In March 2016 Walkli Founder & CEO Jeff Peo came to RPS with an ambitious vision of helping travelers get off the beaten path and have more authentic travel experiences- to “see the city between the sights.” After collaborating on design and product roadmapping, Jeff engaged Remedy to make his dream a reality. 2 years later, Walkli has over 600 paths in 300 cities and was just selected for the prestigious MassChallenge Accelerator.
What is Walkli?
Walkli is a web app that provides free walking routes for travelers exploring the world on foot in search of local, authentic travel experiences. Maps are crowdsourced from locals, travelers, and bloggers to meet a wide variety of interests from classical history to street art, from local dive bars to a city’s best Instagram spots.
What is MassChallenge?
MassChallenge was founded in 2010 as a not-for-profit accelerator aimed at creating a global movement to support entrepreneurship. The 2018 class had 128 companies selected out of a pool of 1,600 applicants, an 8% acceptance rate.
We caught up with Founder & CEO Jeff Peo to hear about how Walkli scored this tremendous honor:
Iggy: Hi Jeff, thanks for chatting with us and congratulations on this great honor.
Jeff: Thanks Iggy. It’s pretty exciting for us.
Iggy: How did you get the idea for Walkli?
Jeff: I had been an avid traveler for the better part of a decade – I think at that point I had been to about 60 countries – when we came up with walkli. For me, exploring a new city on foot and engaging with its local culture was what really made the experiences memorable, but it was pretty hard to know what areas of a city were worth exploring. Existing travel websites and books were great at outlining a city’s history and pointing out the tourist landmarks or the hottest restaurants, but really fell short on interesting ways to actually explore. So for quite a while I was just showing up in a new city, checking into a hostel, and talking to people who had been there for a few days and then just sketching out on a paper map where I wanted to go. While that approach worked ok, I felt it would be a lot better if that kind of information was readily available online so I could better plan out where to go and where to stay…and that’s how walkli was born.
Iggy: What made you decide to apply to MassChallenge?
Jeff: First, unlike friends and family, the judges from MassChallenge provide unbiased feedback on your company. In some ways, applying and getting in was external validation that we weren’t doing something crazy. But more than that, MassChallenge provides and opportunity to work alongside more than 100 other startups, have access to mentors with relevant industry experience, and get exposure to potential investors. Also, unlike many other accelerators, there is no cost and they take no equity so really there wasn’t a downside to applying.
Iggy: What was the application process like?
Jeff: Tough! The first round involved a long written application covering everything from team member backgrounds, to customer pain points, to the competitive landscape. You were only given between 250 and 500 characters for each response, so it took a lot of effort to pare down our answers to concisely cover the key points. After that, we were invited to give a live pitch in front of a panel of judges and address their questions.
Iggy: What are the goals for Walkli during the program?
Jeff: So far, we’ve been more or less bootstrapping an evolving MVP. During the MassChallenge program, we want to commercialize the platform and release a host of new features that our users have been asking for. Getting our first paid users will be a big deal for us, especially as we look to raise a seed round.
Iggy: What is the big picture vision for Walkli?
Jeff: We want walkli to be one of the default websites that someone visits as they plan a trip. We hope that our map-based interface encourages people to explore a city beyond the tourist sites, and with that facilitate better travel experiences, cultural understanding, and a greater distribution of tourism dollars across destination cities.
Iggy: Thanks for your time Jeff! Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for Walkli in the coming years.
Jeff: My pleasure Iggy.
Check out Walkli.com to plan your next trip and share your favorite spots with other travelers.