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Personalized travel guide will be offered as part of online ticket purchase
In this segment, which takes place in Zaragoza, Spain, I caught up with San Francisco-based David Sifry, a five-time entrepreneur and founder of Technorati, a blog-search-engine-turned-advertising network. There's nothing like going halfway around the world to meet up with a fellow Bay Area entrepreneur.
But it seemed appropriate to do an interview, given that Sifry's latest startup - Offbeat Guides - creates personalized travel guides for 30,000 cities around the world, including Zaragoza, where both David and I were attending the Innovate!Europe conference. While I was carrying around different maps, guidebooks and a Spanish-language dictionary, Sifry's Zaragoza Zaggat-sized travel guide contained much of the information he needed, including weather information and events taking place the days he planned to be there. So I was pretty sold on the concept of a personalized guide.
Nonetheless, Offbeat Guides appears to be going great guns, having launched on Amazon's Kindle at the end of April. Now, Sifry tells me that Offbeat Guides just launched with Singapore Airlines, a likely first step toward more airline relationships.
Those who purchase tickets on the Singapore Airlines site will be asked whether they'd like a personalized guide for their trip. If a person says, "yes," their information - flight, hotel, location - will be incorporated into Offbeat Guides system. The service then provides a personalized guide with useful information such as, maps around the area, plays/performances showing during that time, helpful phrases of the local language, weather, etc. If you're traveling to multiple destinations, say five days in New York, and five days in Paris, Offbeat Guides won't put together a personalized guide for those destinations, though that will be coming, says Sifry.
For more about Offbeat Guides, watch my interview with Sifry, and read an edited version of our interview.
BF: I am here with David Sifry, five-time entrepreneur and founder of Offbeat Guides at the Innovate!Europe conference. It is lovely to have an interview here at the Roman Teatro since, even though we are both from San Francisco.
DS: It's funny that we live so close to each other in San Francisco but the only time we get to spend toghether is when we are halfway across the world.
BF: This is an Offbeat Guide to Zaragoza. Tell us a little but about your 18-month-old company.
DS: The company got started in December 2007. We just rolled out in November 2008. We rolled out in November of last year. What Offbeat Guides does is that we build personalized on-demand travel guides for over 30,000 destinations around the globe with all of the latest information. It pulls in all of the events, concerts, and even the farmers markets going on just during the dates of your trip. It pulls in all the context. So if you're American, we'll pull in currency exchange rates, electrical differences, time zone, etc. We pull in everything that you would need to know as a traveler from San Francisco but yet that would be very different for someone who is coming from Amsterdam or South Africa. And then we pull in the latest information about just your neighborhood and if you know where you're staying, we will pull in localized maps of the neighborhood you are staying in. We provide more content about the places nearer to you and less about places that are far away from you. And then we give it to you in any kind of format you wish for such as HTML or PDF. Or we create printed books out just for the dates that you are going to and only those places you will be going to. Even with things like the actual weather forecast for the dates you will be there.
BF: What's specific to you?
DS: So what we do is we will pull in not only custom information about actual place we're in, but we also have custom chapters and information about conferences as well. We work with World Economic Forum, which pulls in information about the conference agenda. It is a travel guide that is filled in with much more detailed information about just the place you're going to.
BF: What's nice is that if you're going to multiple places, you can carry one complete guide about those places.
DS: Actually, that we don't quite do just yet.
BF: It's a good idea though.
DS: It's actually the single most requested feature that people have been asking for. The really fun part is everything ranging from the weather forecast on the dates we are looking for to all of the events you will be at so you can plan all of the things you want to do while your'e actually there.
BF: If you like Starbucks, can you request to know where all of the Starbucks are located? I also like certain stores so can I get a list of the places where I like to shop?
DS: The idea is that you can pull in these customized information lists. When I travel for work, I want to know where exactly all of the free wifi places are located. But when I'm traveling with my kids, I want to know where all of the playgrounds are located.
BF: How much is this and what are the economics between you and your partners?
DS: It's different pricing. You can go to the Web site today and actually get a book like this printed up and delivered to you for only $24.95 which is about the same price as you would spend on a travel guide that's missing all of the personal information. You can also get just the PDF only version but if you get the printed version, the PDF comes with it. If you just want the PDF version, it's $9.95. We actually just launched a partnership with Amazon on the Kindle which is retail price of $7.99. We are constantly working on how we can provide more detailed information on these as well. For instance, if you're a vegetarian, this guide will pull in all the vegetarian restaurants of where you are staying. But we are trying to further customize it based on the kinds of things you like to do. So today you can actually go to the Website and fill in five really simple pieces of information such as your name, your destination, where you are traveling from, dates of your trip, and where you are staying.You can preview the entire guide online for free as well as add or delete sections so it becomes more personalized.
BF: How many of these guides have you sold?
DS: We started selling these about six months ago but we've been selling in the high thousands on a month to month basis.
BF: And you have another distribution partner with an airline?
DS: We just launched with Singapore Airlines so if you go and buy a ticket online from them, you can actually get a completed Offbeat guide already filled out.
BF: That's a great model. Congratulations with the Amazon and Singapore Airline partnerships.
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