advertising and marketing. Ultimately, we want to have a budget there to drive more traction.”
Localfu is required to return to a monthly Start Garden Update Night event after a couple of months to present on its progress to be considered for further funding.