Planning a trip has likely never been easier, as virtually any city you want to visit can be found through Google or Apple Maps. Just punch in the name of the city and you are offered a host of local restaurants. However, going that route might offer a simple listing of options or options selected by an algorithm. It lacks a personal touch and you might miss out on cool spots that are a bit off of the beaten path. Any service can find the highest-rated restaurants or attractions and offer them up to you, but Estonia-based Like A Local offers a personal touch with listings provided by people who live in the area.
Kalev Kulaase, who co-founded the company with Ulane Vilumets, tells me that he approached this project with a significant amount of experience in this field. Kulaase says that he has published paper maps and offered tips to tourists since 2006, but it was mainly a hobby. In 2009, he quit his job to travel for a year and, when he came home, decided that he wanted to help others avoid the struggles that he faced. Although he avoided fast food at home, he found himself patronizing this kind of restaurant abroad because he did not really know any better. Therefore, after consulting with friends, he decided to fully dedicate himself to this business and attempt to turn it into a global company.
Like A Local started as an offline map business back in 2011, as that is what Kulasse knew best, but then they got into Ajujaht, an accelerator funded by the Estonian goverment, which led to the development of their online service. That development continued when Like A Local moved on to Startup Wise Guys in 2012, which resulted in online section of the startup being spun off as a separate company.
You will not find every restaurant, club, or local attraction in the city you select to explore, but the free service offers up a list of places you really should not miss. It is a bit more difficult to judge the quality of a particular location when there are few reviewers, but it still provides insight into spots which might not show up in a traditional tour guide.
There is an incentive to offer tips about local highlights, as Like A Local offers a small percentage of app revenue to contributors in a particular city. At the moment, the company says that they have 533 contributors from 108 cities around the world.
Kulaase tells me that they bootstrapped to start and have turned to government programs whenever possible. To date, they have raised 95K Euro from undisclosed angel investors.
For a company without a huge amount of external backing, they have been quite successful in building the business. Kulaase says that they are up to 200K monthly visitors to their site, a figure which has tripled in just the past 6 months, and they are also seeing thousands of monthly downloads of their mobile apps.
One of the main competitors in this market is Spotted By Locals, a Dutch startup which also uses locals to find cool restaurants and attractions. That service, however, focuses on Europe and North America and does not pay contributors, from what I am able to tell.