I’d love to hitchhike most of the time and there have been times where I wished that I had friends living in different parts of the world, so that I could stay over at their place, when I’m travelling or at least with someone we mutually know. Horizon is an app that facilitates global hospitality exchange between friends, friends of friends, and co-members of close-knit communities also known as “Trusted Connections”. Why? It’s the best way to save on accommodations and have an authentic local experience.
Drew Meyers spent 5 years at Zillow building communities, business development and social media marketing for them. Drew is a self-confessed backpacker and so are his Co Founders Will Moyer and Eric Roland.
Eric Roland previously has 17 years of experience building software solutions for small startups all the way to the Fortune 500. Developing iOS mobile applications since 2009. He led multiple key technology teams at Telepoint. Eric and Drew initially worked on their first travel product, Oh Hey World. Will Moyer has been doing design work for over a decade and is pretty passionate about simple and elegant solutions. Drew met Will in Thailand while they were both living in Chiang Mai doing freelance work in 2012. They became friends over coffee shop work sessions and numerous nights out drinking, and began working together on Oh Hey World late in the fall of 2012.
Oren Borovitch previously worked at Canadian telecom Startup Public Mobile building its financial services brand – Public Cash Services. He was introduced to the Horizon team by one of their company’s first customers.
“In early January of 2010 over beers, my friend Ashley and I both decided to leave our jobs and spend the summer in Greece. Over the next month, we recruited my close high school buddy and two of our college friends, Chris and Brooke, to spend the summer with us. There were about 15 others between the ages of 18 and 24 who lived all summer on Perissa Beach with us – most worked at restaurants, bars, or hotels and just wanted to spend the summer somewhere other than home. The group consisted of a few Kiwis, Aussies, Irish, Canadians, and British. We had an amazing community of people to hang out with every single day. But no matter how much you enjoy your friends company, you want some variety every now and then. I’m sure that there were other awesome travelers who had visited Santorini in the summer of 2010 and must’ve had a lot in common. But, I never met them simply because I didn’t know they were there. One particular use case I wanted solved was an easy way to find others passionate about micro finance” he says.
How is Horizons different?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was some way to get notified when like-minded travelers arrived in Santorini to share a beer, sunset, or meal with?
“Santorini is my favorite place on earth — and, no surprise, it’s because of the people I went with and those I met while there. Yet it could have been even better if there was some way to meet fellow travelers who had common passions, interests, or experiences”, He adds.
Horizon is their attempt at enabling community on demand. When they built ohheyworld.com (foursquare at city level) 2 years ago, they learned location sharing is not a pain point for the vast majority of travelers. So, they took one aspect of it (people by location) and built an entire UI around that, and solved the problem of finding a place to stay. They added a donation + service fee model on top as a new host incentive.
Drew says like every startup, they’ve faced their fair share of ups and downs. Their largest hurdle was that they had spent their entire personal financial runway resulting from Zillow stock on their first concept (Oh Hey World) which didn’t end up getting significant traction, which had certainly made executing Horizon’s effort at enabling community on demand more difficult due to the reality of having to juggle consulting projects to pay bills.
“The current process for finding a place to stay with trusted connections is broken with the majority of these exchanges occurring on an informal basis with posts inside private/secret Facebook groups, Twitter, word of mouth, and direct inquires via text and email. We built Horizon to formalize this informal market. We’re expanding the hospitality exchange market by giving hosts control over people and groups they are willing to field requests from, and adding charitable giving as an incentive to host more travelers.” He explains.
Current requests for hospitality take place via text, email, phone, in person, Facebook, Twitter, member associations and Couch surfing/AirBnB. Their primary competition is AirBnB and hostels since that is where most budget travelers find accommodations.
“It is possible to consider other hospitality networks (ex. Couch surfing, bewelcome.org, warmshowers.org, servas.org) as competitors; however we view them as potential partners since our technology will enable them to exist at a larger scale and provide better experiences for their members than they do today. These networks are one-off networks, which means there is no user utility unless a traveler can find a host from that one network, in the one city they are going to. We are layering all those networks onto a single mobile interface, and adding additional trusted connections as a base hospitality network for everyone.” He adds.
With Horizons, hosts have complete control over who contacts them with requests. They also have a hidden inventory which also allows being a host only within your trusted networks unlocks supply of couches, rooms, and homes that will never be posted on any public website because monetization is not the goal.
While charging your friends to stay at your house is not socially acceptable, a house gift is part of that social contract. Donation based hospitality exchange is a new fundraising channel for membership associations & nonprofits that does not exist now at scale, as well as new incentive for hosts to take more people into their homes.
Horizons focuses on facilitating existing trust, not creating it. Staying with a stranger is an off-putting idea to most, yet they would love nothing more than to stay with a trusted friend with a strong shared bond or experience, for the social interaction, cultural exchange, and cost savings. We’re giving every trusted community their own private hospitality exchange network, and tackling trust the way users already think about trust.
“We may be crazy. But we believe this business/product can organize every trusted community on earth by location. Finding trusted contacts by location is at the heart of every single major financial decision in existence. We’re using hospitality exchange as the hook to get the early communities to critical mass, but it’s just one thing people want from people in the communities to which they belong “, He adds.
Target audience and Monetization
Their target audience are the 200 million millennial who travel every year around the world. Horizon’s monetization is through Service fees and optional donation transaction model.
Excited to use it? go here: http://www.horizonapp.co/