LocalMind purchase next step on Airbnb’s path to local domination
Montreal-based Localmind has announced that it was acquired by Airbnb last week. This is the second acquisition by Airbnb in 4 months, demonstrating the company’s continued pursuit of dominance in the local travel space.
Localmind is a service that helps people find out about physical places in real time – how long the wait is at a restaurant or how busy the bar is. Users ask a question tied to an actual place, and then Localmind pings someone who uses the service and has checked in via Foursquare, Gowalla or another location-specific check-in. That person can then provide real-time feedback on place.
Localmind’s blog post announcing the purchase highlighted the team’s excitement:
Authentic, local knowledge is what our members want the most, and Localmind connects you to it anywhere, in real-time. We are exhilarated to join Airbnb, because they create authentic, local experiences better then anyone else in the world.
This paragraph is revealing: the Localmind team is speaking about Airbnb not in terms of being the “worldwide accomodations leader,” which is what the company bills itself across paid search advertising.
Rather, the team defines Airbnb as a worldwide “authenitc, local experiences” provider. There’s no mention of accommodations – it sounds more like Airbnb is a tours and activities company making an acquisition of another company that emphasizes a focus on real local experiences.
Airbnb might well be looking to expand into the tours and activities sector, given that they already have a sizable customer base in various locations around the globe. These customers already trust Airbnb’s verified community, believe in the “connect with a local” model, and, most importantly, have already placed their credit card on file with the company. Being able to offer activities via the smartphone app would expand Airbnb’s footprint dramatically.
But why Localmind? If Airbnb was going for T&A, why wouldn’t they purchase one of the many local-led tour websites out there? First the company has to tie up a few dangling strings to make that longer-term revenue strategy feasible.
Airbnb started with Local Lists, encouraging hosts to write tips for their guests, and acquiring Fondu to perhaps aggregate these tips into printed mini-guidebooks for guests. Next up was Neighborhoods, where these Local Lists were brought together into specific pages for neighborhoods across the world.
By creating a centralized resource for travelers to a particular neighborhood, Airbnb could not only be prepared to print physical guidebooks, but also highlight the local insider knowledge that is one of the biggest appeals for travelers booking accommodation through Airbnb.
This insider knowledge is the key, the fulcrum of Airbnb’s growth. Why stay in a boring cookie cutter hotel when you can have access to a local’s knowledge and get a full immersion experience as you also stay in a local’s home?
In a comment to Tnooz, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky highlights the importance of the company’s brand of “social travel:”
“The role of social in travel is more important than ever. We’ve seen connections shape the experience for our community, so we’re excited to have the Localmind team join us and lead this next wave of social products.”
Localmind’s service can bring much of this real-time local knowledge to the forefront.
Imagine: Localmind is integrated into the Airbnb smartphone app. Hosts are encouraged/incentivized to turn on Localmind. Guests can then send a message out to all Airbnb hosts in a particular place for information. The host can be more useful and the guest gets real-time local information instantly. Everyone has a better experience, and Airbnb gets the halo effect – and reaps the profits.
By seeing itself as a company that provides the best local experiences, Airbnb becomes a mission-driven company. It can continue to innovate, bolster its competitive advantage and become more than just a room rental service. Altogether, the company wins by delivering a clear vision and user experience that makes loyal customers out of both travelers and hosts. It’s risky, it’s smart, and it’s already working.
The Localmind video explains a bit more how the service works, and suggests how it might be integrated easily into the Airbnb mobile experience:
Nick Vivion was a reporter (and later also global events lead) for Tnooz between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and now is AVP Operations, North America at Zomato.