- Founders: Benjamin Pirson
- Founded in: 2020
- Employees: 5
- Money raised: -
- Ultimate goal: To continue to develop the start-up in Flanders
Hiking is fun. But especially if you’re hiking with kids, it’s even more fun when you try to track something down. Especially if you manage to find a piece of treasure as well. The Belgian start-up Totemus has developed a very handy app for that. For this instalment of start-up of the day, Innovation Origins spoke with Benjamin Pirson, founder of Totemus.
What is Totemus?
“Totemus is a mobile app that helps users discover the heritage of our Belgian regions through a network of treasure hunts. It’s a mix of treasure hunting and geocaching. The app is now available in four languages.”
Some games are played along the way. How does that work in practice?
“The routes are not known beforehand. You have to solve riddles to get from one tourist spot to another and eventually to the place where treasure is hidden. These are so-called Toteez – the virtual currency of the app. You can exchange Toteez for vouchers that are valid at tourist attractions that are partnered up with Totemus. By combining different treasure hunts, visitors are able to earn theme-based badges (agriculture, street art, castles, etc.) to earn more Toteez. Totemus transforms areas into fun playgrounds that are accessible to all, and boost the local tourism ecosystem.”
How did you come up with the treasure hunts?
“The treasure hunts were devised in cooperation with people from the tourism and education sectors. They offer an innovative digital way to promote Belgium’s rich cultural heritage. Anyone can use the app and explore a particular area or region in a fun way. For the sectors themselves, this is an opportunity to digitalize their range of offerings, without having to invest in the costly development of a fully-fledged app.”
“The treasure hunts were devised in cooperation with people from the tourism and education sectors. Tourism agencies and schools only need to propose a treasure hunt route. The Totemus team provides its expertise when it comes to setting out a route that involves adventure, fun and learning. Between scouting out the locations and finally testing the route, it just takes four weeks to design a new treasure hunt and make it available to the entire Totemus community.”
The app has gained popularity thanks to the whole corona crisis. How did that happen?
“Totemus was initially a sideline project. We worked on it in our spare time, in addition to our company where we develop websites. The corona crisis forced many people to change the way they spent their leisure time. That’s how, quite unexpectedly, the app became popular with the general public. This led me to set up a new start-up that is 100 percent dedicated to the development of Totemus. Now we are working full time on this project which combines innovation and sustainable tourism. It’s a challenge that we take on every day, with the support of Start it @KBC, the largest start-up accelerator in the country.”
Do you also have plans for Flanders?
“Since its launch in July 2020, 2 years ago, already more than 100 treasure hunts are available on the app, which has been accessed by more than 235,000 visitors. Bolstered by this success and in order to meet the growing demand of users, we want to grow just as strongly in Flanders. We hope to be able to offer about 50 treasure hunts in the region by the end of 2023.”
Totemus, which has been operating for two years in the five provinces of Wallonia and in Brussels, is crossing the language border to offer digital treasure hunts in the Flemish part of Belgium. To do this, the app has set up shop in Wezembeek-Oppem in Flemish Brabant. The initiative for this first try-out in the north of the country came from 6th grade students at the French-speaking local school La Fermette, who came up with a walking route aimed at discovering the cultural wealth of the town. Certain areas are transforming into a fun playground this way”