Back in December, Spanish startup GuruWalk announced obtaining €1 million in seed funding from SeedRocket and other investors. The startup’s innovative “pay-what-you-please” (or free walking tours) may revolutionize guided tours the way Airbnb rebooted travel accommodations. The startup has a superpotential, but a long way to go. Here’s the scoop.
Founded back in 2017 by Juan Castillo, GuruWalk is an international community that offers unique value proposition for travelers and local people as well. The startup has created a platform for travellers from all over the world to have the chance to contact local guides for free. In addition, locals with a passion for their cities and towns can share their favorite attractions and spots without having to be part of a professional association.
So far, the GuruWalk tours consist of guided visits of the most emblematic sites of a city, but there are also ‘alternative’ tours travelers can choose from. Tourists only pay a tip to the guide at the end of the tour, which is solely based on their satisfaction with the overall experience. GuruWalk now has connections in about 100 countries, but the funding round will surely help the founders expand on this.
GuruWalk aims to put the new funding toward expanding on the pay-what-you-please walking tour niche. To catch a glimpse of what the startup has going on, I visited their website and the Athens tours section just to get a feel. First and foremost on GuruWalk’s agenda should proper language localization, since the English site has many grammar and context errors. The calendar for search is still in Spanish, no matter what, for instance. My random selection of the first walking tour listed revealed this text introducing travelers to Aft-team (Athens Free Tours).
“We are proud and passionate pioneer’s of the free tour movement in Greece. We are one of the most recognized premium tour operators in our city, trusted by visitors over many years hence, our sheer numbers of fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor…”
The 3-hour tour starting at Hadrian’s Arc and ending in Plaka seems complete, but the user interface on GuruWalk could use some work. The site uses a rudimentary booking engine, but to be honest not much more is needed other than some previews of attractions and a killer app.
Three years ago The Next Web (TNW) reported was targeting people in developing countries where residents cannot afford the luxury of launching their own websites etc. The story back then focused on GuruWalk’s potential to help travelers in search of unique experiences, which is what the startup is best suited for. The recent buzz on the startup is a narrative about how GuruWalk leverages a combination of advances in technology and an ever more closely connected world to provide value. While this is the potential, I just don’t see the technology or the broad-reaching interconnectedness yet.
I’m also a bit skeptical when I see too many stellar reviews of a platform over a short timeframe. This is particularly worrisome when half the 5-star reviews they are only clicks with no comments. But, maybe I am being overly skeptical. GuruWalk won runner-up at the GuruWalk was named the Battleground runner-up in the Phocuswright Europe 2019 People’s Choice Award category, so there has to be more to the startup than I am seeing. My old friend Kevin May (with CEO Juan Castillo in the video above) would not even be talking to a startup CEO unless there were a stupendous potential there.
That’s the “bad news” on this interesting startup. The “good news” for me is the honesty and transparency of some of the guides at GuruWalk. Take this student in Milan who wants to be a tour guide. Elmira just comes out and tells potential tour bookers who she is and what to expect. I like this. I would book this tour simply because the girl seems so sincere. This is where GuruWalk can really shine. People want genuine experiences and total transparency.
So, GuruWalk is an up-and-comer in my book. But the developers have a long way to go. My suggestion to them is to spend some of this cool million on refining what they already have, earmarking a smaller portion for adding people and expanding. Also, create that killer app, boost your Facebook presence, show your @guruwalk Twitter on the website, and make sure your Instagram is shown too, and that it shows off your free guides’ amazing tours!