Recently, I have accidentally walked into some great Vancouver spots. Whether it be awesome graffiti or a secret location in Gastown, the feeling of discovery never gets old. One side of me wishes I could find these things a little quicker other than by pure luck and the other, wishes I could share these locations instantly instead of storing it at the back of my mind and hoping I can remember to bring it up in casual conversation. I got to connect with co-founder of Placeling, Lindsay Watt who focuses on helping curious city dwellers.
Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and the primary objective of it.
At Placeling we think you should be the guide to your world. We also connect you with guides to show you the world from their perspective. We’ve built an iPhone app, website and WordPress plugin that let you do this.
What makes you different from the other “discover your city” apps?
The biggest difference between us and everyone else is that we’re expert-based. You pick the guides who you want to show you the world and they lead you. Rather than seeing the average opinions of random people you’re seeing the places recommended by people you trust. As you explore the city you’re reliving their experiences. Plus, anyone can be an expert. If you love coffee, use Placeling to create a map of your favourite coffee places in the Lower Mainland and you can show off your expertise.
What has been the biggest challenge post GrowLab?
Our biggest challenge is distribution. We’ve built a great product but that’s not nearly enough to succeed; we’re working hard to reach the folks out there who want to be guides and explore cities.
What was the biggest benefit from being in an accelerator like GrowLab? If you wouldn’t have got into GrowLab, what would have been plan B?
The greatest thing about GrowLab was the friendly pressure from the other companies. We got to work in the same space as four other companies – Ecquire, Loupe, Matygo, and Sunnytrail – who were focused on getting a lot done. Nobody wanted to be the laggard so there was a friendly rivalry to constantly do more. If we hadn’t got into GrowLab the plan B was a six month sprint to build a prototype and raise some seed funding. Frankly, it would have been very tough and I’m not sure we would have made it. However, things are getting much better for early stage entrepreneurs in Vancouver. For instance, Launch Academy at Growlab is a great place for pre-seed companies to work, get mentorship and potentially find funding.
How does this improve the city of Vancouver? What is the real world problem you’re solving?
Vancouver is an incredible city – and it’s not just the mountains next to the ocean. We’ve got lots of great public art, architecture, history plus literature and character. But you wouldn’t know that because it’s hidden in plain sight. But if you use Placeling we make all of this information and these stories available to everyone. You can rediscover your city and built a tighter relationship to it and the people around you.
Advice for other entrepreneurs?
Focus on shipping and then switch to distribution. Shipping is hard because you want the product to be perfect. But it’ll never be perfect – there’s always one more change! – so just ship it and learn from your early adopters. If you wait until you’re really happy with your product you waited too long to ship. And once you ship, you need to focus on distribution. Who’s using your app/website? How do you reach more of these people? You’ve got to figure this out because we live in a world where an infinite number of products are competing for consumers’ attention. You need great distribution to get above the noise. And it’s really hard to get this right.
Vancouver really is such a fantastic city that rarely gets utilized to its full potential. Now that July is about to hit and we become more optimistic that the rain will finally subside (although sadly, we’re not in the clear yet), it might just be that prime time to give Placeling a go and discover Vancouver at the best time of the year.
Stay in touch @pauldavidescu
*Vancity Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs or startups that are making Vancouver a better place. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send firstname.lastname@example.org an email explaining why*