Startup pitch: Kamino brings hikes and urban walks to smartphones
An emerging travel startup called Kamino is opening up a refreshing take on the activity front: a crowdsourced travel app that brings the best walking tours to smartphones on the go.
The self-funded team of three, co-founders Louis P. Huynh and Roger Obando alongside engineer Jordan Snyder, are seeking to hoof up a quite specific value proposition that differentiates from just any tour and activity app. This travel app is focused exclusively on getting out on foot to explore the world around.
Users create their favorite tours and share them on the app with anyone else who’d like to enjoy a specific tour. The company targets not only travelers, but also locals looking to see their home in a new light, and thus the tours range from food tours to “undiscovered gems” style walking itineraries.
The Vine and Tnooz Q&A follow.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
Kamino was established by an eclectic group of travel enthusiasts with an unyielding passion for exploring and discovering cites. We are founded on the simple idea that the best way to experience a city is on foot whether that be a different neighbourhood in your home town or another city you happen to be visiting.
We believe some of our best days have been spent walking, checking out what really made a neighbourhood special and unique. We hope to give everyone the opportunity to explore and have their best day with our mobile app.
With Kamino, users can visit our website and use our iOS app to share their favourite places in their own city, explore somewhere new, or try out another Kamino user’s best day.
What is your estimation of market size?
Kamino has two paths to revenue each with distinct markets:
- Partnership with travel organizations and travel service providers focuses on digital advertising spend. According to eMarketer, the US Travel Industry Digital Advertising spend in 2013 was projected to be $3.8 billion and expected to grow 8.5% in 2014 to $4.06 billion.
- Travel booking services offered via Kamino encompassing digital travel sales. According to eMarketer US digital travel sales—which include leisure and unmanaged business travel purchased online and via mobile devices was estimated to reach $136.4 billion in 2013, an 8% increase from 2012. In 2014, US digital travel sales is expected to climb to $145.2 billion.
Please describe your competition.
Currently, consumers have quite a few choices when it comes to trip planning resources. Other companies that take a mobile itinerary based or mapping approach to exploration and travel include Mosey, Stray Boots and Vadovia.
What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
We are focused on pursing two revenue strategies:
- Kamino intends to partner with Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Destination Marketing Organizations, boutique hotels, and other travel entities to provide digital experiential content designed to get visitors walking and exploring cities on foot while driving brand engagement. We also have white label capabilities should those companies or organizations wish to engage customers/visitors under their own branded mobile app powered by Kamino.
- Kamino also plans on offering users travel booking services that allow users to choose hotels that are located near urban hikes they are interested in. This allows them to walk out of their hotel and enjoy an urban hike created by a local expert or travel blogger. Our GPS map and user generated recommendations ensure that they never get lost and never miss out.
What problem does the business solve?
Kamino offers its users unique local experiences that don’t necessarily show up in any guide book or standard travel website.
Our users, who are comprised of locals, travel bloggers and experts, share the places and things that make their neighbourhood special all within walking distance. The stops on their urban hike may include some places that you’ve been to or would expect to like, but it also opens the door to trying something new and having your best day yet.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The team behind Kamino are first and foremost travel enthusiasts. The realization that our best experiences were found while exploring cities on foot informed our design and forced us to examine what features provide users with enough information to have a great time without getting in the way of the experience.
Since our initial release in the iTunes Store six months ago, we’ve focused on examining how our users are actually utilizing our mobile app (and website) by requesting their input on features and what would enhance or detract from their experience. All the aforementioned data will inform our development roadmap and grow our product to meet the needs of our users.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Kamino is focused on human curation and experience. To that end we built a platform designed to allow people to share their favorite day in a neighbourhood they know well – the kind of places they would take their friends or family if they were visiting. Additionally, our emphasis on walkable experiences encourages users to immerse themselves in the local environment and creates opportunities to have those unexpected experiences that become stories you tell your friends and family.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
We have been successful in acquiring users via social media advertising. The specific demographic targeting has allowed us to connect with the users who have been looking for something like Kamino.
Additionally, we’ve participated in events like the 2014 Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco. We were humbled and honoured to receive a Best of Show Award at the event from Macworld’s Editors.
Finally, we’ve begun outreach to convention and tourism bureaus, chambers of commerce, and business improvement districts in the hopes of creating local content that encourages people to visit and spend some time walking around.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
The travel sector will always be hypercompetitive. There are a lot of talented people and companies working to improve the way people travel and vacation. Our segment in particular, which operates at the intersection of travel, mobile and social products, is quickly becoming a crowded space.
In order for us to succeed, we need to remain true to our mission: sharing amazing walkable experiences that can last an hour or a day, but reflect the person who created it, and the place that they love. In the coming years, we hope to have content in over 500 cities around the world, each one offering a unique perspective on what makes that city or neighbourhood one of a kind.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
We feel like there is a tremendous focus on certainty and single spot travel i.e. driving to a specific place because of high reviews.
Indeed, there are many excellent resources like Yelp or TripAdvisor designed to do just that. However, we believe that that focus on certainty and safety minimizes the chance for unexpected discovery and serendipity, the moments in the places that surprise and change you.
Additionally, walking a city is the most personal way to experience a city because it frees you to look around and take in the sounds, smells, and culture that you can’t replicate anywhere else. We want to give users the tools to experience a city on that level and create opportunities for unanticipated delight.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?
There are several companies that we look up to:
- AirBnB is a great startup that is focused on user experience, hospitality and connecting people. These are all notions that we want Kamino to embody as well.
- TripAdvisor has built an inclusive community of contributors that are open about sharing and interested in making sure that other people have a great time on their trips.
- TripCase is a great mobile app for managing trip information that is intuitive and just plain works. Our goal for Kamino to make it intuitive, elegant and robust so that our users can focus on having a great walking experience.
NB: Hiker image courtesy Shutterstock.
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.