What is Common Locals?
Common Locals is an app where travelers can chat to local people and ask any trip information they need.
Travelers want to visit the destination from an authentic perspective but the problem is that they do not really know how to do it. The best way to solve this is by knowing someone who lives there, but it is unlikely to have a contact in the city and it is difficult to meet the right local by chance. Common Locals solves this problem by putting the traveler in contact with a local person through a simple textual interface (a chat).
Evolution of Common Locals
Common Locals was founded by me and Daniel Romero around summer of 2015. After being awarded as “Best Entrepreneurial Project” in Apps&Cultura 2015 it became a full-time project at Incubio.
During 2016 we focused on the early phases of Customer Development with the objective to validate the product-market fit. After analyzing the problem with 100+ interviews, 200+ surveys and several online experiments we have validated that the key elements are:
- The chat interface where the traveller connects with the local expert. This brings a simple one-to-one conversation focused on solving traveller inquiries and recommending authentic things to do and local places to go. Talking directly to humans provides the authenticity and the empathy that a machine or an algorithm is not able to. In addition, it brings the spontaneity and flexibility that the traveller is looking for.
- The local experts. They have to understand how to provide the service and how to solve traveller requests through the chat. Having brilliant locals is key to the product as they will be the ones providing the service. Common Locals carefully chooses the locals and constantly evaluates them. The better candidates are those already involved in tourism in some way, like travel bloggers or tourism guides. The platform also includes tools to make their job easier, like automated responses and lists creation. On top of that, a matching algorithm improves connections between travellers and locals.
- The Database of Points of Interest created by locals. Having a curated database of local content is key to the product as long as locals can make better recommendations.
However, we got stuck finding the right monetization model that made Common Locals successful. In summer 2016 we decided to stop working on it and move on to other projects.
Although the production version of Common Locals was never released, the development invloved:
- iOS native app (Swift)
- NodeJS server
- Sockets.io to manage the real-time chat functionality
- State Machine to control the chatbot before local and traveller are put in contact
- MySQL database