Two start-ups pitching for stardom

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The hunt for the travel start-up or innovator of the year is on. Sally White takes at look two businesses that are in the running for this year’s top title in Europe

Travel maybe a simple concept, the task of getting from A to B, yet it sparks the most ingenious of approaches among entrepreneurially minded folk. Two of the entrants for this year’s EyeforTravel Start-Up and Innovation Awards are cases in point. Both enterprising and yet extremely different!

For the disparate team who devised What3words, the challenge could not have seemed more basic. It was born out of frustration and despair at getting a band’s act together - identifying A and B to enable travel in the first place. That was the task that UK-based former music band manager Chris Sheldrick and linguist and quiz freak Jack Waley-Cohen set themselves three years ago. They pulled in the help of mathematician Mohan Ganesalingam.

They went right back to the beginning. The GPSs available were deemed too technical and complicated for the likes of the band and the drivers delivering its kit and sets. Anyway, these are not always accurate. Many places don’t have individual postcodes. The best way, it seemed to the team, was to devise their own location reference system.

Applying their combined genius they have come up with a new way of looking at the world - they divided the whole planet into a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares and assigned each a unique three-word address (hence the name). It means that everyone, everywhere now has the simplest of addresses.

As delighted Mirror journalists on a rekey found out, a patch of shrub in the Serengeti is designated ‘magistrates.tortilla.whereby’ while your back garden may well be something like ‘dog.chair.whistle’.

So, incidentally, What3words has come up with the perfect solution to off-road travel and locating destinations of the most obscure places. The UN estimates that four billion people lack a reliable way to address their homes. This means that they are denied access to basic social and civic services, as the What3words website points out. They struggle to open bank accounts, register a birth or access electricity or water supplies. Without the ability to communicate where they live, these people become invisible to the state.

...the geospatial industry is worth up to $150bn annually 

Commercially, the geospatial industry is worth up to $150bn annually. Precise and consistent location referencing would not only improve global addressing, it could also connect you to untapped customer bases and new industry sectors,” it adds, on its website. What3words is now being used in getting on for 200 countries.

For ‘industry’ read logistic companies, location scouts, events, post, aid and, of course, travel, to name just a few.

“The service can be used via the free mobile app or online map. It can also be built into any other app, platform or website, with just a few lines of code,” they explain. “Basically, it is an ecosystem of apps, site and API available via a software licence for the system, is in multiple languages, works offline and has built in error detection.” The app uses an algorithm to assign words to the 57-trillion squares, while making sure not to use words that can cause confusion, or offence.

Partners are piling in, especially in travel. For example, Pearlshare, for one, which helps find holiday local gems, and adventure travel firm The Wayward Post for another. What3word’s success has so far drawn $13.5 million of backing.

Day tripping local style   

Much further down the travel pipeline, Tomas Turek and Marketa Blahova also wanted to smooth travellers’ paths. Yet to them the opportunity was in making travel in their part of the world, Eastern Europe, more comfortable, indeed luxurious!

They created for their company Daytrip - a platform for travelling with local guides. It allows independent travellers to get the most out of their vacation by connecting them to local guides, who drive them from one city to another with their own cars. En route there are the opportunities to explore local sights and culture, taste local cuisine, and so on.

This is not the first start-up for Turek. A computer enthusiast with a degree in environmental management, he founded and grew Czech-based holiday transport company CK Shuttle. Then he decided there was scope in the market for a more tailored and luxury product with Daytrip.

Marketa Blahova, meanwhile, describes herself as “a social media guru and ever-dreaming traveller”. After three years of shaping online campaigns for corporate clients, she quit the job with a major agency to co-found Daytrip.

“ …hotel-to-hotel · English-speaking drivers · sightseeing along the way...” is the slug line of their site, which also carries a vast list of the routes they cover.

The service gives travellers the chance to see otherwise unreachable countryside sights, meet real locals and get to know local history, culture and current affairs first-hand. And travellers can specify whether the trip or the time is the priority. It aims to provide all the flexibility of independent planning, while keeping an eye on the budget. 

With your own expert and knowledgeable driver and total control of your itinerary and time, here is the chance to feel what it is like to be rich!

So the heat is on. Our next profile will feature entrants Transfer Travel, a platform for selling travel tickets and Stay Planner, a digital concierge and mobile self-service system. 

Do you have great, innovative start-up idea? The deadline for entering this year’s awards, to be judged at the European Summit (May 3-4), is April 20. Don’t delay! 

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