Localie earns money with things like online tours whereby locals can walk through their city and tell stories or give tips about Amsterdam, Paris, or anywhere else via a live stream. Localie can also help if you want to study in a certain city or start a business somewhere else in the world. The corona crisis has put a stop to many of Localie’s activities. CEO Nick Nedelchuk explains how he is trying to revive the start-up in a “corona-resistant” way that was flourishing until recently.
What was the reason for the original idea, to let ‘friends’ who you know from Localie get acquainted with their surroundings by means of a tour?
“In general, I wanted to start something really new, from scratch. That was because I used to work for large, special companies like Ikea and Ford, companies that became huge because of their founders. That inspired me enormously. Then I thought: that’s what I want, too.”
“When I thought about different companies and ideas, I realized that especially my age group, millennials, are much more interested than before in the huge world out there, going abroad and traveling. We are willing to skimp on food and other necessities of life in order to enjoy international experiences. Then I got the idea that getting to know a foreign city, for example, is often done in a standard way. With guides who have a general target audience, which often doesn’t quite fit in with what the individual tourist wants. Then I thought: this could be done better. And that’s how my company started.”
Tell me a little more about Localie’s core business and how it was changed by COVID-19
“Initially, our membership was aimed at offering tours for members, as in locals. This was possible on the basis of reciprocity. If I show you around my town, you do the same for me in your town. Or just as a service for a fee of €89. In the latter case, we charge 29% operating costs as commission.
The nice thing is that you already know the person from the platform. You know about each other’s interests. We also screen people to determine whether the information they provide about themselves on Facebook, for example, is correct and whether they meet standard requirements such as being friendly and open. But we have had a lot of problems owing to the coronavirus. From coverage of 290 cities worldwide and with 2,300 tours which scored highly on the satisfaction scales, all activities dropped to zero in just a few weeks.”
How are you managing to keep going?
We’re able to keep on going thanks to some support. Also, we have cut costs significantly and can continue with Localie thanks to a contribution of €8,000 per month from investors. We want to be able to offer the same services once the restrictions are lifted, but are now also betting on online tours. Anywhere in the world, Localie guides can walk through their city to show and talk about it on a Livestream with tips, hidden sights off the beaten track, and explanations as to why their city is worth visiting for the following trip. Locals can also help you set up a business abroad if you want to study or find work in their city. It’s now possible to approach a local who can give you language lessons.
We currently have four registration models, from free to up to €199 per month, whereby you can access more and more services.”
Nick Nedelchuk ©Localie
What distinguishes Localie from other companies?
“The difference is really the personal touch. With Localie, we provide a service that is as customer-focused as possible. It is not just another impersonal company selling a product. So, if you don’t know your way around Istanbul and want to be picked up from the airport, this is for you. Localie guides are often compatriots, by the way, so a Russian who lives in the Netherlands would accompany someone from Moscow, for example. But it’s not always possible to match someone of the same nationality as someone who is visiting another country.”
What has been the greatest success so far?
“For us, it is the high scores that we get from customers. Up until the outbreak of corona, these averaged 4.9 on a scale of 5. This means that our idea is catching on. Also, growth was rapid, up to $31,000 a month in sales. We had to put in a lot of overtime to get our work done.”
What’s your biggest challenge?
“The corona crisis, of course. We considered quitting, but partly with financial help, activities are continuing in a scaled-down form with fewer employees for the time being. We have to be creative in the new normal and are trying to keep the company afloat by offering new opportunities.”
What has the reaction been?
“The positive feedback keeps us going, not just based on the scores about experiences with our company, but also from live online contact. A tour can be completely tailor-made: where and whenever the customer wants it.”
Where will Localie be in a year’s time?
“In the very short term, the goal is to get sales back on track. We are doing this by updating with new services aimed at bridging these difficult times.”
What is your long-term vision?
“We want to become one of the most important apps for travel. Especially by encouraging others to travel, but also by encouraging ourselves to do that too.”
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