LocalSort, an Umbono-funded company, wanted to change the informal way in which hotels and guesthouses recommend services to their guests.
As a result, the company offers a marketplace where service providers like shuttle and tour operators, restaurants and tourist attractions can bid on how much commission they are willing to pay for exposure and new business. The hotels and guesthouses can then use the interface to recommend these services to their guests. Non-accommodation providers can therefore add their businesses to LocalSort so hotels and guesthouses can refer guests to their service. LocalSort keeps a percentage of the commission as a fee for making the connection. With LocalSort, accommodation providers can easily print maps, directions and even email guests with a things-to-do checklist before their arrival.
LocalSort was founded by Marcel van de Ghinste, Jonathan Womersley, Justin Womersley and David McLennan, all four of whom were involved in a previous venture that is still in operation called TravelGround, founded in 2009. It was through the building of TravelGround, that the team saw a further opportunity in the online tourism industry. “When we started TravelGround none of us had any experience in the tourism industry. In some ways our ignorance was a blessing. It turned out to be much harder than we thought, but in the end we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved,” says Marcel van de Ghinste.
Although the LocalSort team didn’t “have a burning desire to take on funding” the possibility of being accepted into the Google Umbono accelerator fund was such a great opportunity that they decided to go for it anyway. According to Marcel, the greatest benefit of being a part of the Umbono project is the access to networks that it provides.
As part of the Umbono fund, LocalSort received $25, 000 for the first three months to setup and begin operating their venture. Now, as they come close the end of those three months, if the investors are happy and they’ve hit their target, their stay will be extended by another three months and they’ll receive a further $25,000.
One of LocalSort’s goals is to have the beta version of their software up and running. Currently service providers are bidding on how much commission they’ll offer per referral, but the company is going to focus on bringing in hotels in the next few weeks.
The initial target is the Cape Town market, but after that they plan to roll out the service to the rest of the country and to international markets as well. “One of the reasons we got into this programme is the potential for this to get really big. We’re trying to work out how to scale something that doesn’t look that scalable from the outside,” says Marcel.
Watch the LocalSort introduction video below:
Source: Silicon Cape