Maybe you’ve got a burning desire to hike out to a glacier. Perhaps you’ve got an appetite for learning how to forage for wild culinary delicacies in the hinterland of BC’s Lower Mainland, or want to midline your way high above the treetops. A new Vancouver-based startup, Guiides.com, helps adventurers find truly unique experiences that are a bit more intense than your usual tourist fare. Backed with $1 million in early funding, the support of Canadian outfitter Mountain Equipment Co-op, and some adrenaline-fueled enthusiasm, they aim to make their platform a gateway to incredible experiences across the globe. It’s the latest outdoor-themed startup from Shareshed founder Daniel Dubois.
The platform is about making it easy to book real adventures with experienced adventure guides, Dubois says. “From the point of view of someone searching for these kinds of experiences online, it can be really hard to find these kinds of guides, since they can just get lost in Google search,” he says.
“It’s always a challenge to consolidate an archaic industry. It’s highly fragmented. The challenge is connecting with all of these companies and providing value to them.” – Daniel Dubois
Many experienced guides, even ones that have been around for some time, may just want to focus on delivering the adventures, but not have the inclination or ability to promote themselves effectively in a saturated digital marketplace (“It’s not uncommon for them to still be running old HTML websites,” he notes). From the service provider side, the benefit is getting on a curated platform where they don’t really have to handle online business development; adventurous folks can just book particular adventure promotions and Guiides.com takes a straight 15 percent cut off the top, including credit card payment fees).
The startup seems a perfect fit for a tech hub ensconced in “Super, Natural British Columbia” but the youthful Dubois has big plans, inspired by trips abroad where he got to explore the great outdoors. “A friend encouraged me to take a year off and go traveling, and we ended up in Australia. I moved into a garage, went surfing, and just enjoyed hanging out with neighbours and his family. It was truly a local experience where I could feel a sense of belonging.” Later, while researching the sharing economy, he realized there was an opportunity to give more people access to these kinds of experiences with a platform that takes away the friction of getting outside, “where you don’t need to worry about gear or transportation and can just get to live like a local.” That means going beyond usual tourist fare like bus tours and package trips that cater to the vast majority of tourists. “Since we’re launching in Vancouver, that means looking beyond a trip to Capilano Suspension Bridge and getting a bit more creative, with ideas like sunrise yoga or sunset paddle boarding.
Scaling up the business to a global audience after the test case on the west coast will be the real challenge, Dubois notes. “It’s a two-sided marketplace. We need to build supply and demand together. Each area we operate in is a silo in itself. There’s no point in having a ton of demand if our only place we’re serving is Vancouver. We want low customer acquisition cost but high customer value,” he said. “It’s always a challenge to consolidate an archaic industry. It’s highly fragmented. The challenge is connecting with all of these companies and providing value to them.”