Short Pitch: Withlocals is the online marketplace that connects locals directly with travelers through food and experiences.
Description: Withlocals is disrupting the Asian travel industry through a first-of-its-kind platform designed to offer travelers unique cultural and authentic experiences while empowering hosts to enrich their lives. Withlocals connects travelers with local hosts in the categories ‘Eat Withlocals’, ‘Tours Withlocals’ and ‘Activities Withlocals’.
Headquarters: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Traction: Our beta launch was just four months ago and we already have a lot of traction. Our website attracts over 150,000 visitors each month and we have over 65,000 likes on Facebook. On top of that, we’ve been covered globally by major publications including TechCrunch, USA Today, The Bangkok Post, and The Business Times. In terms of bookings, we are ahead of schedule, and more importantly, our customers love it! We have a 100% customer satisfaction rating and amazing reviews.
Mission: We are a two-sided marketplace, so we have separate missions for hosts and travelers. For hosts, our mission is to facilitate people to earn a sustainable income with things they are passionate about. For travelers, our mission is to experience something truly local and memorable for an ethical price.
Interview with Marijn Maas (Co-Founder):
1. How did you come up with the idea for Withlocals?
Two ideas came together. My brother & co-founder Willem Maas is a travel guru. He has traveled all over the world and fell in love with Southeast Asia. His many authentic travel experiences inspired him to create the concept for Withlocals. On the other hand, the idea for ‘Eat Withlocals’ came to me in Sri Lanka during my honeymoon. After my wife and I had dinner night after night in high-end restaurants, we coincidentally experienced a home dinner with local Sri Lankan people. It was so amazing to hear their stories and experience their way of living while enjoying the best food of our entire trip. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if all travelers could have an experience like this? We love the sharing economy and wanted to give travelers and locals in Asia the opportunity to connect with one another.
2. Why did you pick the name Withlocals?
Our company is all about the locals. Having your ultimate travel experiences with locals.
3. What is your vision for this company?
Connecting cultures and people through food and experiences.
4. What separates Withlocals from its competitors?
We are the first to introduce the home-dining category across Asia. We are the only “one stop” local experience website, offering a complete local experience for travelers including home dining, tours, and activities with locals. We strongly believe the success of an online marketplace is all about having traffic. Many people who have had beautiful ideas in the home restaurant and tourism categories didn’t make it because of the lack of traffic, thus demand. Being part of a group of 170 online geeks working for customers like Vodafone, Microsoft, and Mars, online marketing is our specialty.
5. What do you look for when hiring employees?
As a fan of positive psychology, I believe in hiring on attitude and learning on skills.
6. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The amazing stories from travelers and hosts on Withlocals activities happening across Asia. That’s what keeps us going.
7. What is the greatest lesson you have ever learned?
What I learned throughout the years is that it’s all about people. I believe the most important thing is to have the right people on board and to have a clear vision for your company. That, combined with creating an environment where people feel at home, free to make mistakes and innovate, is the base for all of our companies. With the right people, the right environment for your people, and a clear vision, your business will grow automatically.
8. Which prominent entrepreneurs have influenced your career the most?
Although they are not directly entrepreneurs, I’m influenced the most by psychologists in the field of positive psychology, like Martin Seligman, Shawn Anchor, and Barbara Frederickson. Next to that, Tony Hseih inspired me on building great cultures and Elon Musk on shaping the future.