Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Gidsy's MarketPlace for Experiences Could Change Things

With dozens of new websites coming every day, to impress me you either have to do something very original or do something very well. A startup called Gidsy has managed to do both.

Described as a "marketplace for experiences", Gidsy brings together people who are looking for interesting new experiences and people who have an activity to share with other people. You can, for example, book a place in a stop-motion animation workshop, a graffiti tour of the city, a bar crawl or even a trip in a Paternoster elevator -- the kind with no doors that never stop. Initially it is limited to Berlin and New York, but other cities will be added in future. With just two cities there is already enough content to show effectively how the idea works.

Gidsy is interesting for people who are looking for something new to try but it is equally interesting for people who have something to sell. When you are in Berlin you can probably find plenty of activities through the usual channels, but how could you arrange a snooker workshop with the Austrian champion of the game? Gidsy lets you do this and it takes the risks out of doing it. People who book an activity pay Gidsy who then pass on the payment -- less a 10% fee -- only after the activity has taken place, so that if there are any problems they can freeze the payment. If someone books then cancels at the last minute the host still gets paid -- 50% a week before before and 100% two days before.

The social element of Gidsy comes in two ways. First of all you meet the host and the other people who have signed up for the same activity, so you have at least one thing in common. You can also invite your friends to join you on an activity so you can share the fun. Today Gidsy connects to Facebook so you can share your activities and see which activities your friends have chosen. According to the description on the website other networks will be connected later.

Just the idea alone is interesting, but what impressed me more, though, is the excellence of the execution. Gidsy.com is a textbook example of simple, elegant and uncluttered design. It is also robustly functional and works so well I have not seen a single error message or "try again later" yet.

What makes Gidsy likely to succeed is the perfect storm of this impressive user experience combined with strong market factors. People would certainly like to try new things if the risk element is taken away and everyone from climbers to violinists would be happy to make some extra money and have fun at the same time.  I can only see two downside risks for the company. The first is that others will simply copy the idea - though this is made much harder by the great execution.  The other is that, like for eBay and Craigslist, policing the activities will be a key activity for the company, both to keep illegal or otherwise unwanted activities off the site and dealing with the PR fallout from activities gone wrong.

Gidsy has the potential to bring a new mindset to many businesses, small and large. This approach to marketing activities is going to attract the attention of companies already working in the leisure and tourism space as an alternative way to market their products. But it's greatest impact is likely to be that it levels the playing field so that individual and smaller companies can also reach potential customers in the same way. As soon as they hear about Gidsy people who had maybe never thought of hosting an activity before are already coming up with ideas. Gidsy is more than just a website for booking activities; it is an enabler for a global cottage industry of people sharing their skills and knowledge with other people, enriching everyone.

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