I'll be honest. When I moved to Berlin in September 2011, I had no idea that there was such a dynamic startup scene there. Of course, the celebrated creativity of the city was one of the main motivations to establish a Hejorama outpost there, but I didn't think I would actually meet so many people working on fascinating things. For instance Edial Dekker who co-founded Gidsy, an amazing project we'd love to see launched in Paris.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Atlas Sound
At one of those events I had the chance to meet Edial Dekker, founder and CEO of Gidsy, a platform to book and organize activities. Often dubbed the "Airbnb of activities" by uncreative tech journalists, I'd simply say that Gidsy is the perfect tool to find cool things to do when you travel somewhere or want to do rediscover your own city. And while I was a bit disappointed at launch - I had great expectations due to the great concept and gorgeous design - by the quality of the activities, go have a look now and you’ll see that they only needed a little time to get exciting things going on in all the cities they’ve launched so far. Rome wasn't built in a day...
So far the company launched by the Dekker brothers, Edial and Floris, is available for activities in London, NYC, LA, SF, Berlin, and of course in their hometown Amsterdam. All those cities have fantastic recurring events ranging from secret city tours to DYI workshop to food crawls and nightlife adventures. But for us, there's one problem. Where is Paris?
We’ll be the first to say that our hometown is getting more and more sleepy every year. As long as we’re in town we’ll fight against the lack of creativity and keep organizing original events (remember the world trip parties, the photo exhibitions, the outdoor cinema...). But we’ll need more to get Gidsy to come to the city of lights, so let's do this together! We know there are a lot of creative people in town who struggle to organize things, and we believe that Gidsy would be a great tool to have. If you have ideas for interesting tours, pub crawls, food classes and other activities, get in touch with us. We can help you organize them and maybe give it a test run before the launch in Paris.
And if you need more reasons to be convinced that Gidsy is awesome, read this interview of Edial, who was nice enough to take some time to answer our questions. Discover his first travel adventures in his parents' van, the story behind Gidsy's creation, and tips for all of you who would like to create the perfect activity.
1. How did you become a traveler? What do you get from it?
Together with my brother and co-founder Floris, we used to travel a lot with our parents. Even when we were really young. My parents had an old van and travelled around a lot. For example, when I was just 5 years old, we even went on a massive road trip in Turkey for 4 months.
When I was still in high school, I earned some money working as a cook in a restaurant. After saving up that money, Floris and me bought an old camper van. Last year, the van broke down, but we have been to Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, France, Poland, Austria, Morocco and many other places with it.
2. What is your favourite memory of travel that you usually keep to yourself?
On a very hot day in India, we ended up in a well hidden whiskey bar. After ordering whiskey (without water) we got really strange faces and we became the centre of attention. Only after tasting the first sip, we realized why everyone was drinking it with water. The whiskey tasted more like gasoline than whiskey, haha.
3. What is your best asset when you travel?
A paper notebook is a classic. It works without batteries and it does not weigh much. I try to travel as light as possible and with as little as possessions as possible. Not having to care about your stuff when traveling frees you a lot.
4. Any cultural practices you’ve learned in travel you use in your own life?
A lot. For example, one of the things is that as you are a traveler, you realize how important it is to be hospitable. So I try to be as hospitable as possible. I think traveling in general makes you a better person. Being open to new perspectives is the only thing that drives us forward. And traveling is probably the best way to learn new perspectives on many things. “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect”, the writer Paul Theroux said. I think that holds some kind of truth.
5. Where would you dream to give a TED talk? On which subject?
That would be great yes. Not having a topic in mind now, proves the point that I do not think I’m ready for a TED talk yet (haha). I'm proud on what I've done in the last years, and I am excited there’s so much more to learn.
6. How did you come up with the concept of Gidsy?
Before moving to Berlin, I was a cook in a restaurant. About one and a half year ago, I thought it'd be great to find local food that you can cook with it without having to go to the farmers market. So together with Floris, I went out to Gruenewald and went searching for mushrooms. We found many, but had no idea which ones were edible and would fit our mushroom risotto.
We had very little luck with browsing on the internet to identify the mushrooms we found. So we decided to look for someone who could take us mushroom picking. That also proved to be very difficult. We could not find anyone who could take us mushroom picking in the weekends, spoke English and does these kind of things on a regular base.
That was one problem, and the other problem was that it's extremely difficult to find something exciting to do. Even when you live in a city, it's tough to find new things. And when you are travelling it's even a lot harder. We thought about how great it would be if there was a more personal, authentic, alternative to the Lonely Planet and other guides.
That sparked the idea of Gidsy, where anyone in the world can explore, book and offer things to do.
7. How do you think its going to impact the way people travel?
Like all other industries, travel is also very rapidly moving online. At the moment, you can pretty easily book flights online. Hotels are a little trickier, but still okay. But when you want to book something to do, it's a horrible experience. We want to change that.
Like many other people, we believe in a more interesting world without big anonymous travel agencies, boring tourist busses and mass tourism. We're aiming to answer one question that you can ask anywhere in the world: what is there to do around me?
8. What is the strangest tour/event that you found on the site?
We have some very unique activities on Gidsy. For example, a shaman walk through the forest in San Francisco, a photo tour of courtyards in Berlin and a ‘Figure running’ workshop in Amsterdam. It’s awesome to see how different cities have different activities. The range of activities per city, kind of look like a blueprint of the city itself and its people sometimes...!
9. What differentiates Gidsy from the "Activities" section of Couchsurfing.org?
Activities are a lot more than making it easy for people to post activities. One of the things we've learnt, is how 'social' an activity is. People that book the same activities share similar interests and many exciting things happen. Also after the activity. It's very different from booking a hotel or accommodation for example. There's something happening before, during and after the activity.
We take out all the hassle of having to deal with cancellations, customer support, online money transactions, reviews, receipts and a lot of other things so that the organizer can focus on what he/she does best: offer exciting activities.
Another thing that's important on Gidsy, is the minimum price of 5 Dollars for activities. This creates a responsibility on both ends. To the booker, of showing up, and to the person who's organizing to host a great activity. We want people to be able to live off Gidsy. That's our dream.
We've learnt a lot since we launched in November. One of the things that we're working on, is making Gidsy a lot more social than it is now. We don't want to become just an activity marketplace. We want to create a community of people offering and booking amazing things to do.
10. What makes a great activity for Gidsy?
Probably any activity that's organized for a group under 50 people, has a price, and has a starting/end time & place. Whether it's a cooking class, a knitting workshop, a walking tour or a robotics workshop, does not really matter. There’s a huge range of things to do on Gidsy. We have a retired police officer organizing walking tours around the Red Light District in Amsterdam, we have a pilot in Berlin that takes you for a 60 minute flight above Berlin, and someone in London shows you how to cook sustainable with squids...
11. What is your next travel destination? Next city opening on Gidsy?
My next travel destination is Amsterdam, because of the Next Web Conference that is happening next week...! Together with Boris from The Next Web, we’ll be cooking the speakers dinner together!
Bonus: Did Ashton Kutcher use any of the activities hosted on Gidsy?
Thanks to Edial and his parents for the childhood travel photos, they are awesome!